Make up a big pot of bold, hearty meat sauce to satisfy the hungriest appetites – a wonderful recipe to have in your cooking repertoire. This recipe makes enough to serve a crowd or to freeze ahead in batches for busy nights.
I have a problem.
I just cannot cook a meal for less than six people – it is impossible for me. No matter how hard I try, the food just seems to grow and multiply in the pot until I’ve got a cauldron full to feed a crowd.
I guess it comes from years of cooking for a family of six people, two of which were growing teenage boys (massive meat eaters), plus a husband who likes to take leftovers for his lunch.
Even now, with only one teenage boy home for the summer, I still have to cook for six large appetites – three of us at the table, but the teenager eats for two, then both he and Raymond need leftovers for lunch (when you need to eat gluten-free, leftovers are just a much simpler option than trying to make sandwiches), so there go six (or more) servings, especially when meat is involved. What is it with men and their affinity for big meaty meals? (I could happily eat much less meat.)
So, I just give in and go with the flow. Cooking for 6 to 12 at a time it is.
(Plus, leftovers and meals stashed in the freezer make my life so much simpler).
Like the dowdy cousin with the crackerjack personality, this hearty meat sauce may not be especially pretty to look at, but it is robust and meaty and loaded with flavour. It’s not too spicy – you can amp up the cayenne if you’d like it spicier. The glug of wine and hint of nutmeg add a subtle complexity and richness. This sauce doesn’t have the intense tomatoey redness of a typical tomato-based pasta sauce – tomatoes only play a supporting role here. Since the colour is mainly brown it’s not too exciting to photograph, but it sure wins rave reviews from all the meat-lovers in this household. And I love the fact that it’s a big batch meal – you cook once and have enough meat sauce for several family meals to stash in the freezer.
Meat sauce makes a great dish to take along camping or to have in the freezer for summer get-togethers or unexpected company. All you need to do is cook up some pasta to go with it, and maybe a green salad on the side. Or serve the sauce over buns, kinda like a meaty version of Sloppy Joes, or serve it over a big plate of spiralized zucchini noodles. Or make a pasta bake – mix up some meat sauce with cooked pasta, cover it with lots of shredded cheese and bake it til heated through and the cheese is browned in spots and bubbling.
When you invite this cousin to dinner, you know it’ll turn into a great party!
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Kitchen Frau Notes: Using a mix of ground meats makes a richer, more complex flavour for this meat sauce. Use at least two different varieties, three if you can.
If you don’t have red wine, use white, or replace the wine with beef stock plus 1 tablespoon vinegar and 1 teaspoon sugar, if you prefer.
Drop tablespoons of leftover tomato paste onto wax paper and freeze, then store in a zip-top baggie in the freezer to use for other dishes.
Big Batch Meat Sauce
- ¼ cup (60ml) olive oil
- 3 large onions
- 4 cloves garlic
- 4 carrots
- 4 stalks celery
- 1 pound (454gms) ground beef, bison, or wild meat
- 1 pound (454gms) ground pork or lamb
- 1 pound (454gms) ground chicken, turkey, or veal
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- ¾ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 1 large can (28oz/796ml) diced tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons (45ml) tomato paste
- ½ cup (120ml) finely chopped parsley
Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat.
Cut the onions into large chunks, then use a food processor or mini chopper to chop them finely, together with the garlic (in batches, if necessary). Pulse carefully so they don’t turn to mush.
Saute the chopped onions and garlic in the oil for 3 to 4 minutes. Cut the carrots and celery into chunks and chop them finely in the food processor, too, in separate batches. Add the chopped vegetables to the onions and garlic, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove the sauteed vegetables to a bowl. Don’t clean the pot, and add the ground meats. Cook them, stirring occasionally to break up any lumps, until all the meat is browned, about 10 minutes.
Sprinkle on the salt, pepper, oregano, nutmeg and cayenne. Return the sauteed vegetables to the pot. Add the bay leaves, wine, and canned tomatoes with their juices. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer for 15 minutes.
Remove the lid, add the tomato paste, and raise the heat slightly. Cook the meat sauce uncovered, for 15 more minutes, until it thickens slightly.
Stir in the chopped parsley and remove from the heat.
Serve over pasta, garnished with additional fresh parsley and shaved parmesan cheese if you wish. This sauce tastes even better when allowed to rest in the refrigerator overnight and reheated the next day.
To freeze: Let the meat sauce cool, then divide it into smaller portions and pack it into freezer-safe containers. Freeze for up to 6 months.
Makes 13 to 14 cups meat sauce, serving 12 to 14.
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