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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Crock Pot Pasta Sauce

Everyone and their Uncle Larry (I don't actually have an Uncle Larry, but you know what I mean) has a recipe for pasta sauce, right? In these economically downturned times, isn't it necessary? The upcharge on the jarred stuff is outrageous! Now, I shop at BJ's for most of the ingredients, so I'm saving a little extra buying bulk, but I think you'll see my point. Never mind the satisfaction you get from being able to control the flavor and quality of the ingredients. Just think, no preservatives, no added sugars!

Amateur cost analysis:
1 24 oz. jar of pasta sauce with meat: $2.69 for basic Ragu/Newman's Own to $7.69 jar for the pricey stuff, like Rao's, or $0.11 - $0.32 per oz.

1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes:$1.20
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes $0.85
1 6 oz. can tomato paste: $0.50
1 4 oz. can mushroom stems and pieces. $0.85
1 bayleaf: $0.05
@ 1T. each of dried parsley, oregano, and basil: $0.30
kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste: $0.02
1 T. olive oil: $0.10
1 medium onion:$0.33
2-4 cloves garlic:$0.05
Optional Ingredients:
1 pound 90% lean ground beef, from BJ's, bought in bulk and stored in 1 pound packets: $2.49
@ 1/2 c. red wine (I go for whatever might be open, or a drinkable, cheap bottle like Charles Shaw Cab) $0.50

Total: $7.24 ($4.25 without the meat and booze) for @66 oz., divided into 2 24 oz. containers and frozen for future use, with @18 oz. to use for tonight. That's $0.06 - $0.11 per oz.

So, it's the same cost as the cheap stuff, and infinitely tastier.

Here's my recipe, such as it is. Enjoy, and save some $, while you're at it.

You will need: a slow cooker/crock pot*, a wooden spoon, a small silicone/rubber spatula, a skillet, a cutting board, and a knife.

Get the crock pot all plugged in, and empty all the canned goods (scrape all the tomatoey goodness out with the spatula), along with about a half cup of water, or more to make a thinner sauce. Add the spices into the crock pot, season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Put on the lid, turn it on (High or Low, depending on time), and leave it.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in the skillet over medium high heat, dice up the onion and garlic, and toss the ground beef into the hot pan, cooking it and breaking it up as you go. When the meat has almost no pink left, add the onions and garlic, and cook until most of the juices are gone from the pan. Pour in the wine, give it a stir, scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan, and cook off the booze for a few minutes.

Add this pan of deliciousness to the brewing crock pot, stir it all up, put the lid back on, and walk away until you've cooked up your pasta. I'd advise an 1-4 hours on high, or 4 to 8 or 10 hours on low (You might need a smidge more water for longer times, but not necessarily. My crock pot doesn't lose a lot of moisture.).

*If you don't have a crock pot, you can do it in a dutch oven, or large sauce/soup pan, just keep the heat below medium low, and proceed as above, watching for moisture loss and burning as it simmers. Cooking time is only one to three hours on a stovetop.



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