Saturday, July 3, 2010

Cook Once, Eat Lots---Pasta!

A few days ago my wonderful neighbor took the kids for us so my husband and I could go out on a date. She even fed them dinner! But despite the fact that I didn’t have to cook for my family, I still made a huge pot of spaghetti sauce. Why? I am due with our fourth child in about two-and-a-half weeks and am trying to fill my freezer with delicious, nutritious, and easy meals for after her arrival. My family loves pasta, and spaghetti sauce is easy to make in large quantities and freezes well.

When making spaghetti sauce, I don’t pay extra for lean ground beef. Because you brown the beef before you use it, a lot of the fat cooks out. I watch the grocery ads for great deals on 80% lean ground beef. I can occasionally find it for $1.67/lb. in a 10-lb. bag at Raley’s. Whoa, that’s a lot of beef! Yes it is! I take it home, pull out my kitchen scale, and freeze it in 1-lb. portions.

Speaking of freezing meat, that is one of my weaknesses. Sometimes I buy too much, knowing I can freeze it. I don’t have a food sealing system or even use zip-top bags when freezing meat. I’ve found that tightly wrapping it in plastic wrap and then foil works just as well and is a lot cheaper. Before sticking it in the freezer, I always write the type of meat, how much there is, and the date on each package.

On another note, this recipe calls for two celery ribs. Just as a point of clarification, a rib of celery is one piece, or stick of celery. A stalk of celery is a bunch of celery ribs and is how it is sold at the store.

Back to the spaghetti sauce, another great thing about this recipe is that you can turn leftover sauce into chili or minestrone. I’ll post those recipes another time.

Spaghetti Sauce
1 large onion
2 lbs. ground beef (or turkey)
75 oz. tomato sauce
12 oz. tomato paste
30 oz. canned diced tomatoes
2 celery ribs
1 green bell pepper
6 mushrooms
½ Tbsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
½ Tbsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried parsley
½ tsp. dried thyme
3 bay leaves

NOTE:  For sweeter, more tomatoey sauce, use less herbs. For more savory sauce, use more herbs.

Dice onion. Place in large stock pot (at least 5 qts.) with ground beef. Cook over medium heat until no pink remains in beef, stirring occasionally. Drain off fat. Return pot to stove over medium heat and stir in tomato sauce, tomato paste, and diced tomatoes. Chop celery, bell pepper, and mushrooms; mix into sauce. Add all seasonings and herbs; mix well. Turn heat to low and simmer 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally, until celery and pepper are tender. Remove bay leaves before serving. Serve over hot pasta. Freeze leftovers in usable portions in plastic containers or zip-top bags. Yields almost 5 qts. Total cost:  about $10. Unit cost:  about $2/qt.

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