Monday, October 22, 2012

Nut-Allergy Friendly Dinner: Pasta with Homemade Sauce

By now all of us are in full swing of school, homework, extra-curricular activities and of course, Halloween preparation. With work of my own to do and two kids on the go, I like to have some healthy, tasty and relatively easy meals in my arsenal.
This is a busy time of year, but we we've still got to eat dinner! So I thought I would repost one of my family's favorite week night meals:  pasta with homemade sauce. Besides being fresher-tasting, a homemade sauce is a great food allergy-friendly option because we know exactly what goes into it. Plus, making pasta sauce can be very relaxing after a long day. Once the meat is cooked, you just let it simmer, stir it occasionally and let the great cooking smells fill the house.

This sauce is wonderful to freeze and defrost on those super-busy nights. Occasionally, I make the sauce in the morning, put it in the slow cooker on low and then cook the pasta in the evening. The sauce--the hard part--is already completed and the flavor benefits from the long simmer in the slow cooker.
If you're looking for a meal to fill little tummies before Trick or Treating (cutting down on candy temptation until you can either vet or turn in the candy for safe treats), may I suggest this?
Here's my recipe for my favorite pasta sauce. The sauce has ground beef; if you want to go meatless, this recipe is still good. Or add some crumbled, cooked Italian sausage if you enjoy that flavor. As with any pasta sauce, the longer you simmer this, the better it gets. It's even better the next day. You can double the recipe for a larger family. Enjoy!

Nut-Free Mom's Weeknight Pasta Sauce

1 lb. ground beef (I use Laura's Organic ground round)
A couple tablespoons olive oil
Freshly cracked pepper, to taste
4 cloves of minced garlic
1/2 tsp (or less if you like less heat) red pepper flakes
1/2 medium yellow onion
1 cup low-sodium beef broth (I use Swanson's organic beef broth or stock)

A couple glugs of orange juice (if serving adults only, add some red wine)
1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes (I use Hunt's Natural)
1 tablespoon tomato paste (I use Hunt's)
About 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley or to taste
1/4 cup shredded basil or a couple tsp dried
1 tsp dried oregano

Grated fresh Parmesan for serving (optional)

Heat olive oil in pan and add beef. Season meat with black pepper and brown in a deep skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, crushed red pepper and oregano. While this is cooking, grate onion into meat mixture using a hand grater. Cook a few minutes to soften the onion, then add broth and wine or OJ. Stir pan and deglaze, incorporating any browned bits from bottom of pan. Add tomatoes and half the parsley and basil. Stir again, then reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes. (You can do this while you boil water and cook pasta). Right before serving, sprinkle with rest of parsley and basil. Serve with your favorite pasta. Sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan, if using.

Makes 4 good-sized servings.

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