The following recipe can have many items substituted. The ingredients are just what “I” like to use. You will see that I don’t use salt during the cooking. I like to add mine after the fact. You can however add it during the cooking process.
The ingredients you will need include the following
- Oil (a couple tablespoons, I like vegetable oil)
- Onion (one medium to large depending on your preference)
- Garlic (one to three cloves, again depending on your preference)
- Italian seasoning (I don’t measure but if you have less than a teaspoon you may want to pick up some more)
- Optional spices: oregano, basil, powdered garlic and salt
- 1 to 1 ½ pounds of ground beef. (If you want to substitute deer meat or something else you may, however I don’t give instructions for preparing this dish with anything other than beef. If there are special preparations required for your substituted meats don’t blame me if they are not followed.)
- Pasta Shells (1 one pound box) Spaghetti can be used instead.
When making any pasta the first thing I do is start the water boiling. In winter I’m happy to put a little extra to boil out since the air is usually so dry in my house from electric heat. For a 1 lb box I use my big boiling pot which holds about 2 gallons. I generally fill it ¾ of the way and let it boil down to about an inch above half a pot. (See picture above)
Next I put my iron skillet on the stove to warm up. I set it on just below half heat and let it sit while I cut the onion and garlic.
Peel and cut your onion into small squares. I say cut because you want the pieces to all be uniform so they cook evenly. Chopping tends to make pieces too small and uneven. We will be frying the onions first so we want more control over how they cook.
The garlic however will be added after the sauce is almost complete and before simmering so those pieces should be quite small and uniformity is not an issue here.
After you’ve cut the onion and garlic your prep work is done. Now it’s time add a few tablespoons of oil and the onions in the pan and start them cooking. Because I use iron skillets half heat is sufficient, especially when the pan has been preheated.
I like to use vegetable oil in this recipe, you can use EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) or some other kind of oil but I’ve never tried any substitutes so I can’t vouch for the resulting taste of the dish when using substituted oils.
The goal is to have the onions eventually be so soft they almost melt in your mouth, but since they are the first item to be cooked it is not necessary to cook them for too long. I fried mine until they were just starting to look transparent, about 4 minutes, constantly stirring.
Next add in your ground beef. You want to cut and work the meat into small bite size chunks or smaller and ensure the meat is cooked through and through.
It’s very likely that after the meat is cooked you will have some extra moisture that has come out of the meat. I like to turn down the heat, spread the meat to the sides and wait for some of the excess water to evaporate.
Time to add the fresh garlic. I emphasize “fresh garlic” because timing is everything and if you are going to use powdered rather than fresh now is NOT the time to add it in!
You want the fresh garlic to fry just a minute, not too much, then add the sauce and turn down to slow the cooking process of the garlic.
Now I add my favorite can of tomato sauce. I’ve found that most brands are pretty much the same to me, but if you have a preference make sure you use at least a 24 oz can. You may use more if you desire.
This recipe is not about accuracy it’s more about taste. So feel free to add a little more or less than what I suggest in all of the ingredients. But try not to deviate too much, at least not until you’ve taste tested it first.
Now you can lower the heat to about ¼ or low. Slowly mix in the sauce and let it simmer. This a good time to add the seasonings.
If you did not use fresh garlic or want to supplement with powdered garlic now is the time to add it. If you’ve never cooked before I’d suggest adding a ½ teaspoon of powdered garlic, wait a few minutes and taste. If you are not happy with the amount of garlic add more a little at a time, wait a few minutes and repeat until you reach the desired taste. Do this for all of your spices.
Next goes the Italian spice about 1 teaspoon, again add until you like the flavor.
Although Italian seasoning contains oregano and basil I like to add extra. I put in about a half teaspoon of each.
Ok if you want to add salt now go right ahead. But really it tastes great without it and many people can add salt at the table.
Now I’m allergic to MSG, so I don’t use accent. EVER. But I do add a pinch of sugar to most of my foods, it compliments the other spices and brings out the flavor in an awesome way. Well maybe more than a pinch, more like a half a teaspoon.
If you’re not familiar with what a pinch is, it’s whatever spice you can hold between your index finger and thumb without it falling out.
Now it’s time to let the sauce simmer and wait for the water to boil fully. Boil your chosen pasta to your desired tenderness and drain.
Add sauce to your drained pasta and you are done!