I had the supreme honor and luxury to be raised in a family with Italian Grandparents. Some of my fondest (and earliest) memories revolve around the smells and feelings of being in their kitchen during a family gathering. Grandma and Grandpa’s Sunday Gravy was a thing of wonder that, through no fault of any of the many very dedicated cooks in my family, will never be able to be truly replicated. Whether it’s because there was some ‘secret’ ingredient we weren’t ever privy to or because of the phenomenon that food just always seems to taste better when someone else is making it for you, we’ll never know.
But I digress-
This is not the Sunday Gravy that simmers endlessly on impossibly low, bubbly heat for hours and hours until perfection is achieved. No, no, no. This is a complete bastardization of it that I’ve developed over the years to give myself and my family a dose of those same cozy feelings in an absolute fraction of the time. Grandma and Grandpa are smiling down on me from heaven with equal parts horror and pride, I’m sure.
RC Weeknight Meat Sauce starts with lean ground sirloin (this is key for that ‘filling without being heavy’ feel) sautéed with lots of onion, garlic and carrots (get those veggies in people!) and is then simmered with Italian herbs and (partially) homemade marinara.
Rebel Chef Weeknight Meat Sauce
- big pot, potato masher (optional but awesome), large sauté spoon
- 1 pound organic grass fed ground beef we use lean sirloin
- 1-2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small/medium sweet onion cut in a fine dice
- 2-3 small/medium carrots small dice
- 2-3 cloves of garlic minced
- 1 heaping tbsp tomato paste
- 2 t mixed dried italian herbs parsley, oregano, thyme, basil, rosemary all work, use what you have and what suits your tastes best
- Splash of wine totally optional, you can also use balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, or nothing at all
- 24-28 oz jarred marinara we like Rao’s or Specially Select from Aldi, crushed tomatoes, or italian whole peeled tomatoes that have been partially crushed (this is for you to decide- do you prefer a smooth, textured or mixed sauce?)
- A few pinches of sugar
- Fresh basil cut into thin ribbons optional but luxurious
- Brown your ground beef in a well warmed pan over strong medium heat, breaking it up as much as possible. A potato masher is the very best tool to use for browning and breaking up ground meat as it will break the meat down into the smallest pieces possible, making it basically melt into the sauce.
- Add a small glug of olive oil, along with your onion, carrot and garlic. Salt generously and sauté together until carrots begin to soften slightly and onions are becoming translucent.
- Add your tomato paste and mixed dried herbs, stirring well until everything is evenly coated with the paste/herb mixture and the tomato paste has begun to brown slightly.
- Now is the time deglaze. Do this by adding a splash of wine or vinegar. If not using wine/vinegar, skip ahead to adding your jarred marinara, canned tomatoes, or both. You want about 24-28 oz total of tomatoes going in. Make sure to stir well and incorporate any delicious brown bits that have stuck to the pan at this point. Turn your heat down to medium low and put on the lid.
- Gently rinse your marinara jar or crushed tomato can with water to get every last bit of sauce out of there and add to your pan. This step is dual purpose. It is frugal in nature and makes sure nothing is wasted, and the added bit of water prevents the sauce from thickening too much. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.
- Allow the sauce to simmer for about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Taste once for seasoning. Sometimes you’ll want to add a pinch or two of sugar, and sometimes you won’t.
- The sauce is ready when the carrots are fully soft, any raw tomato taste is gone, and you simply can’t wait to eat any longer. I like to finish this sauce with a small handful of fresh basil (torn or cut into fine ribbons) but it is not required. Serve immediately over 1 pound of your favorite pasta.