Of all the home-cooked meals out there, I think pasta sauce has to be one of the all time best. It is a quintessential comfort food. To smell it bubbling away on the stove is to feel as though you are truly at home. Make it for guests, and you are sure to please a crowd. Give it as a gift, and you have just won yourself the status of best neighbor on the block. But really, I must admit, I am usually pretty greedy with my sauce, preferring to stockpile it in my freezer for nights when I come home from a long day at work and just need a bowl of something hot and savory to cuddle up to.
Here is everything you will need:
- 1 lb ground chicken, pork, or beef
- 1 onion, chopped
- 4-6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tsp crushed fennel seeds
- 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 6 oz. bag, or 1 bunch, spinach (about 3 cups)
- A splash of wine (red or white will do)
- 2 tbsp Italian Seasoning
- ¾ tsp cinnamon
- 1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes
- 1 rind of Parmesan
Start by browning about a pound of ground meat in a large stock pot. I use chicken, but you can use whatever you prefer. Use a potato masher to break it up. Season with salt and pepper.
Next, add onion, garlic, fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, tomato paste, and 1 bay leaf to the pot. Season with salt and pepper, stir well, and lower the heat. Cover the pot and let this all cook for about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, chop the spinach. Add it to the pot as you chop it up, stirring to combine. It seems like a lot of spinach at first, but it is amazing how much it wilts down and shrinks in size! Add a splash of wine to the pot. Stir it all up and let it cook a minute or two, uncovered, until most of the liquid is gone.
Add cinnamon and Italian Seasoning. Add the can of whole tomatoes. Finally, a little trick of mine is to add a rind of Parmesan. Start saving your Parmesan rinds, they are full of flavor and are a great addition to just about any sauce or stock. I freeze mine in plastic baggies. You can even ask for a rind from a good deli counter if you haven’t been stocking up.
Let the whole thing simmer gently with the lid off, to allow excess liquid to evaporate. Stir occasionally. The lower the heat, and the longer you let it bubble away, the richer the sauce will be. You can let it simmer very gently for up to two hours, or let it bubble a little more vigorously for just 15 minutes if you don’t want to wait that long. Serve the sauce over fresh pasta. Yummmyyy!!!.
Tips and Tricks
- Use a mortar and pestle to crush the fennel seeds.