- 14.5 oz can of Italian stewed tomatoes
- 15 oz can of tomato sauce
- 1/2 red bell pepper (leftover from a recipe from a few days before)
- 1 1lb of ground beef
- splash of red wine (well, a rather large splash ;) )
- salt and pepper
- fresh parsley and basil
Of course, you can always tweak these ingredients to whatever you already have on hand. No ground beef? Not really necessary. Make a nice marinara instead. Don't have Italian canned tomatoes? Use regular canned tomatoes and add your own spices. I just happened to have Italian ones in my pantry. Have mushrooms in your fridge? Throw those in when when you are sauteing the onion and garlic. No wine? Use balsamic vinegar instead. The possibilities are endless!
To make the sauce, start by sauteing 1/2 of a large onion, chopped and 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a medium to large saucepan. Saute for a minute, then add your other veggies. Here I added 1/2 of a leftover red bell pepper.
Season the veggies with a little salt and pepper, then add and brown your ground beef if you are going the meat sauce route. I used a low fat ground sirloin so there was no need to drain the fat off. Plus, the little bit of beef fat that did remain in the pot helped add flavor to
the sauce. Once your beef is browned, dump in your cans of tomatoes and tomato sauce. I had to do a quick puree in the blender of my Italian tomatoes since they were canned whole. You can use just about any tomatoes you may have- diced tomatoes, whole tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, with or without seasoning. It doesn't matter.
Now for the good part. The red wine. I just added a splash or two of red wine that I had in my fridge that was a bit past drinkable but still okay for cooking. No red wine on hand? No problem. Just use a tablespoon or 2 of balsamic vinegar or a red wine vinegar instead. If you are using unseasoned tomatoes, this is the time to add your dried herbs as well. Try oregano and basil.
Now, cover the pot, turn down the heat to medium-low and let the sauce simmer for 10-15 minutes.
A few minutes before serving, add any fresh herbs you may have on hand. Fortunately, I had bought some herb plants the weekend before at the local farmers market and had fresh basil and parsley to add to my sauce. Frugal mamas, herb plants are THE way to go. You can usually pick up a herb plant for cheaper than you will pay for fresh cut herbs at the grocery store. I bought 3 different herb plants for just $2 each!
This is the time to taste your sauce and add salt or pepper as needed. If your prefer a little bit of a sweeter sauce (I know I do!), add a tablespoon or 2 of sugar. Serve over your pasta of choice. I went with angel hair.
Keeping with my plan of eating on a budget for the week, I found a way to turn the discount French bread I had bought a couple of days before into a tasty accompaniment for our pasta dinner. You can't go wrong (or much easier!) than garlic toast. Just slice the bread thick, spread with butter, and sprinkle with garlic powder. Pop in the over for 6-7 minutes at 375 degrees.
The best thing about making a homemade pasta dinner other than finally using those canned tomatoes in your pantry? You know what you are feeding your family. You know exactly what is in the sauce and what isn't because YOU made it.