Tag Archives: tomato sauce

Quick Pork Ragu (serves 6 with Pasta)

Okay, this is a crazy weekend with far too many things on my plate to wax on about how great this easy-peasy (lemon-squeezy!) pork dish tasted. As is pretty obvious I love to cook, but sometimes the pressure of time makes it an activity that is squeezed in between all the other things that are part of my life.

A great speedy ragu

A great speedy ragu

The same goes for the writing. I have only time enough to give the recipe before zooming off to do the million things that very inconveniently came crashing down on me all at one time! I don’t like when my weekend is taken up with things that are not so important to me but still need to be done.

On the bright side, if you only came to my blog for a recipe then it will be convenient as you to not have to scroll through a lots of extra stuff to get to it!

This is a great dish if you too find yourself short on time this weekend. You can also double up and feed a crowd!


You will need:

1 lb pork tenderloin, thinly sliced

3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

2 stripes bacon, roughly chopped or sliced

1 medium sweet or yellow onion, small dice

1 tsp finely chopped rosemary leaves

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper flakes (chili flakes)

1/2 cup white wine

28 oz can tomato puree

1 tbs tomato paste (regular or smoked)

1 tsp salt

several grinds of black pepper


1 – Put sauce pot or deep saute pan on medium heat and add oil. When it warms add the onions and cook for 2 minutes before adding the chopped bacon. Cook for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally before adding the rosemary. Cook for another minute.

saute onions, bacon & rosemary

Saute onions, bacon & rosemary

2 – Season the pork with the sea-salt and pepper and turn up heat. Add the pork and cook for 5 minutes until it takes on a light brown color. Add the wine and turn the heat up to high. Let it bubble for about 1 minute.

add pork

Add pork

3 – Add the tomato puree, paste, and chili flakes and bring to a boil. Turn heat down, cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

et voila!

et voila!

Serve with spaghetti, ridged penne or pasta shells. A salad on the side would also be a nice addition.

Rich Meaty Ragu In Baked Pasta (serves 12-14)

If you love rich pasta dishes, then this is the dinner for you. It seems to please the biggest to the smallest. I made this several times over the holidays (and again last night!) when crowds of people were dropping by continually, and it was a life-saver. It takes a bit of time (and a very large wooden spoon for wielding all of that meat!) but when it is done, you are off the hook for the whole evening, or for several days if you just cook it for the family for future meals.

This is addictive

This is addictive

I made this with a mixture of beef and lamb for extra flavor, and added special things like sun-dried tomato paste and smoky bacon to give the sauce a complex richness. Once you get the hang of making meat sauces they can be used in so many other things, Bolognese, Shepard’s pie, not to mention how they can be made ahead, frozen in 4 serving sizes to be drawn upon when you are in a hurry or you decide to ask the friend that came over for a quick chat after lunch to stay for dinner! All very handy indeed!

serve with lots of greens for balance (and guilt-free gorging!)

serve with lots of greens for balance (and guilt-free gorging!)

When I write about stuff like this I have to admit to feeling like some overly fastidious housewife and I have to scream out loud (mostly for myself) that it isn’t true!!! I don’t spend my days planning meals, and making mountains of food which get stored in Tupperware containers, neatly labelled with the contents. I only make giant amounts of food when I end up with a pile of something unexpected that needs using up (like 3lbs of ground meat last night).

Parsley, lemons, garlic & wine (great combination flavor)

Parsley, lemons, garlic & wine (great combination flavor)

I do however think about food quite a bit. Food just reminds me of everything that is good about the world: the pleasure of eating in the company of like-minded people, the smells bursting from my kitchen when I zest a lemon or chop fresh basil, the people I get to chat with who are drawn in by the activity and energy in my kitchen, cooking with friends, family and strangers, traveling anywhere and everywhere for that perfect meal, knowing that feeding someone who is down and out that day can change them for the better. It is a simple thing and not the most complicated thing to ponder on as I go through my day, but it is something that I can do everyday and it makes me feel good. You don’t need much to make something pleasing to the heart and soul, it can be as simple as a potato with a little blob of butter and salt – bliss.

