Sunday, June 10, 2012

New Recipe Try-Out: Veggie Meat Sauce

While eating at my friend Tim's house, he and his wife Vanessa kept us loaded up with lots of tasty appetizers, including these frozen pizza bites with this AMAZING tomato sauce. Like, I could not get over how good this sauce was, so I begged Vanessa for the recipe and she was happy to oblige.

So I tried it out, and it makes a TON, which is awesome 'cuz it's a very hearty sauce. Lots of meat, lots of vegetables - but if you puree the vegetables, you don't even notice them.

The sauce, mid-simmer!
Since I'm trying to cut out carbs, I tried the sauce with pre-made polenta which I baked.

The polenta, baked
Et voila.
 Overall, it was ok, but it will be AMAZING next time. The recipe, and what I'll fix for next time:

"Veggie Spaghetti sauce

10 blanched tomatos, peeled and seeded and chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1 onion
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
3 carrots
1 zucchini
bag of spinach, steamed
2 T thyme
2 T oregano
2 T basil
1 T sugar
1 lb ground Italian sausage
1 lb ground lean beef
Salt & Pepper to taste
Red Pepper Flakes to taste

Directions: Saute olive oil, onion, red & green pepper. add to large pot and simmer with tomatoes, carrots, zucchini, spinach. I like to puree everything for a smooth sauce but you can puree only half. Add thyme, oregano, basil, sugar, salt & pepper, and red pepper flakes. brown the meat and add to the pot. simmer with the lid on."  All this is straight from Vanessa, including the directions.

Now, I've never made a sauce from scratch, AND I'm lazy. So here's where I did shortcuts, and it came back to bite me in the butt:
  • I tried to shortcut with canned tomatoes. I used whole peeled ones, but I dumped them in with the liquid. Too much liquid, next time I'll bother to peel and chop them and all that crap... or at least only throw in the tomatoes and not the juice it's packed in.
  • I also grated the zucchini before adding it, and I think I should have squeezed out any excess water. 
  • I hate cutting onions, so I usually sub onion powder. Since I wasn't going to bother with the onions, I skipped the first step of sauteing with the onion and peppers, and just added the peppers to the pot. Next time I'm buying pre-chopped onions and doing that step, 'cuz I suspect I lost out on some extra flavor - it was still plenty flavorful, but I bet this would've added something nice. 
  • The Italian sausage I bought was sweet; I would've preferred the spicy, but the sweet was cheaper so I bought it since we're keeping things cheap. The spicy would be SO much better. I tried to compensate with red chili flakes, but since it was my first time making this I kept it light as well - I barely noticed it.
  • I also need to add more salt. I went light because I didn't want to spoil it, but I think I can go heavier (or eat more parmesan with it ;D)
  • I'll also add garlic - because who doesn't like garlic in a tomato sauce? Still tastes great, but I love me some garlic in a tomato sauce.
  • I didn't it let it simmer long enough (it'd only been over an hour at that point), so it was REALLY watery (as you can see). I gave it an additional 2 hours, though, and it was nice and thick. So the frozen leftovers will hopefully keep that consistency.
  • I either need to bake the polenta longer or pan-fry it. It wasn't bad, but I'd like a little more crisp texture on it; of course, I could also try making my own next time as well, but the sauce took so long that I was glad I'd made pre-made at that point, because it took all of 2 minutes to slice up and throw on the baking sheet (I brushed the sheet with olive oil and sprinkled garlic powder and shredded parmesan on top of each slice, which did boost the flavor).
All said, it was still tasty! The sauce is very rich, and the peppers add a unique bite. Plus, as both The Hubs and I are weird about certain veggies in their natural state (like, oh, tomatoes, peppers, and zucchini), pureeing them into nothingness means we ate a very healthy sauce. I didn't notice a thing, I just nommed the sauce until my heart's content. I would certainly eat it over pasta (on a day where I avoided carbs for the other meals), it's very hearty.  I'm thinking I'll give some of the frozen sauce to my friends who are having babies as an easy meal so they don't have to cook when tired, along with some other meals I'm planning that freeze well. The sauce recipe certainly makes plenty!

I usually beat myself up when something I make for the first time doesn't come out perfect, but I'm getting over myself more often now. That's why I like making these notes of how to fix it for the next time - it makes it more of a learning process for me and makes me reflect on how to fix it, and hopefully makes me a better cook in the long run!


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