This is the part of the year when everything speeds up, and my blog can’t seem to catch up with the pace of real life. I will be posting more quick weeknight dishes this spring, because something tells me you have one hundred and one projects, too. I’m simplifying to bare essentials here — ground beef marinara sauce poured over piping hot pasta, easy, yum. It’s a recipe that comes together with a handful of common ingredients, and it’s scalable so you can make a big pot and feed a crowd in no time.
Marinara means it is a quick sauce — not cooked all day, but made in minutes, from scratch. It’s best to use extra lean ground beef for this recipe, or substitute ground bison. I made Italian sauces with ground turkey and chicken breast before, but they’re bland and no match to the flavor combination that beef and tomatoes can give you. I used spaghetti for this post, but toss is with any pasta you have on hand. Better yet, go for whole wheat, or enriched pasta to add extra nutrition, or try rice, or quinoa pasta for a change — I’ve tried both out of curiosity and they weren’t too bad at all. I secretly still prefer real Italian pasta
To make my tomato sauces, I prefer using passata — a liquid cooked tomato purée that comes in tall, carafe-like glass jars. I buy mine by the flat at the Italian store, but it’s fairly common item here in Canadian groceries, too. Passata makes a smooth sauce, and I think it tastes much better than many canned tomatoes, which often turn out watery and acidic, no matter how I cook them. Passata is also preferable if you’re going the BPA-free — remember that acidic contents (tomatoes!) are the worst for leeching chemicals from the can coating. If you can’t find tomato passata in your grocery store, take plain canned tomatoes and run them through a sieve, or a food mill.
Now pour some Chianti, grate the Parmesan and you’re set.
- 1 tbs olive oil
- 1 tbs onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove of garlic, crushed and finely chopped
- 200g extra lean ground beef (roughtly ½ lb)
- 1 24oz jar passata *
- 1 carrot, peeled and diced
- handful of basil leaves, torn
- 1 – 2 tsp sugar, to taste
- salt and pepper, to taste
- pasta of your choice
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until almost translucent — 1 minute. Add the garlic and swirl around with the onion for about 15 seconds — careful not to burn it. Add the ground beef and brown it, pressing with a wooden spoon to break it apart and incorporate with the onion and garlic.
- Pour in the passata, stirring immediately (it may bubble and splatter on impact). Add the basil leaves and grated carrot. Decrease the heat to the lowest setting, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. When done, do a taste test and add sugar, salt, and pepper, as needed.
- Serve over pasta and garnish with basil leaves and grated Parmesan cheese.
- * some passata brands can me on the thick side — thin out with a splash of chicken stock, or water to desired consistency. Don’t add too much, as it will be watery.