Wednesday, June 5, 2013

La Pasta!

A friend and I always greet each other with an exclamation, "Pasta!" It stems from the business trip to Brazil where we first met, to audit one of our company's manufacturing facilities.  One of our contacts (who didn't speak English) came looking for something, "blah blah blah la pasta blah blah blah la pasta!"  Neither of us knew what "la pasta" was, so she just scoured the room until she found a blue 3-ring binder.  She held it up in the air and triumphantly declared, "la pasta!!!"  It has been a joke between us ever since.

But this post is actually about pasta - the food variety.  You'd never know it by the content of this blog thus far, but I'm actually quite obsessed with knitting.  However, ever since Little Homestead came along, I haven't had much time for knitting, or any of the other arts I love that have to do with knitting.  I still dabble in a couple side businesses that have to do with knitting (here and here), but I don't get any actual knitting time.  

So I've concentrated my efforts on things that I love that help my family - cooking, home decorating, finance, etc.  And some of them actually go hand-in-hand, like finance and cooking.

One of the ways I'm trying to help keep our expenses down is by cooking at home more and eating out less...especially at work.  When I was job-hunting after our move to CA, I really got into making things from scratch - different kinds of bread, bagels, and other baked goods.  I learned many substitutions for dairy so I could make some of Mr. Homesteader's favorite meals that he could no longer eat due to his milk allergy - his grandma's chocolate covered cherries, green bean casserole for Thanksgiving, macaroni and cheese, etc.

Last week Mr. Homesteader was watching Diners, Drive-In's, and Dives and saw a thick tomato sauce that had his taste buds salivating.  After much thought and preparation, I attempted to make such a sauce for him.  I combined several recipes I found online as well as had honed over the past couple years of cooking for the family. 

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

Garlic, 1 head
Roma tomatoes, 10 medium
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Carrot, 1 medium, chopped
Celery, 3 small stalks, chopped
Onion, 1/2 large, chopped
Tomato paste, 1 small can
Red Wine, 1/2 cup
Beef Stock, 1/2 cup
Italian Seasoning, 2 tsp
Cinnamon, 1 pinch
Ground Beef 1 lb
Spaghetti, 1 lb
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400.  Cut the tip off the head of garlic to reveal the tops of the cloves.  Peel back the outer wrapping.  Place on a small sheet of tin foil and drown in olive oil.  Wrap up.  Place on cookie sheet and bake for 30-35 minutes.  When it's done, unwrap and squeeze to get the garlic out of the head.  It should just smoosh out and you can add it into the tomato sauce below.

Slice an "X" into the end of each tomato.  Put into boiling water for 60 seconds, then remove into an ice bath.  This will make the skins peel off the tomato uber-easily.  With this batch, they were peeling themselves off as I took them out of the water.

Once the tomatoes are cool to the touch, peel the skins off and quarter.  If you want, you can also seed the tomatoes.  These ones didn't have a ton of seeds (at least, I don't notice them eating the final product, but next time I will probably squeeze out the innards when I'm cutting them up...just to see the difference.
Put the quartered tomatoes into a dutch oven on medium/medium-low heat.  Cook for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are broken down.

In the meantime, chop the carrot, celery, and onion.  Put into a pan with extra virgin olive oil over medium heat and saute until tender.  Add in tomato paste and stir to combine.  Let cook for a few minutes to let the tomato paste "wake up".  Add the red wine to deglaze and let reduce a few minutes, to cook out the wine flavor.

When the tomatoes are broken down, stir in the vegetable mixture and the garlic and let cook for another 30 minutes for the flavors to combine.  Using an immersion blender, puree the mixture until as smooth as you desire.  Add in the beef stock and spices and continue to cook on low for 2-3 hours, until the color has deepened and the sauce is thick.

Brown the hamburger meat and add into the sauce.  Cook the pasta according to the package directions.  Combine with the sauce and enjoy!

I pretty much nailed it the first time out.  Which generally means I'll never be able to make it just right ever again. Knowing me, I'll continue to tweak it just a little each time, anyway.  I already have my eye on subbing out the cinnamon for some cloves, and maybe adding some bacon.  Oh, and making tomato paste from scratch, natch.  In time, I'll end up with two completely different recipes.  But for now, lunches this week have been very, very yummy.


  1. Cinnamon? Wow . . . that is interesting. I'm going to have to try this.

  2. NOM!! that sounds so good!