This is a great dish no matter what time of year it is. When you are wanting summer tomatoes and it is not quite the season, canned tomatoes get the job done. We’ve offered both a meat and a mushroom version. Everyone makes pasta, but not everyone makes good pasta. The recipe is a simple, with a few often-missed pro-tips to make sure it comes out a winner! Enjoy!
1 quart crushed tomatoes (canned)
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pound ground beef, turkey, pork, chicken or crimini mushrooms.
1 pound pasta of your choice
1 pack/bunch basil
Salt and pepper to taste
1/8 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar (optional)
Pinch chili flakes (optional, for heat)
1 cup grated parmesan cheese (optional)
Make the sauce
Add olive oil to a pan over medium heat. When oil is hot, add chopped onion and carrot. Sauté until translucent (about 5 minutes). If you like spice, add some crushed chili flakes to taste at this time. Next, add meat of choice OR finely chopped crimini mushrooms. At this time, also add chopped garlic and salt to taste (about 1 teaspoon suggested) and brown sugar, if using. Sauté the mixture until the meat is slightly browned and cooked.
Add tomatoes to the meat mixture. Bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally on a low simmer, for 30 minutes to 1 hour. The longer it cooks, the more velvety and tasty it gets. (Tip: Add one or two large sprigs of basil at this time. It will add a nice flavor to the dish, but remove basil when sauce is complete.) While the sauce cooks, boil water for pasta (see below).
Pro tip: How do you determine when the sauce is perfectly done? Two tricks:
1. The oil in the dish has risen and pools slightly on the top of the tomatoes when you do not stir it. If you have not seen the oil, it likely needs more time.
2. When you run your spoon along the bottom of the pan, you will make a gap in the tomatoes and you will see the bottom of the pan. If liquid from the tomatoes immediately covers the pan back up, the sauce is not done. When the liquid hesitates and takes a second or two to run back and cover the bottom, you know it’s perfect.
Make the pasta
During the last 30 minutes of cooking your sauce, liberally salt a pot of water. Once boiling, follow the instructions on your pasta package for the perfect al dente noodle. (Remember when salting your water: In Italy, they say the water should be as salty as a sea. We realize you likely have no sea water to compare to, but you get the idea. One of the bigger mistakes people make when trying to make delicious pasta is lack of salt in the pasta water.)
Don't skip any of these steps:
1. Drain your pasta in a colander.
2. Put your now-empty pasta pot back on a low heat burner. Add a few large spoonfuls of the finished sauce, then toss the drained pasta back in the pot. Lightly stir the pasta and the sauce over low heat until the noodles are nicely coated.
3. Add noodles to your plate or bowl.
4. Top with more sauce.
5. Top with some fresh basil and parmesan cheese if you have it around.
Goes great with a nice Italian Chianti and a lightly dressed oil and vinegar salad.