Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Pasta Sauce With Italian Sausage and Mushrooms

With chilly weather finally here, the time has come for slow cooked dishes and stir fry dishes and casseroles. We still have meals from the grill, but not as often.

One of my favorite pasta sauces is based on zucchini squash blended with tomatoes or tomato sauce, then mixed with cooked onions, herbs, garlic and maybe a dash of wine or some mushrooms. It really doesn't need meat, but now and then I'll add browned ground turkey or, as I did this week, browned bulk Italian sausage.

On the the great things about this sauce is that the squash soaks up the flavorings and so even after a short time on the stove it tastes like Mama had it on the stove simmering all day. Give it a try when you are in a hurry to get dinner on the table.

Squash Based Pasta Sauce with Mushrooms

1/2 lb ground meat (beef or turkey or Italian sausage - I used Italian sausage this time)
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced or chopped
2 medium squash, cut into chunks (any summer squash, but zucchini works best)
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes in juice
2 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon dry basil
1/4 teaspoon dry rosemary
note - fresh oregano, basil and rosemary can be used - use twice as much, or more, to taste
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

In large skillet heat oil over medium high heat. Brown ground meat. Set aside.

Using same pan, cook onion and garlic until translucent and barely brown, about 5 minutes, stirring now and then. Add the mushrooms, stir, cover pan and cook another 3 minutes, stirring once half way through.

While meat and then onions/garlic cook, put half of squash in a blender. Add 1/2 of the can of tomato sauce and 1 tablespoon of water. Pulse blender, removing top and stirring every couple of pulses, until mixture is broken down but still chunky. Once onion mixture has finished, pour this squash mixture into the pan. Lower heat to simmer and deglaze the pan with the tomato mixture, scraping up the browned bits.

Return browned meat to the pan and stir. Put the rest of the squash into the blender, add rest of tomato sauce, pulse the same way the first batch was done. Add this batch to the pan of meat mixture and stir.

Add diced tomatoes, herbs, salt and pepper to pan, stir.

Return to boil, cover, turn down heat and simmer at least 2 minutes, stirring about every 10 minutes to avoid scorching. (The longer the sauce simmers, the better it will taste.)

While sauce is simmering, bring large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to directions on package, until al dente. Drain pasta well.

Put generous serving of pasta on plate. Top with pasta sauce and garnish with fresh basil and/or good Parmesan cheese shards.

note - this sauce tastes even better if allowed to cool and left in the refrigerator overnight to blend the flavors. Reheat over low heat until simmering.

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