September 29, 2008

Jen's Spaghetti and Meat Sauce

Ah, spaghetti and meat sauce...a classic. This is a comforting dish, that is very familiar and soothing to me. It is pretty straight forward, without any fancy surprises. Although, I do use an unusual spice or two that you would not normally expect in meat sauce. It is probably more accurate to say that this dish is my version of a traditional favorite.
Growing up, we had this meal at least once a week at our house. As with my chili recipe, I learned how to make this dish by watching my Dad. Mostly my Mom was the cook in our house, but my Dad always had a few tricks up his sleeve. He had a handful of recipes that he made really, really well...and spaghetti and meat sauce was one of them. My Mom just couldn't compete with the meals that my Dad perfected. Luckily, I paid attention.

Before I get to the recipe, I must confess something. Normally, I make the sauce from scratch and let it simmer for a long time on the stove. However, tonight I have a short cut. At the beginning of September I made marinara sauce for Meatball Hoagies (see previous post). Well, after all the meatballs were gone, I still had a ton of perfectly good sauce leftover. I froze the sauce and packaged it up with my trusty FoodSaver. (Oh man, do I love my FoodSaver.) So, I just have to thaw the sauce, brown the ground beef, saute a diced onion, and simmer it all together for about a 1/2 hour to meld the flavors. I am totally ahead of the game! It saves quite a bit of time when you have the sauce pre-made. I will still include the recipe for the normal version, but I am cheating a little tonight with my short cut. If you do not judge me too harshly, I will take a photo and show you how it turns out.

Jen's Spaghetti and Meat Sauce

1 lb. of ground beef
1 yellow onion, diced
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1-2 large cans of spaghetti sauce
1 dried bay leaf
1 Tablespoon Italian seasoning
1/2 packet of thick and zesty spaghetti sauce seasoning
1/2 packet of hot chili seasoning
1 teaspoon of onion powder
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
1 package of spaghetti noodles, cooked and drained

Brown ground beef over medium heat and drain out all fat, except for 1 Tablespoon. Add diced onion to residual meat fat and saute until onion is soft and translucent. Add minced garlic and saute for another 1-2 minutes. Be careful not to brown garlic. Add tomato sauce and remaining ingredients (except for the cooked spaghetti noodles). Cover and simmer on low for 2-3 hours. If sauce gets too thick, add water and let reduce to desired consistency. After 2-3 hours, remove bay leaf and discard. Serve finished sauce over cooked spaghetti noodles with a generous amount of fresh grated Parmesan cheese on top.

The Result:
This turned out just as good as my normal, slow cooking method. I was really surprised that there was not a huge taste difference between my normal, long-simmering sauce and this quick version. It was really, really good. I made a loaf of homemade bread to go with it, because the pasta carbs were just not enough. What can I say...I am a sucker for mopping up sauce with fresh, warm, bread. Yum!

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