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It turns out that Fireman Mikey enjoyed the all the food we made in last week’s little cooking class and we found some time to do it again this week!  We are actually having a little information trade, since I have a little TV perched above the refrigerator, we can put on a hockey game and he teaches me all the rules about hockey while I teach him how to make a new dish.

This week we made a ‘Big-Ass Pot of Meat Sauce,’ or gravy as Mikey calls it.  This is a more basic version than my usual meat ragout and is a recipe for a bigger batch size.  We then used up about half of the sauce to make a Reduced Carb Lasagna, alternating lasagna noodles with thinly sliced veggies to make a HUGE pan of lasagna.  Fireman Mikey is set for a few weeks now!

Big-Ass Pot of Meat Sauce

Makes about a gallon of sauce! – Cost approx $9.25 per batch or $1.15 per pint

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 large onions, roughly chopped (about $2.50 for all the veggies)
  • 3-4 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 3-4 ribs celery, roughly chopped
  • 1 head of garlic, cloves all peeled
  • 2 6oz cans of tomato paste ($1 for both cans)
  • 2 lb ground meat, beef, pork, veal or Italian sausage or any combination of those ($4)
  • 2 large cans of tomatoes, diced, whole, puree or crushed – get whatever is on sale ($1.50 for both cans)
  • fresh or dry herbs, to taste: basil, thyme, sage, oregano, bay, rosemary!  Whatever you like!
  • salt, to taste
  • crushed red pepper, optional/to taste

Start by putting a large pot (perhaps I can suggest to use your largest pot?) on over medium heat and drizzle in the olive oil.  Put all the veggies in a food processor or blender and use that to turn all the veggies into a fine dice/mince/rough puree.  Saute the minced veggies in the olive oil for about 5 minutes and sprinkle with a pinch of salt.  This will add a lot of bulk to your sauce as well as provide a good flavor base.

Next, turn the heat up to medium-high and add in all the tomato paste and ground meat.

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Stir thoroughly and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  You want to let this go until all the meat is lightly browned and the tomato paste is browning and starting to stick to the bottom of the pan.

Next, see to your remaining tomato product.  If your big cans are diced or whole tomatoes, use a food processor/blender/immersion blender to turn them into a light tomato puree; if you have crushed tomatoes or tomato puree you’re all ready to move ahead.  Stir in your two big cans of tomato product into the pot and about one can full of water.  Bring to a simmer and add in your herbs and some salt and crushed red pepper (if using).   Let it ride at a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally, for anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours.

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Be sure to taste your finished sauce and add salt if necessary!

The most important step is always to taste your food!

The most important step is always to taste your food!

Now, here’s what we made with our happy sauce!

Reduced Carb Veggie Lasagna

Serves 6 – Cost approx $2 per serving

Ingredients

  • 1 pint ricotta cheese ($1 on a good sale!)
  • 1 cup cheap parmesan cheese ($1)
  • 1/2 – 1 lb mozzarella cheese, shredded, divided use ($2)
  • 2-3 Tbs minced parsley (optional, I just like the color)
  • 1-2 quarts meat sauce ($4.62)
  • 1 package lasagna noodles, cooked ($1.50)
  • about 2 lbs thinly sliced veggies – we used zucchini and eggplant, you could also use butternut squash too! ($2)

Preheat the oven to 350-375F.

Start your lasagna by making the cheese mixture.  Reserve a handful of shredded mozzarella for topping the lasagna then mix all the cheeses and the parsley together in a small bowl.

Get a large pan (a foil one is cheap, bigger than a traditional casserole dish and can be thrown away when done…) and layer up your noodles, sauce, sliced vegetables and cheese mix any way you see fit.  For the last layer, I like to have noodles covered with the tiniest bit of sauce and then sprinkled with the reserved mozzarella.

Fireman Mikey approves!

Fireman Mikey approves!

Cover with some foil and bake for 45-90 minutes.  Try to let it cool before digging in, lasagna always seems to come out of the oven like a pan of lava.  Lasagna has that magic quality that it seems to get better as it sits, so enjoy it for the next week to come!

There are tons of amazing things to make with leftover pasta sauce!  After making the lasagna, this batch left almost four pints of sauce to put in the freezer for later.  Here’s what I came up with for leftover ideas for Fireman Mikey to make with all his little containers of leftover sauce:

All ready for the freezer!  This is a perfect use for 'white trash tupperware' since a busy bachelor can just throw it away when he's done!

All ready for the freezer! This is a perfect use for ‘white trash tupperware’ since a busy bachelor can just throw it away when he’s done!

  • You can put it on any Italian starchy thing like pasta, gnocchi or polenta
  • The teenager/bachelor classic of french bread pizza
  • Garlic bread sloppy joes
  • If you felt like going low carb you could steam a spaghetti squash and fill the middle with some yummy sauce…
  • Add some seasonal veggies and some stock then that meat sauce could be thinned out into a soup
  • Add some beans, spices (chili powder and cumin) and some sweet and hot peppers to make something chili-like (I’m Texan and have strong opinions on what real chili is…)
  • Mix in some cooked grains (like barley, rice or farro) and stuff some peppers with it.
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