Culinary Quest #15 – Savory Pasta Meat Sauce

I typically post recipes on Saturday’s, but there’s not much typical about life right now in our house.  Ha!  So here ya go on a Monday…

With temperatures cooling down, we’re heating things up in the kitchen!  There is little food I enjoy more than a simple dinner of pasta and sauce.  It’s like the ultimate comfort food.  We tackled marinara sauce in Culinary Quest #6 Pasta Marinara with Parmesan Panko Chicken, but sometimes a hearty, meaty sauce is just the thing for a cool evening’s dinner.

My entire life I only knew hamburger meat, or perhaps a mixture of hamburger and sausage, for a meat sauce.  However, hamburger (in my opinion) is bland and spongy and just blah.  This time, I broke out of my box and used mild Italian sausage – taking the risk that only using sausage may prove too dominant against the backdrop of the other flavors.

The risk was totally worth it!  Goodbye hamburger – hello sausage!  It has the perfect amount of fennel and other spices to make this sauce nicely robust.  But, there is a trick.  I ground the sausage so finely, it is perfectly blended in the sauce.  Rather than this being a pasta sauce with sausage chunks, the sauce is a smooth blend that can be used over noodles and in any recipe calling for sauce (lasagna, manicotti, stuffed shells, ravioli, etc.).

This is hands-down our family’s new favorite!  Bonus…when making this from scratch, you get to pick exactly which meat goes in your sauce – unlike jarred meat sauce.  I like knowing exactly what is in my food. 🙂  And, the whole house smells so good while simmering that everyone is chomping at the bit by dinnertime.  Double bonus!

I would have included a picture, but we ate it all! :O  The next time I make it, I will come back and post a photo.  Whoops!

Buona appetito!

Savory Pasta Meat Sauce (yields a full-sized slow cooker)

2 pounds mild Italian sausage

1c diced, fresh basil (measured after dicing) – Fresh is important!  I do not recommend dried basil for this sauce.

1/3c olive oil

2 tablespoons dried oregano

3/4c pureed onion (I use sweet onions)

28oz  crushed tomatoes

28oz tomato puree

28oz tomato sauce

2 cans tomato paste

14.5oz diced tomatoes; drained

6 cloves garlic

* Using a large skillet on the stove top, thoroughly cook the Italian sausage.  Remove from heat and let cool.

* Once cooled, place sausage in a food processor and blend until uniform.

* Puree onions in food processor until almost liquid – keeping a little texture to them.

* Add all remaining ingredients, plus sausage and onions, in a slow cooker and cook on low for 9 hours or high for 6 hours – stirring occasionally.

***TIP*** To make things easier when putting this together in the morning for dinner, cook the sausage and process it and the onions the night before.  Store them in a container in the fridge and in the morning just add all ingredients in the slow cooker and you’re done!

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