Ever since I got really into cooking, I’ve always made it a point to figure out the fastest way possible to make a dish. In fact, in looking through my recipe index, I think it’s safe to say most of my recipes can be made in as little as 15 minutes and most in no longer than one hour. If we’re talking about weeknight cooking, especially for those who have very little time to get a decent, healthy dinner on the table, I call that a win. Sometimes, though, isn’t it nice to just take it slow?
I was chatting with a friend last week — one who admittedly lives on egg salad and deli meat — who told me that if there was anything in this world he would learn to cook, it would be his Italian mother’s red sauce. My response, “You can do it; how hard can that be?” Turns out it’s not as difficult as much as it is a process… an eight-hour process.
While I didn’t get his mother’s recipe, my paleo-diet-rejecting self was craving pasta on Sunday — delicious, al dente, thick, pappardelle-like pasta — and nothing would go better with it than what I’m going to call Sunday Sauce. I grabbed the best ingredients I could find at the store — organic 90% lean ground beef, a can of San Marzano tomatoes (the kind Giada di Laurentiis and Mario Batali say they like to cook with), fresh oregano, shaved parmesan cheese and this delicious egg yolk pasta that cost $4 for the pound, which I’m sure you know is a lot for pasta. I got home and got to work. If you can call it work.
I decided that, in addition to cooking with a little extra love, what would be different this time is me not turning off the stove at the 30 or 45-minute mark. Nope. Instead, I would let this sauce simmer for at least three hours, and those three hours ultimately turned into five.
If you watch cooking shows, you always hear the host advising you to let the flavors hang out a bit — to let them marry, if you will. The longer ingredients sit together, the more their flavors develop in each other, if that makes any sense. Why do you think leftovers almost always taste better than the day something is made? It’s all about letting those ingredients falling in love. And fall in love with this sauce I did.
I’m sure you know you can modify the recipe to make it “fit” you. You can swap the beef for ground turkey and use crushed tomatoes instead of sauce. But in all honestly, I wouldn’t recommend changing a single thing. And if five hours sounds like more time than you have, I suggest you plan ahead. Had I not been starving, I would’ve been tempted to let this sauce go for the eight hours that inspired the recipe to begin with.
Pasta with Sunday Sauce
Ready in: at least 3 hours
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 1/4 pounds organic ground beef, 90% lean
- 1 small white onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 3 stems fresh oregano, divided
- 1 28-oz can San Marzano tomato sauce
- 2 tablespoons balsamic glaze
- 1/2 pound your favorite pasta
- freshly shaved parmesan cheese to taste
1. Heat the olive oil in a large IMUSA caldero over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef, using a wooden spoon to break up the meat. Cook for about 10 minutes or until cooked through. The caldero is PERFECT for this kind of low and slow cooking!
2. Add the onion, garlic, bay leaves, red pepper flakes, two-thirds of the oregano (stems and all) and salt and pepper to taste. Cook until the onions are translucent, about five minutes.
3. Add the tomato sauce, 1/2 cup of water, balsamic glaze and a dash more salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat down to low. Cover and let simmer for at least three hours.
4. Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Drain and toss with the sauce. Serve, then garnish with fresh oregano and cheese.
I also made a spinach salad because it’s almost always impossible for me to feel as peace if I don’t eat something green with every meal. This salad, which I prepped way ahead, had spinach, reduced-fat feta cheese and golden raisins. At the bottom of the bowl, I whisked together a tablespoon of balsamic glaze, a tablespoon of olive oil, a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, and salt and pepper. I layered the spinach, cheese and raisins over it, and tossed everything together right before serving to prevent the spinach from wilting.
I spent the day “housekeeping,” i.e. cleaning out my closet to make room for the little shopping spree I allowed myself on Saturday. It was the perfect thing to do while the sauce cooked itself. Having gotten done with an extra 30 minutes before my dinner guest arrived, I whipped up a fresh crab salad inspired by Ina Garten, one of the Food Network hosts who taught me the most about cooking. Here is my recipe after I modified it according to my cooking style and what I had at home. In other words, after I “Fit Cooked” it. 😉 Her original is Pic’s Fresh Crab Salad with Lime Zest.
My Fresh Crab Salad with Lime Zest
Total Time: 5 minutes
Yield: 2 servings
- 1/2 pound fresh lump crabmeat
- 1 lime, zested
- 2 tablespoons plain, non-fat Greek yogurt
- 1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
- fine sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
In a bowl, combined the crabmeat, lime zest, yogurt, Dijon mustard, Old Bay seasoning, a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve with lettuce leaves, sliced cucumbers, fresh red pepper wedges or with whole grain crackers.
Now that’s what I call a delicious Sunday… buen provecho, amigos!