Ground beef, red bell peppers and onions combine in a hearty meat sauce recipe perfect for pasta.
When I was a little girl, dinnertime was sacred. At the given time, we’d all gather around the kitchen table. It would be set perfectly, the napkins, forks and knives in their given spots. Cups filled. Bread in the center, if it was a bread night. And then we’d eat and discuss our days. That was what families where I grew up did — or most did, at least.
I remember in elementary school learning that a classmate’s family didn’t eat together. Instead, the kids would choose frozen dinners when they were hungry and their mom would heat them. Until that moment, it had never occurred to me that family dinners weren’t a given.
The rule around our family table was that you had to eat what was put before you. So I did, always — even if it was just a few forkfuls of mushy peas or waxy lima beans. And while I developed likes and dislikes, I also learned how to eat politely — even when something isn’t exactly to my taste (stew served over egg noodles, I am looking at you!). That’s a lesson that carried me well through life from dinner with my college president to restaurant tastings to dinners with friends and families.
Fast forward 30 years, and I have my own kitchen table. Around it, many of the same rules I grew up with are enforced. We almost always eat together. The table is set properly each night. We say please and thank you, and pass things politely to each other. No elbows are allowed on the table. And you must try everything — even if you don’t really want to.
It’s with these rules that I am teaching my children as my family taught me. Someday, they will be as well equipped to eat politely in all manners of company. And hopefully making polite conversation will be as natural as holding a fork properly.
Of course, when I plan our meals, I love to include dishes my kids love. Like Paige’s Favorite Meat Sauce.
“Mama, you should put this recipe in the newspaper,” my daughter Paige, 7, said recently as she forked a piece of penne covered with chunky meat sauce. The sauce is her favorite — a recipe my son Will, 9, and I tossed together one fall night using whatever was available in our fridge. Since then she has asked me to make it again and again.
The thick sauce starts with a diced sweet vidalia onion that’s sauteed with a red bell pepper. Then a little garlic gets tossed in. Lean ground beef is browned and the fat drained, and then it’s all mixed together with two kinds of tomatoes, herbs and a little red wine. That simmers for awhile before being a final seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.
Usually when I make this, it’s dinner one night and then finds its way into lunch boxes and can even top chicken parm later in the week. It’s pretty versatile … and when you have kids that love it as much as mine do, that makes it all the more special.
So Paige, this one’s for you.
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 sweet vidalia onion, diced
- 1 sweet red bell pepper, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 lb lean ground beef
- 1 28-oz can tomato puree
- 1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes, drained
- 1 tbsp dried basil
- 1 tsp dried rosemary
- ¼ cup red wine
- salt and pepper, to taste
- In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and red bell pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions begin to brown (about 10 minutes). Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute.
- Push all the veggies to one side of the pan and add the ground beef. Brown, breaking apart and stirring as it goes. Once all the meat is browned, drain the fat from the pan. Stir together the ground beef and veggies.
- Add the tomato puree, diced tomatoes, basil, rosemary and red wine. Stir well. Bring a boil and then reduce heat to medium low. Cover and simmer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Taste, and season as desired with salt and pepper. Enjoy over pasta.