M+D's Favorite Pasta Sauce

A while back my dad sent me his amazing meat sauce recipe... but I lost it. I asked him for it again, but I don't think he ever remembered to resend it (probably for fear that I would lose it again and it would fall into undeserving hands).

Found this frying pan in the kitchen. It was perfect for tossing.
Instead, D and I searched the archives of Tastespotting for a recipe and found this one. Of course, we didn't actually follow the recipe (for a lot of reasons) but it ended up being delicious.

Over the past year, it's transformed a couple of times and improved a lot. It takes a decent amount of time to get everything in the pot, but most of it is inactive time. It's a great project if you're working on something else in the kitchen--writing blog posts, watching a movie or even making/decorating cookies.

The instructions are long, but they're very step by step. (You don't even have to read all the way through them before starting--they walk you through when to chop and when to add.)

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M+D's Meat Sauce
makes enough for 3lbs of pasta

Cutting board
Chef's knife
Wooden spatula
Medium frying pan
Large pot (plus one for cooking pasta)
Grater (for nutmeg)
Butter knife (or you can use the chef's knife)
Two burners

Worth every minute. Yum!
2T olive oil
3T butter, divided
0.5 large onion
2 large carrots or 2 handfuls of baby carrots
2-3 stalks of celery (you want about the same amount as the carrot)
4 cloves garlic
1.5lbs ground beef (as fatty or unfatty as you desire)
1c milk
1 can sweet corn kernels
1 can (15oz.) beef broth (or you can use half broth and half wine--we weren't 21 when we first started making this recipe)
1 32oz. can and 1 15oz can of whole peeled tomatoes (if you have tomato haters, use crushed or diced, or crush them with your hands)
5-10 brown mushrooms (optional, although D's pretty upset that they ever became an option..)
1t red pepper flakes
2 bay leaves
1-2t Italian seasoning, basil or thyme (whatever you have)
0.5 nutmeg
salt, pepper

1. Heat olive oil and 1T of butter over medium heat in the frying pan. Meanwhile, chop your onion into smallish pieces. When the oil and butter are fairly hot, put the onion in the pan and give it one good stir.
2. Leave the onions alone (unless they start to brown at all, in which case turn the heat down and give them one more stir). While they sweat, chop the carrots and the celery. When you've chopped these, add them to the onion and give the whole mixture one more stir.
3. Peel and mince the garlic. When you've finished, start heating the big pot to medium high. Once it's hot, transfer half of the mirepoix mixture to the big pot. Turn the heat up on the frying pan. You now want to brown the mixture a little bit, so the heat needs to go up. Stir once every minute, maximum.
4. Once there's some browning, transfer all of the vegetables to the big pot and turn the heat back down to medium. Now it's time to start on the beef.
5. Cook the beef and garlic in batches, putting about a quarter of each into the frying pan at any time. Cook the meat at medium-high heat until it starts to turn dark golden brown. The smell will change from hamburger smell to a roasted meat smell. Yum. Once it's cooked, pour it into the vegetable mixture and start the next batch.
6. Once the first batch of meat has gone into the big pot, it's time to start adding liquid. Add the milk and grate the nutmeg into the pot. Stir once and then let the pot come up to a simmer. Continue to add batches of meat as they finish. (Don't wash the frying pan when you're done!)
7. Once all of the meat is in the large pot, add the can of corn, including the liquid. Give the pot one good stir and let it simmer for 5 minutes.
8. Add the broth (and wine), one more stir and let the pot simmer for 5 more minutes.
9. Meanwhile, wash and slice the mushrooms.
10. Add the tomatoes to the big pot, either whole or crushed with your hands. Also add the red pepper flakes, bay leaves, and Italian seasoning. Give the pot one big stir and let it simmer.
11. Meanwhile, cook the mushrooms in two batches. First, melt 1T of butter in the frying pan over medium heat (getting all the remaining yummy bits of meat off the bottom). When the butter is bubbly, place half of the mushrooms in the pan and let them sit for about 3 minutes without stirring. Give them one good stir (they should be golden brown on one side and much smaller) and let them sit for another minute or two. Add them to the big pot and repeat with the other half of the mushrooms.
12. Let the sauce bubble away happily for as long as possible, at least an hour, preferably as many as 4.
13. When you're ready to eat, add salt and pepper to taste.
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- All of the ingredient amounts are incredibly variable. We've used 2.5 pounds of beef, and half the amount of tomatoes. We've also used less than a pound of beef, two cans of corn and twice the tomato. It really depends on what you have on hand and what kind of sauce you want to end up with.
- This sauce refrigerates for about a week, freezes really well for up to a year.

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