It’s the end of the month. Money is short. You’re tired of ramen. What’s a quick, easy, filling dish you can make after you get home from work? Good old spaghetti, just like when you were a kid. It’s cheap, it’s filling, it’s quick and easy. For most bachelors, you’ll like pick up a jar of sauce at the store. Even convenience stores usually carry it. A pound of dry pasta will cost a dollar or two.
We would not suggest you make your own pasta. Unless you have a pasta maker, it is much easier to use the dry stuff. There’s nothing wrong with that. Regardless of the type of pasta, fresh or dry, store-bought or homemade, it all has the same carbohydrates and basic ingredients. The primary difference between fresh and dried is the time it takes to cook. Fresh pasta is done in a couple minutes, while dried pasta will cook for at least twice as long or more, depending on style. If you want to tackle fresh pasta, be our guest. But for most bachelors, it’s going to be dried and that’s fine.
Some bachelors may remember mothers or grandmothers making what Italian American families called Sunday Gravy. It was a long-cooking, rich sauce made fresh every week. That’s great, but most people don’t have that much time. The good news is that you can make an easy, quick sauce that doesn’t have to be fussed over. That gives you time to do other things, if you want.
The problem with jarred sauce is it usually has too much sodium and chemicals that preserve the color or texture. But with the variety on the market, many of them are very good, you will probably have a jar in the pantry. And you should. We like a well-stocked pantry.
This sauce is simple. It can be made with ground meat other than ground beef. You adjust the spice according to your tastes. It takes about 15 minutes to put together and then it simmers for more than an hour. You can easily cook it in a slow cooker if you want to put it together in the morning. It freezes well, so you can put some away for another meal.
Another good thing about this recipe is it uses mostly pantry items you probably already have. Fresh items needed are ground beef, garlic and onion. Can tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato paste will be needed, as well as dried oregano, dried basil and salt and pepper.
It starts with the primary protein, in this case grand beef. You should take the beef out of the freezer the day before if you have some frozen. But, in case you didn’t remember to do that, you can use the frozen beef. It will take longer, but it can be done.
If you use frozen beef, get a skillet hot over medium heat. Place the block of meat into the center of the pan. Let it sit undisturbed for a minute or two, allowing the heat to begin seeping into the meat. Turn the block to another side and continue cooking while you use a spoon to scrape what meat is no longer frozen from the recently cooked site. Allow bits to brown and gather on the bottom of the pan. Keep repeating the turn and scrape method until the chunk is now small enough to break into final bits. Continue as you would with thawed or fresh meat.
If using thawed or fresh ground beef, crumble it into a hot skillet. Add in one small onion, chopped. Add 4 cloves of minced garlic. We like to keep a jar of pre-minced garlic in the refrigerator to save some time or when we don’t have any whole garlic. Next, in goes a small green bell pepper, also chopped. We like a coarse chop to give the sauce a little chunkiness. Cook and stir until meat is browned and vegetables are tender. Keep letting the browned bits stuck to the skillet bottom. If there is any grease, drain it.
Into your skillet you can now add a large can of diced tomatoes, a can of tomato sauce and a small can of tomato paste. This is a good time to use your spoon to scrape up those browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. You should be able to feel whether an area is smooth or still has some residue. The sauce at this point will be pretty wet and soupy. That’s okay because it will cook down.
It is now time for seasonings. You’ll note that to this point we have not added any seasoning. Stir in 2 teaspoons of dried oregano and 2 teaspoons of dried basil. You can add more if you like. Add a teaspoon of salt and about 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. Stir the sauce well and then taste. Adjust the seasoning to your liking.
The rest is easy, because your stove will do most of the work. Do not cover the pan. Heat should be just enough for a light bubbling simmer for the next hour. Stir the sauce occasionally and adjust heat as necessary.
This meaty sauce will satisfy the hungriest carnivore. Just boil up some pasta and ladle some sauce over it. If the sauce is still a little runny, cook it longer if you can.