Toss potatoes into parsley butter

Potatoes tossed in parsley butter


You will need:

For meat sauce:

1/4 cup olive oil (extra-virgin is fine too)

3 lbs ground meat (beef, lamb or combination of the two – I buy 15% fat content when using beef)

4 or 5 stripes bacon (I used a flavorful smoky variety)

2 large onions, small dice

3 celery ribs, including leaves, diced

3 carrots, diced (I did this in my food processor – much faster!)

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 28oz can (793 grams) tomato puree

1 1/2 cups water

3 tbs tomato paste (or sun-dried tomato paste)

1 tsp sea-salt

1 tsp cayenne pepper flakes (optional)

freshly ground black pepper

2 cups white or red wine

For Béchamel sauce:

1 stick butter (4 oz/ 113 grams)

1/3 cup + 1 tbs all-purpose flour

3 1/2 cups milk

1 good quality veggie or chicken bouillon cube (I use Rapunzel Brand)

1/2 tsp sea-salt (I use Maldon sea-salt flakes) – NO salt if your bouillon cube is salty!

freshly ground pepper

1 1/2 cups parmesan cheese, grated (optional)

3 lb pasta (I recommend any tubular pasta: rigatoni, large penne, ziti)


1 – Prep all veggies for meat sauce and set aside. Put large deep saute pan or large casserole on medium heat and add 2 tbs of the oil. Add the chopped bacon and fry until getting crispy. Pour off some of the bacon fat.

fry bacon

Fry bacon

2 – Next, add the rest of the oil, then the onions, garlic, carrots, celery and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally for about 12 minutes.

add veggies

Add veggies

3 – Add the ground meat and cook until it has all browned. sir and break up meat as much as possible during the cooking. This will take about 12 minutes.

add ground meat

Add ground meat

Cook until browned

Cook until browned

4 – Turn heat up to high and add the wine, water, tomato puree, and tomato paste and stir until everything is well incorporated and starting to bubble.

add liquids

Add liquids

5 – Add the salt, several generous grinds of black pepper and cayenne pepper flakes (if using)

add seasonings

Add seasonings

6 – When the mixture is bubbling, cover with the lid partially off, turn down and cook, stirring occasionally for up to 2 1/2 hours. The sauce will have thickened and become deeply rich.

cook for 2 to 21/2 hours

Cook for 2 to 21/2 hours

7 – While sauce is cooking put big saucepan or saute pan on medium/low heat and add the butter. When it melts, swirl in the stock cube until it dissolves completely. Add the salt and several grinds of freshly ground pepper.

melt butter, add bouillon cube

Melt butter, add bouillon cube

8 – Add the flour and stir with a whisk until it becomes a smooth paste. Add the milk 1 cup at a time, and cook on medium, stirring continually until it the sauce becomes thick. Taste and adjust seasoning. Cover and set side.

Add flour, then milk

Add flour, then milk

Preheat oven to 400*

Boil the pasta noodles right before you want to cook this dish (the rest can be made ahead) Do not rinse with cold water.

9 – Stir Béchamel sauce into meat sauce

add bechamel to cooked meat sauce

Add bechamel to cooked meat sauce

10 – Mix the hot pasta with the ragu. Butter a very large casserole (or several dishes) and pour pasta mixture into baking dish. Top with cheese (if using)

mix with any pasta you like

Mix with any pasta you like

11 – Place in oven until getting crispy on top (start checking after 30 minutes)

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes

Serve with lots of greens, more cheese, pepper flakes and black pepper!

Pork Tenderloin in Red Sauce with Spinach & Rice

Earlier this week I needed red sauce for a particular dish, and, as I tend do when I have to make something basic like this sauce; I made a double batch! It is the same amount of work to make twice as much, so, I always do!

Pork Tenderloin in Red Sauce with Spinach & Rice

It came in super handy for this dish, and I ended up having  practically nothing to do to throw it together.

Between the red sauce, and the nifty trick of slicing the pork tenderloin, this can easily be in the Top Ten easiest dinners to prepare.

Moral of the story; make more red sauce than you need, it will serve you well in the future.


You will need: 2 pork tenderloin (about 1 lb each), sliced  3/4″ pieces, 3 or 4 tbs extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tbs unsalted butter, 1 lrg Vidalia onion, halved, then sliced, 1 sprig rosemary, cut into 3 pieces, 3 sprigs thyme, 3 cups basic red sauce, (there are several red sauces on my blog; type red sauce, or, tomato sauce in the search box to the right to choose one, or, in a pinch, use a good quality jarred variety),  1 cup white wine, 1/2 cup chicken broth, 4 cups fresh spinach leaves.

