We all have our go-to dishes, those that just sort of developed as we started cooking our own meals.
Over time, they evolve. The meat sauce I make now doesn’t come close to resembling my initial efforts more than a decade ago. Then, I was terrified of developing a brown film on the bottom of my frying pan when I cooked anything. To me, that brown stuff just meant I would have to scrub harder when doing dishes that night.
Oh, if only I knew then what I know now.
These days, I have friends calling me, asking me how to get brown bits on the bottom of their pan, because a recipe directs them to scrape up those bits into the sauce. 90% of the time, they are using nonstick pans, which definitely makes it challenging!
Here is my basic winter recipe for making a meat and tomato sauce. When I have mushrooms on hand – most of the time – I add them to the sauce; they add bulk and extra nutrition.
Meat Sauce for Pasta
1 medium onion (yellow or white), diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 carrot, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground beef (chuck or round)
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
Generous pour of dry red wine (optional)
28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning or oregano
Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat.
Add onions, celery, and carrot. Sprinkle with salt and cook until onions are browning.
Add the mushrooms and cook until they release their juices.
Spread vegetables to the outside of the pan, leaving an open circle in the middle. Add the beef and allow to brown on one side. Flip over and brown on the other side, sprinkling the browned side with salt. When browned on both sides, begin breaking up the beef with a cooking spoon/spatula and brown these chunks as well.
Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, then add the wine and scrape the bottom of the pan to release the brown bits.
Add the tomatoes and Italian seasoning. When the sauce comes to a boil, reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer for one hour or until the meat is tender.
Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.
Serve with cooked pasta or check back on Thursday for a recipe suggestion.