Saturday, May 18, 2013

What's for Dinner: Uncle Ken's Spaghetti Sauce over pasta

So what could be new and different about spaghetti sauce? Well, I have to tell you. If you have been getting by with opening a jar of spaghetti sauce from the store, and you think that it tastes OK, you may or may not like this sauce. Why? Because this one is packed full of extra vegetables, and it comes with a little “bite” (from the jalapenos).  Don’t let that stop you from trying it. You can easily tone down the heat by reducing the amount of jalapenos.

And who is Uncle Ken?  He was the most amazing man. He is my dad’s uncle, my great uncle, and my grandma’s next-to-youngest brother. He lived into his 90’s, as most of my grandma’s siblings did.  He worked as an accountant his whole life. I got to know him after he retired, but even in retirement, he still read the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, along with his local newspaper, every day. He kept up with several news magazines, and could strike up a conversation about nearly any topic.  

One day Uncle Ken was talking about the special spaghetti sauce that he and his wife Til used to make and serve to company.  He said the sauce needed to simmer three to four hours, but it was worth the time and effort.  When I asked for more details, he generously shared the recipe.  I took a few liberties with the recipe, so you can play around with the recipe, too, and make it to your liking (I included both the original recipe and my tweaks). Uncle Ken and Aunt Til liked the sauce quite hot, but we prefer it more on the mild side with just a tiny “bite”.

Uncle Ken’s Spaghetti Sauce

1-2 pounds ground beef (he used 2 pounds, I generally use 1)
1 medium onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped

2 quarts tomatoes, chopped fine (I use 2 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes)
5-10 rings jalapenos from a jar, chopped (he used 3 fresh jalapenos, seeded and chopped fine; I use 5 rings of the jar kind)
1 cup finely-chopped celery (I use 2-3 ribs, chopped)
1 green pepper, finely chopped
2 4-ounce cans mushrooms, chopped
1 teaspoon sugar
salt to taste
(I also add 2 teaspoons of Italian seasoning toward the end of cooking)
(optional: Parmesan cheese, grated)

In non-stick skillet, brown the ground beef and drain fat from beef by placing on paper towels.  In the same skillet used for the beef, sauté the onions and garlic until they are translucent (not brown).

Meanwhile, using  your blender or food processor, blend (puree) together one quart of tomatoes with the celery and jalapenos (you’re going to be doing this twice if you have a typical-sized blender—it doesn’t all fit).  Pour the first tomato-vegetable mix into large Dutch-oven-sized saucepan and start heating on a medium-low setting. Again with the blender, blend the second quart of tomatoes with the green pepper. Add this mix to the saucepan. 

Now add the mushrooms, sugar, salt, browned ground beef, cooked onions and garlic to the saucepan; stir and simmer on low for 2-3 hours (I usually only simmer it for one hour).  Add the Italian seasoning if desired near the end of cooking.  Start cooking your spaghetti or other pasta when the sauce is almost done.

This makes enough for 8-10 servings (should be enough to cover 1.5 pounds of thin spaghetti – I like lots of sauce).  I usually make 2 meals out of it for both my husband and I, and freeze the extra sauce for later meals.

Nutrition information per one-tenth of the sauce (about 1.5 cups sauce, not including pasta):
Uncle Ken’s version with more meat: 246 calories, 12 grams fat, 10 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams fiber, 21 grams protein, 65 milligrams cholesterol, 394 milligrams sodium.

My version with less meat: 151 calories, 6 grams fat, 10 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams fiber, 12 grams protein, 32 milligrams cholesterol, 399 milligrams sodium.