August 14, 2013

Healthy Spaghetti Bolognese Sauce {Recipe}

We have had a delicious crop of tomatoes this year!  We have only a small garden, and had wanted to grow the ingredients we needed to make salsa.  Alas, the jalapeno peppers turned out to be regular old green peppers :)  Still, everything has gotten good use!  
I have made a few amazing things with my fresh tomatoes which I will be sharing with you, the first of which is this drool worthy spaghetti sauce...

I have been making this for a couple of years now, and it is my husband's favorite food.  He licks his bowl when I make this sauce, and says he could eat it every day for the rest of his life and be happy :)  Most of the time I make it with canned tomatoes, but when I have fresh I utilize those.  It does take a while to make, but most of the time commitment is watching it while it simmers, and believe me -- it is DEFINITELY worth the wait!!

Now a disclaimer before I start: this recipe (as is the case with many of my recipes) does not use exact measurements.  I add to, take away from, mix, match, and generally make things my own.  But never fear, this recipe is very adaptable!  If you don't have something, there is almost always a substitute!!  I'll make sure to point out what I think are the essentials.  

Ingredients (to make a big batch.  
Shrink it down if you want less.  
But you can freeze the leftover for later use!)

Tomatoes: Fresh or Canned (Stewed, Diced, Whole)... I warned you that this recipe wasn't exact.  Just use what you've got!  If you are buying specifically for this recipe, go ahead and get a couple 28 oz. cans of stewed/crushed tomatoes.  If you only have a few fresh, supplement with a can of something.  
3-4 large Carrots (this is one ingredient I feel is essential)
1 large Onion (pretty essential too)
3-4 cloves of garlic (pretty essential)
3-4 stalks of celery
Whatever other veggies you have in the fridge (I've added zucchini, eggplant, green pepper, green beans.  Maybe not broccoli.  Whatever you use just try not to majorly overpower the carrots.  You can also just stick with the carrots/onion/garlic/celery)  
2 Tbls. Olive Oil
1-2 lbs. of Ground Beef or Ground Veal or a combination of the two
1/2 cup White Wine (totally optional)
Chicken Stock/Broth (2-4 cups depending on how many veggies you used)
1/2 cup Milk

If you are using fresh tomatoes: Start by roasting them in the oven.  Cut them into very thick slices, place them on a baking pan, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and sugar.  Roast at 400 degrees for 1 hour, or 350 for an hour and a half, or 300 for 2 hours, or 250 for a few hours :)  Just roast them for a while - they will get all wrinkly, and caramelized in some places, and juicy looking.  YUM!  I use this method as a base for a few recipes.  These tomatoes are delicious!!
Here they are pre-roasted

Here they are roasted!
Chop all your veggies (carrots, onion, garlic, celery + other veggies) into bits as small as you feel like cutting at the time.  The smaller you cut them, the less mashing you have to do later - so I always try to cut pretty small :)  Also, they cook faster at the beginning.

Toss chopped veggies in a LARGE pot, with a couple tablespoons of olive oil and cook them on medium or medium high until they are getting pretty soft, and maybe even a little caramelized.  

Once your veggies are looking delicious, toss in your ground beef and/or ground veal.  Add some salt and pepper here.  Cook it until it is not longer pink, chopping it up with your spatula into small bits.  

Add the white wine, if you want to use it, and let it simmer/cook on medium until it has reduced quite a bit.  Almost no liquid is left.  Anywhere from 15-25 minutes I would say.  

Add the chicken stock and tomatoes to the pot.  If you are using the fresh tomatoes, be sure to scrape all the goodness off the pan into the pot -- all the juices and everything.  I would say if you roasted less than 8 tomatoes, go ahead and supplement with a can of tomatoes too.  Otherwise 2 large cans or 3 small cans should do it.  Most likely you will need to add closer to 4 cups of chicken stock (2 cans, or a 1 quart box).  This COMPLETELY fills my pot.  If you can't fit so much stock, use less, add more later, whatever.  

Now comes the waiting.  Turn the burner down pretty low and let it simmer for an hour and a half.  We want all that liquid to reduce significantly.  Stir every 10 minutes or thereabouts.  You'll need to stir more frequently as it gets thicker, because it is more likely to burn then.  PUT A SPLATTER GUARD ON IT.  BE CAREFUL when you stir.  This stuff can bubble up and it hurts if it hits your hand!   As you get toward the end of the hour and half (or sooner if you are impatient like me) start using your potato masher and smash the sauce so that you pretty much can't recognize any of the veggie chunks.  If you want to be a cheater (which I totally am), then you can use an immersion hand blender. But don't blend it too much.  I like it much better when it isn't really smooth.  You'll definitely want to add some salt while it's cooking.  I normally add very little or no salt to my dishes, but this one pretty much requires it.  Taste it though, because it might not need much.  Pepper is also optional.  
Before it's been mashed
After the great long simmer, I pour in a bit of milk.  I don't measure, but I'm sure it isn't more than 1/2 a cup.  Yes, I use fat free milk (!).  You can use more fattening stuff, but I think it tastes great without it!  Plus, this is healthy sauce ;)  Let it simmer for another 20-30 minutes.

Mashed with a little milk poured in (you can see the splatters are everywhere!)
And finally, you are done!

Serve on noodles with parmesan cheese, some basil if you like, salt and pepper to taste...
Your family will love you for making this - and you'll be so happy to see everyone devouring their veggies!  I have even fed my baby this without noodles - just like soup - she loves it!  This does make a gigantic batch, so be sure to freeze some to save for another meal.  It can easily be reheated in a pot, and you can savor the deliciousness all over again another day!  

And stay tuned for some more recipes for your fresh tomatoes...
Happy Cooking!

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