I was raised on spaghetti and meat sauce. We ate it so frequently that I came to dread it. With adulthood and the responsibility to feed a family, I now have a fresh appreciation for the simplicity and deliciousness of this classic dish.
Last year, my eyes were opened to the unnecessary sugar lurking in so much of our American food. I searched far and wide for a marinara sauce that didn't have added sugar, and came up with not a single one. I then spent the summer in Europe, and Italy taught silly old me that jarred marinara is, to be frank, for fools—it's absolutely unnecessary. All you need is a can of tomatoes. The Italians worship San Marzano tomatoes. I've found Trader Joe's canned tomatoes to be delightful and inexpensive, coming in at $1.59 per large can.
Italians call their meat sauce ragù, or ragù alla bolognese, as the sauce originates from the city of Bologna. There are endless variations of this dish. I'm going to share the extra-easy version that I prepared for dinner last night. My family (which includes children ages 9, 7, and 5) couldn't get enough of it.
The Easiest Ragù Ever
- Sauté 5 chopped garlic cloves in olive oil.
- When you can smell the garlic (this won't take long), add 1-1.5 pounds ground beef to the skillet. Brown and break up the meat. Drain the fat.
- Add one 28-ounce can of tomatoes.
- Sprinkle on a generous amount of garlic salt, Italian seasoning, and freshly ground pepper. Add a couple shakes of crushed red pepper flakes.
- Simmer sauce for as long as possible (hopefully at least 20 minutes). Serve with your pasta of choice and grated Parmesan cheese.
You'll notice I didn't even use an onion or red wine in last night's ragù, and it still turned out scrumptious. I also used 1.5+ pounds of ground beef, as we like our sauce extra protein packed. Often I'll add lots of fresh, chopped spinach to my sauce to get more veggies into my children. My favorite Parmesan is at Trader Joe's in the cheese section, fresh and pre-grated.