The holiday season is quickly approaching (or is already in full swing depending on your traditions). This time of year can be stressful with all the holiday parties, cocktail hours and potlucks, last-minute shopping, office gift swaps and family get-togethers. So much to do, so little time.
In the days leading up to Christmas, it’s a blessing to have one or two relaxing nights in with nothing to do but enjoy a warm bowl of pasta while watching holiday movies (Home Alone!). This no-frills recipe is easy to make and really hits the spot. I used extra-lean ground beef, but you could also try ground chicken or turkey. This dish is also appropriate for a casual dinner party – just whip up a quick side salad, put out some bread or dinner rolls and you’re good to go. My one suggestion: Don’t be shy with the chili flakes.
Recipe: Pasta with spicy meat sauce
Makes 4 servings.
- 1 lb pasta (such as conchiglie [small shells], penne, etc.)
- 1 lb extra lean ground beef
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
- 1 carrot, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1/2 can tomato paste (Note: If I don’t have tomato paste on hand, ketchup will work in a pinch)
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- 1 tbsp chili flakes (or more, to taste)
- 1 handful fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- Splash of balsamic vinegar (optional)
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for topping, to taste
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente.
While the pasta is working, heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery, garlic and chili flakes and cook until vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook for a few minutes before adding the beef; cook, breaking up the meat into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Next, add the tomatoes, bay leaves and balsamic (if using); stir to combine. Simmer, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes so that the flavours combine and the beef is no longer pink. Stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper.
When the pasta is al dente, drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Add the cooked pasta and pasta water straight to the saucepan and stir to coat the noodles in sauce. Remove the bay leaves and discard.
Serve immediately with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano on top and more parsley and chili flakes, if desired.