Thursday, March 4, 2010
Pasta with NotTryingToSneakVeggiesIn Meat Sauce
Let me be clear. I am not a fan of *sneaking* or *hiding* vegetables in food. Vegetables are yummy and the natural way to add flavor to a dish without adding fats and gross stuff. When I make a dish full of veg I am almost show-offy about it as opposed to playing it down. I've heard about these books that encourage camouflaging healthy stuff for your kids/husband/self and that's not really a good plan for me. If my kid thinks something is tasty, I want her to think vegetable=yummy instead of brownie=yummy. So enough about that. Moving on.
Sometimes, you DO have to be creative about vegging up a dish. Take spaghetti with meat sauce. Mike's favorite, asks for it twice a week. I like it too, and Laney will sometimes eat it, but I think it needs more good stuff. And by good stuff, I mean nutrition AND flavor. Luckily, veggies accomplish both things. Unluckily, too many vegetables make a pasta sauce a watery mush. Here's how I get around it. I'm detailing my recipe for meat sauce but I am sure the system would work for whatever favorite recipe.
4 cloves of garlic
a lb of ground turkey/sirloin/Italian sausage whatever
a few cups of various veg--last night I used 3 cups of spinach, a handful of asparagus tips, 3 giant carrots
red wine or balsamic vinegar
3 cans of diced, whole or stewed tomatoes (a variety is great)
a few palmfuls of Italian seasoning
2-3 cubes of tomato paste
add-ins--roasted red peppers, colored pepper strips, mushrooms
Here we go. Let's make our various veg first. I'll call it "veg paste." I have a Cuisinart Mini-Prep. Maybe you have a full size one. Or a blender. Whatever. Cut the veg in large chunks and pulse it to a paste (this may take a few batches). If you use spinach this looks like pesto.
Ok, so put some olive oil in the medium-heated giant pan/pot/cooking vessel and sautee the onion, add the meat, get browning. Half way through, add the minced garlic and the veg paste. Now, give this time. What we're doing here is browning the veg and getting the water out. Really let it cook until it's got color. Now is the chance for evaporation. If you go too fast now everything is going to be watery.
After 10 minutes or so and a bit of shoving stuff around in the pan, add a cup of wine. Last night, I had a bottle of a red blend open (Coppola Rosso.) Thing is, I had a rough Tuesday and possibly drank a good part of the bottle. AND, I wanted to nurse a glass while cooking the sauce! What's a girl to do? I used a splash of the wine and supplemented with a few turns of balsamic. So, either open a new bottle, buy some minibottles for cooking, or use balsamic. Ok, now let that cook. Then add the tomatoes and the seasoning. Now's a good time for red pepper flakes if you so wish.
At this point I took a good look at the sauce and thought it looked too green for a red sauce. I did use almost a bag of spinach. So I went to the freezer and took out a few cubes of tomato paste. Yes, cubes. You know when you need a tbsp of tomato paste for a recipe? What do you do with the rest? Well, I freeze it in an ice cube tray and then turn it out into a freezer bag. I do the same with chipotle peppers in adobo because that stuff is too spicy to use a whole can in anything. Anyway, the tomato paste straightened out the color issue and it's good flavor. I also have something called "tomato paste powder" moistens into tomato paste. It's ok.
Add in extras and make the pasta. The sauce is done when the pasta is ready. Whole wheat rotini is good at our house because it's much easier for a toddler to eat than spaghetti.
Oh, and the sauce freezes well.