Saturday, October 27, 2012

quick weeknight pasta sauce with mushrooms

As a kid, I didn't like pasta nor tomato-based sauces. I'm still not exactly sure why. I guess pasta was boring and tomato-based sauces - or sauces in general - just weren't my cup of tea. So, instead of eating pasta with sauce like all the other children would do, I usually ate pasta with plain ground beef. (Seriously. Pasta and seasoned, browned ground beef. Not even ketchup on top. So weird.) The best part is, my sister used to be the same. So we never ate pasta with any kind of sauce.

Then, some years ago, we had one of those relaxed dinners at a friend's house. The dad made spaghetti bolognese but added cream to the sauce and let it simmer for an hour or so. And I? I started eating pasta with sauce, any sort.

This recipe is for those weeknights when dinner needs to be on the table, like, now. Easy to make, quick to cook and from toddlers to grannies, it is a crowd-pleaser. This pasta sauce relies heavily on the pantry but does not taste like it. It is hearty, comforting, and seriously good for a sauce (and dinner) that comes together in about 30 minutes.

Quick Weeknight Pasta Sauce with Mushrooms
serves 4 to 6

* I always try to use the best quality canned tomatoes I can find but even so, there is sometimes that acidic taste that comes from using canned tomatoes. If that is the case, add a scant tablespoon of honey to the sauce. This won't sweeten the sauce but helps to mellow out the acidity.

200g white button mushrooms

1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion
2 garlic cloves
400g ground beef

1 (400g) can diced tomatoes with the juice
1/2 can water
2 to 3 tbsp tomato paste (optional)
1 beef bouillon cube
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried thyme
* honey (optional)

Wash well and slice the mushrooms. Place them into a skillet over medium heat and sauté until they are done sweating, about 3 or 4 minutes. Set aside on a plate or in a bowl.

While the mushrooms are sweating, peel the onion and garlic cloves. Dice the onion and mince the garlic. Add the oil to the now empty skillet and sauté the onion until softened and translucent. Add the minced garlic and sauté for a minute or so. Add the ground beef and brown until cooked through.

Add the diced tomatoes, then fill the empty can halfway through with water and pour it into the skillet. Add the mushrooms, tomato paste, bouillon and spices; heat until bubbling. Lower the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring a few times. (Ideally, this is the point where you want to boil the pasta and when the pasta is ready, so is the sauce.) Season to taste with salt and ground black pepper.

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