Preheat oven 375*

1 – Season sliced pork with a little sea-salt (I used Maldon, sea-salt flakes).

season pork with sea-salt

2 – Put large saute pan on high heat ( a little below the highest setting), and add 2 tbs of the oil. Sear pork in batches until browned on both sides. Transfer to plate and add oil as you go.

sear pork

3 – Turn heat down to low and add the butter. When it melts, add the onions and saute for about 5 minutes.

melt butter

4 – Add the herbs, and continue to cook for another 10 minutes.

saute onions with herbs

5 – Add the wine and broth, and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 or 2 minutes.

add liquid

6 – Add the red sauce and bring back to a boil.

add red sauce

7 – Add the pork and place in the oven for 30 minutes.

Pork Tenderloin in Red Sauce with Spinach & Rice

Serve with bed of spinach in bottom of bowl and top with pork, veggies and sauce. I also served this dinner with some basmati rice to anyone who had the desire for it.

Shiitake, Rosemary & Onion Meatballs with Spaghetti and Tomato Sauce (serves 6)

Deliciously flavored meatballs

It was a night for good old spaghetti & Meatballs. We had a crazy snowstorm and after a day of no electricity I wanted to satiate my family with gobs of comfort food.

Meet Bridget!

It was very satisfying


For the meatballs; You will need: 3 tbs olive oil, 1 lb ground lamb, 1 lb lean ground beef, 1 egg, 1 med/lrg sweet onion, diced, 1/4 lb shiitake mushrooms, cleaned & diced, 2 tsp freshly chopped rosemary leaves, 2 slices white bread, 1/2 cup milk (any %),  1 tsp sea-salt, 1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper, 1 cup of flour (for coating meatballs)

For the Tomato Sauce: there are several choices for you here. You can buy a good quality sauce from your supermarket if you are stuck for time, or just don’t want to bother. To make one of my sauces, simply type “tomato sauce” into my search box to the right of my blog.

Preheat oven 425*

saute onions & shiitake mushrooms

1 – Put big saute pan on medium heat and add the oil. Add the onions and shiitake mushrooms and saute for 10 minutes. Add the rosemary and continue to saute for another 5 minutes. Turn off heat.

make meatball mixture

2 – In the meantime, crack the egg into a big bowl and beat with a fork. Add the ground meat, 1 tsp salt and a few grinds of black pepper. When onions & shiitake mixture has cooked, add to bowl along with the bread mixture, and mix everything together with your hands.

                                                     Place meatballs in oven.

3 – Form meatballs and roll in flour and put on plate, (a little smaller than a golf ball in size). When they are all made, place a baking sheet in the oven with 1 tbs of olive oil for 3 minutes. Remove and place pork on sheet in a single uniform layer. Cook for 12 minutes, turn and cook for another 12 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside until ready to add to your sauce.

make tomato sauce

While meatballs are in the oven, make the tomato sauce, or, warm the jarred sauce in a big saute pan. 

About 12 minutes before the meatballs are ready, put water on for the pasta and cook according to instructions. save about a 1/2 cup of pasta water for your sauce in case it is too thick. Add spaghetti to sauce when it is cooked (and the pasta water if needs be)

All ready to eat!

Serve meatballs and pasta in shallow warmed bowls. add a little Parmigiano Reggiano cheese if you like.

Pasta Puttanesca with Fresh Cayenne Peppers (serves 4)

What else could I do with my crop of cayenne peppers besides drying them? I decided to see how they would fair in a spicy puttanesca sauce.

The three stages of color my peppers go through, green , orange-y & bright red

There were four main ingredients in this sauce and I am proud to announce that they came from either my garden (parsley & peppers), Rambler Farm (garlic) or Good Work Farm (tomatoes).

How could I possibly go wrong. I had never made a puttanesca sauce without using San Marzano canned tomatoes, and cayenne pepper flakes, so this was going to be very interesting.

Sublimely simple flavors

I was not particularly sure my kids would go for such a minimal dish either, but I was determined not to think about it, and let my curiosity take over.

