Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Lazy Sketti Sauce

I am not much shakes at cooking, you may recall, but this month has offered a few opportunities for surprise in the kitchen. Most of them have been pleasant surprises.

So here's a lazy recipe: no measurements, no real timeframe, not a lot of rules. It may not be Megan-simple, but it's close enough that I did it, so it can't be far off.  And while it is not as detailed as Cooking For People Who Don't, neither is it Semi-Homemade. *shudder* (Also, the name itself is lazy... too lazy to pronounce "spaghetti".) I hope you -- or a novice-food-maker friend, colleague, or family member -- may benefit.

Lazy Sketti Sauce

However much tomato pasta sauce is left in the jar, provided it's at least half a jar. You might want to add another whole jar if you're making a big batch. I like big batches. Mine was tomato basil garlic from Prego.
about half an onion (or a whole small one, or whatever)
a clove or maybe two of garlic
olive oil
ground meat product of your choice (I used beef)
salt, pepper, maybe some dried basil -- your choice of spices, basically

Optional: pasta (Naturally, I used sketti! But the chunkiness would stand up to rigatoni, penne, or bow ties very well.)
zucchini or other veggies
tomato paste or diced tomatoes (fresh or canned)

Put a large skillet or even a dutch oven on the burner at medium heat, with a glug of olive oil in it. Enough to cover the bottom of the pan if you swirl it around.
While that heats, chop your onion. I used a medium mince because I don't really like to deal with pieces of onion in my food.
Put the onion into the pan -- it will sizzle! -- and take your garlic and smash it, then chop it, too. Set it aside for a moment. Stir the onion to keep it from sticking. Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
Chop your carrots. I had baby carrots, which I quartered lengthwise to get matchsticks, then chopped so they were about the size of my pinky nail. (Stir the onion a bit.) The smaller the carrot pieces, the faster they'll cook. Ditto for zucchini and any other veggies you feel like using. (You could also grate the zucchini, with the caveat that it cooks very quickly this way and you'll want to add it to the pan after the meat.)
Add the garlic and the carrots+ to the onion, which should be nice and translucent by now and possibly a bit brown in spots if you left it alone to answer an IM. Stir to incorporate (that means mix 'em up). If your oil is getting low, you can add in a bit of water or broth at this point -- not a lot, just a splash to keep the veggies from sticking.
Cook for maybe another 5 minutes before adding the ground beef (or whatever). Break it up and spread it around the pan. You want all the pinkness to go away. Add some more salt and pepper to the meat.
Go ahead and put a lid on the skillet if you have one handy. It keeps the moisture in. The fat from the meat should mean that the onion, etc. won't need much stirring for a while.
Now would be a good time to boil your water if you will be serving pasta tonight.
Once the meat is all browned, your next object is to make sure the carrots are cooked through. Use your wooden spoon or spatula, whatever you're stirring with, to cut through a piece of carrot. When the smaller pieces are soft enough to do that, you'll want to drain the fat from the pan (if you remember) and add the pasta sauce.
(How's your pasta coming?)
From this point, you're mostly done and just heating the whole thing through. The major flavors are already in the sauce from the long simmering process it went through at the Prego plant. You can add your basil, oregano, etc. now. Maybe add a little more water, if the whole mess looks too thick (I swished about a quarter-cup of water in the jar to rinse it out, and added that), or add diced tomatoes or tomato paste to stretch the sauce**. Cover it and let it bubble as long as you feel like.
Drain your pasta, if you made it, and either portion it out and spoon sauce on top, or add pasta to the skillet/dutch oven to get it all saucy.
Eat! It's yummy. Sweet and acidic and rich with the meatiness.

**Note: I ended up with a thick and chunky gravy with a large ratio of meat to sauce. I'm going to divide it up and freeze small portions (enough for a couple of servings of pasta), and then most likely defrost and warm up the gravy in more pasta sauce when I'm ready to eat it. You can make that step happen now if you have both the extra sauce and the extra room in your skillet.

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