This is a quick version of a red meat sauce, ragù alla Bolognese, that is easy to make from scratch. It can be used with different types of pasta, lasagna, eggplant or chicken parmesan. There are variations to try and it can be made ahead of time and frozen for later, especially if you have a lot of fresh tomatoes to use.
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4 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 medium onion diced, 2-3 cloves of garlic, 1lb lean ground beef, 2-3 sweet Italian sausages, 28oz chopped canned tomatoes, 15oz tomato sauce, 12oz tomato paste, 1 medium red bell pepper, 1 large carrot shredded (1/2 cup), salt & pepper to taste, 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning, 2 tablespoons of dry parsley & fresh or dry herbs to taste (oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary, flat leaf parsley, &/or marjoram), & chopped fresh or roasted tomatoes to be used in addition, or in place of, the chopped canned tomatoes. (Any type of fresh tomatoes: plum, heirloom, cherry, beefsteak or garden grown varieties.) 2 tablespoons of Italian seasoned bread crumbs, 2 tablespoons of flour or corn masa & 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan/Romano cheese.
Roast/broil the red bell pepper under the broiler or directly on a gas stove range until the outer skin is burned black. Wrap in tin foil or enclose in a plastic bag or container to allow the heat to soften the pepper & set aside until it has cooled.
When the pepper has cooled (& collapsed) remove the blackened outer skin, stem & seeds. Dice into small cubes or chop finely, depending on preferred texture for the sauce.
Shred 1 large carrot & set aside.
In a large pot, add olive oil, crushed garlic & onions. Sauté on medium heat until the onions & garlic are soft, but not brown. Add the ground beef & Italian sausage meat (remove the casings) & sauté until the meat is fully cooked. Remove excess oil if it is not lean meat. Add the chopped tomatoes & shredded carrots & cook until both are soft.
Add the chopped bell pepper, canned tomatoes, tomato sauce & tomato paste. Add all seasonings, 2 tablespoons of Italian seasoned bread crumbs, 2 tablespoons of flour (sift in 1 tablespoon at a time to not create lumps) or corn masa (mixed with 5 tablespoons of water) & cover & allow to simmer on low heat for 20-30 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan/Romano cheese at the end.
This recipe makes about 7 cups/8 ample servings, but you can use half & freeze the remainder for later use. My favorite way to serve this is with rigatoni or thick spaghetti, but it works with any variety of pasta. Try the variations & use for lasagna or chicken or eggplant parmesan. Tip: When cooking the pasta, save & add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the cooked pasta water to adjust the thickness of the sauce & bind the sauce to the pasta. Serve topped with additional grated Parmesan, Romano or Pecorino cheese blend.
Try making meatballs instead of using the meat in the sauce. Form meatballs using the ground beef, Italian sausage meat (casings removed), 4 tablespoons of breadcrumbs, 1 beaten egg, & salt & pepper to taste. Lightly brown in a pan with a bit of oil, then drain on a paper towel. Make the rest of the sauce without the meat, then add the meatballs after the tomatoes & carrots are softened and the canned tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato paste has been added. Cook the meatballs in the sauce for 10-15 minutes longer than the regular recipe.
Try a Puttanesca-esque version: When cooking the garlic and onions, use more garlic and olive oil and add a small can of anchovies. Sauté until the anchovies have completely dissolved. When adding the tomato sauce and seasonings, also add 4 tablespoons of small bottled/canned capers, 2 tablespoons of caper juice, 2 tablespoons of olive tapenade (or 3 tablespoons of chopped green, Kalamata or pitted black olives), & 1/2 teaspoon dry, crushed red pepper seasoning.
Try adding 1/4 cup of chopped sun dried tomatoes and sliced and cooked/lightly browned Italian sausage for a sweeter version.
Try adding 1/2 cup sautéd/browned bits of pancetta or bacon.
Try adding 4 tablespoons of pesto sauce or garlic paste for a kick in flavor.
Try adding 1 cup of sautéd fresh mushrooms or sautéd fresh spinach.
Try adding 3/4 cup of Alfredo sauce, 3/4 cup of béchamel or 1/2 cup of heavy cream plus additional cheese for a rosé, creamy tomato sauce.