I was so impressed with the final result! It was not as hot, but the heat felt fresher, if you can imagine that? The tomatoes were sharp and everything was balanced magically by the earthy-tasting parsley.

My kids couldn’t get enough of this fresh take on a spicy tomato sauce. I will long for this dinner when it is wintertime and there isn’t a tomato or pepper in sight. This meal was all about right-from-the-ground-taste and would be hard to replicate out of season.

What am I saying? Very simple; make this before the bounty disappears!


You will need: 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped, 4 gorgeous red tomatoes, diced, 2 fresh cayenne peppers, thinly sliced, OR, 1 tsp cayenne pepper flakes, 4 tbs freshly chopped flat-leafed parsley, 1 tsp coarse sea-salt (I used Maldon salt – type Maldon in my search box for more info.), 3/4 lb spaghetti pasta (I use Barilla brand),

1 – Put saucepan or pot on low heat and add oil. Add chopped garlic and cook for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

saute garlic in oil

2 – Add the diced tomatoes, salt, and cayenne pepper slices. Bring to a steady simmer and cook like this for about 15 to 20 minutes.

add fresh tomatoes and cayenne peppers

3 – While tomatoes are cooking put on pot of water for pasta. When it comes to a boil, cook pasta according to instructions. Try to have it ready when sauce is cooked. *Reserve about a 1/2 cup of pasta water in case you need it for the sauce.

simmer for 20 minutes

4 – Add the chopped parsley and give everything a stir. The moment the pasta is cooked, drain and add immediately to the sauce. add some pasta water if you want a looser sauce. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Turn off heat.

add parsley

Serve on warmed plates with more parsley and Parmigiano Reggiano. Super good food!

Serve with more fresh parsley and grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Squid with Rich Tomato Sauce and Spaghetti (serves 4)

A quick dinner was in order last night. I was still recovering from my trip to NYC (type New You City in search box to the right to see my post) and was not over-enthused about spending tons of time in the kitchen. Actually that is not entirely accurate. When I am tired, the thought of having lots of laborious tasks to do in order to get dinner on the table makes me feel even more exhausted and this can lead to crankiness. What I try to do is come up with something that I can make with my eyes closed, involving no more than 3 steps, and, enjoy my “hang-out” time in the kitchen. I still want to be standing there beside the stove or on a stool, chatting to my man Dave or watching a movie with everyone piled together, but I want to do more of nothing, than be burdened with task after task.

Fresh Dinner!

Last night’s Do-Nothing dinner was possible because I had some fabulous squid in my fridge. There is nothing like squid cooked in a simple rich red sauce, so, that is what we had. The basil from my garden and some chili flakes gave me the freshness I was looking for, and my evening in the kitchen was stress-free and happy.  Cook this if you want to spend more time lounging than laboring!


You will need: 1 1/4 lbs squid (tentacles and bodies), 1 sweet onion, 1 28oz can plum tomatoes including juices, chopped, 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, 1/4 tsp chili flakes, 1/2 cup water, 1 tsp coarse sea salt, several grinds black pepper.

saute onions..

1 – Put big saute pan on low/medium heat and add the oil. When it is warm, add the onions and saute for about 8 minutes. Add the pepper flakes and cook for another minute.

add tomatoes, basil, seasonings and water..

2 – Add the tomatoes, juices, water, salt, pepper and fresh basil and bring everything to a simmer. Cover and cook at a gentle simmer for 30 minutes. Take lid off and taste to see if it needs more salt or pepper (or pepper flakes).

When sauce has 15 minutes left to cook put water on for spaghetti and when it boils, cook pasta according to instructions. Before draining, scoop out a cup of pasta water and set aside.

Add squid..

3 – Add squid to sauce and bring everything back to a gentle simmer. cover and cook for 3 minutes. Remove lid and add a 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water and stir. Immediately add the spaghetti and toss gently with 2 wooden spoons. Add the rest of the pasta water if you like a looser sauce.

I had fiddleheads so I sautéed and added them at the end..

Serve in shallow bowls with some Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and any greens you like. (See suggestions under pictures)

Also cooked some seasoned sausage on the side for some of the meat-lovers in the house. As you can see, anything goes!