I don’t know about you, but I love freezer cooking. Aside from my fridge/freezer, we also have a deep freezer for all of our butchered beef and pork, and then I have a stand up freezer as well. This is dedicated mostly, to all of my freezer cooking. It’s so satisfying to open up that door and be able to choose from various types of pre-portioned soups, breads, jams, sauces etc.
And I label everything. I know exactly what is in every container, because they are see through, but I still like to label anyway. I have some serious organizational issues around my stand up freezer. Don’t ever come over to my house and touch things inside. I will know. I will find you.
Recently, Rob and Judah spent one of the last really nice fall days we’ve had here in western WA, up at Scarlett Homestead moving our chickens to a fresh pasture location and working with the bees, so I had the house to myself to cook like a mad woman, getting ready for the end of the world.
I decided to stock up on meat sauce this time as I was getting low. This is a super simple, meat sauce recipe that combines fresh ingredients with a few canned ingredients. I go the extra mile once in a while and make my red sauce totally from scratch, with my own tomatoes, but I don’t always have time for those extra steps, and I think we can all agree that it’s fine to open up a can or jar now and then and add it to something to make life a little easier. I’m not a huge fan of any brand of pasta sauce, straight from a jar from the store, poured onto my pasta, so I feel like if you need to take some shortcuts, use that jarred sauce as your base and add to it. That’s what this sauce is all about!
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 lbs ground beef (extra lean)
1 yellow onion – diced
2 heaping tablespoons of minced garlic
1 tablespoon of worcestershire sauce
½ tablespoon of salt
½ tablespoon of pepper
1 tablespoon of oregano
1 can tomato paste (6 oz)
3 cans sliced mushrooms (4 oz each)
1 can crushed tomatoes (28 oz)
I large bottle Traditional Pasta Sauce (Such as Ragu) (66 oz)
2 tablespoons white sugar
3 bay leaves
2 tablespoons dry or fresh parsley
2 tablespoons fresh basil
1 tablespoon fresh chives
We’re making a lot with this recipe, so I got out my 7 quart dutch oven. I use this thing for so much. Soups, stews, roasts…it’s perfect on the stove top, in the oven, or from stove top into the oven. It cooks beautifully.
Place it on your stove and turn the heat up to medium-high. Add in about 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.
Drop in your ground beef. I’m using an extra lean, organic grass fed beef. It’s actually our own cattle, and it’s incredible. We pasture feed our cattle, so they are truly grass fed and natural. You end up with gorgeous, naturally lean beef that tastes wonderful. If you need half a cow butchered next year, let me know!
While that browns in the pot, diced up your yellow onion. (My sister just cringed at the site of the onions as she doesn’t like em’ one bit. Sorry my dear, but it’s a must).
Drop it in the pot and mix together. (Depending on the ground beef you have, here is where you may need to ladle out some of the fat. I didn’t need to because the beef was very lean. Any tiny amount of fat just cooks off, or stays put for flavor.)
Add your garlic.
Pepper and oregano. Stir it again and continue browning.
Open your cans of mushrooms, drain them and toss them in – you can add more or less, or not at all if it’s not your thing. Or go ahead and use fresh mushrooms. Sometimes I put in chopped up zucchini here as well if I have it.
Keep giving it a good stir. It should be sizzling away.
Add in your large can of crushed tomatoes. I used crushed this time because that’s what I had in my pantry, but I sometimes switch it up and used diced if I want to see more tomato pieces in my sauce. Whatever way the wind is blowing that day, is the direction I go. Where it will take me, nobody knows.
Then pour in an entire large bottle of a traditional style pasta sauce. This was a Ragu brand. But if you have a better brand you like, go ahead and use that. The taste of this stuff is not so great. I’m sure we can all agree on that, but it’s just to get your basic base in there. If you have the time to stew your tomatoes and make a large quantity of this stuff from scratch, you absolutely should. It is in fact so much better of a flavor, but I personally don’t always take the time or have it. So, in goes the Ragu!
Then I add in 2 tablespoons of white sugar to offset the acidity of the tomatoes.
Add in 2 tablespoons of dried parsley (I was out of fresh, but I would suggest fresh if you have it!)
Give this all a really good stir to get it all combined properly.
It’s rich and thick and chunky. Give it a taste to check for any flavors you might want to add. I now add 3 bay leaves and stir those in as well.
Cover the pot and turn it down to a simmer for about 45 – 60 minutes.
After about an hour of a soft simmer, and stirring it every 15-20 minutes or so during that time, I tasted it again for salt or additional herbs. Add what you like at this point.
I chopped up about 2 tablespoons of fresh basil leaves and some fresh chives.
Added that to the pot and stirred it again and checked it one last time for flavor.
I was done! This 7 quart pot is full! At this point, remove the 3 bay leaves, if you can find them while stirring. If not, you’ll notice them when we start to ladle the sauce into containers.
I turned off the heat and this is where I start filling up my freezer. I use these plastic freezer containers to portion out my sauce. I used 6.
Ladle them until they are all full and let them cool a bit on the counter.
Put the lids on, label them if you’re a weirdo like me, and store them in the freezer for your next meal. I used one whole container right away for supper that night.
I boiled some twirly pasta, added the sauce to the pot and stirred it all up. Then got out a square baking dish. I layered half of it in the dish and grated some fresh mozzarella to put on top.
Layered the second half with the remaining meat sauce pasta.
And finished it off with another layer of mozzarella.
I baked this in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes until it was all golden and bubbly.
This sauce is great for baked pastas, poured onto basic spaghetti, and I use it as my meat sauce for traditional lasagne as well. It’s nice to have ready to go in the freezer for whenever I need it next. One more thing off my list of cooking essentials complete!
– The Homesteaders Wife