Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Slow-Cooked Spaghetti Sauce

I loooove a good, slow-cooked meat sauce for my spaghetti, and I change my recipe – drastically – every time I make it on the hopes of discovering the perfect formula. Today, I may have discovered it.

My perfect spaghetti sauce includes a combo of meats, both ground beef and Italian sausage. I typically avoid Italian sausage because of my aversion to fennel, but I discovered that my grocery store’s meat department make its own very mild, very low-fennel Italian sausage.

Veggies are important. However, onions must be cut fairly small, because I don’t like chewing onions in my sauce. Mushrooms are optional (today I just wasn’t in a mushroom mood). Carrots are required. Carrots? Yes, carrots. They add a natural sweetness to the sauce that really cuts the acidity.

Lastly, the various tomato products – I used crushed, sauce, and paste in this – needs to be diluted a bit with broth. I used to use all beef broth, but it was almost too overwhelming. Today I used part beef and part chicken, and it was the perfect combo. The beef adds richness, while the chicken is more mellow.

This is a pretty easy weeknight meal; you can chop your veggies the night before, and then all you need to do in the morning is brown your meat and throw everything in the slow cooker.

Is it a good sign that you’re sad when you get full, because that means you have to stop eating?

Slow-Cooked Spaghetti Sauce
Serves 8

1 lb. hamburger
½ lb. bulk Italian sausage
Salt, pepper, onion salt, and garlic salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
8 oz. mushrooms, chopped (optional)
1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
2 8-oz. cans tomato sauce
1 6-oz. can tomato paste
1½ c. chicken broth
1 c. beef broth
1 bay leaf
½-¾ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried parsley
Additional salt and pepper, to taste (I added about 2 tsp. or so salt)

1. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add hamburger and sausage, and season with salt, pepper, onion salt, and garlic salt.

2. Add garlic, onion, and carrot to skillet. Continue cooking until meat is browned. Add mushrooms, if using, and heat about 1 minute.

3. Add meat to slow cooker. Add remaining ingredients and stir.

4. Cover and cook on low 6-8 hours. Serve with cooked pasta.

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