Meat Sauce with Roasted Zucchini and Farfalle
I work. I commute. I cook. Five days a week. Ok, sometimes I cook just four. Some nights, the only thing I can muster up the energy to make is meat sauce over zucchini and farfalle. It’s my “one step away from ordering a pizza” meal.
So let me set the week night stage at Chez du Pont. The cooking often begins while I am trying to let my toddler run out his last bit of energy before he is shipped off to bed. Consequently, as I begin the cooking process, I am interrupted about every 30 seconds by a white haired little boy tugging on my pant leg and screaming his latest want.
Once he is sleeping with angels, we then move into the homework stage. As my daughter, poignantly announced to me the other night: “Mom, what is more important, cooking or math? Do you even have to think about it??” I wasn’t about to quibble with a 5 year old.
So….given its place in the family heirarchy, our weeknight meal doesn’t always get the attention it deserves, because, well, my daughter deserves the attention more. Also, as you might imagine, whatever I cook, I need to make it snappy. Because something that should take 20 minutes, can often take 30 to 40 when you are multi-tasking. And people are always hungry.
I’ve been known on nights where I am particularly tired to brown a pound of some lean ground meat and throw a high end tomato basil sauce over the top (like Rao’s) and let it simmer. I will then call this meat sauce — served with some veggie and/or pasta –dinner. And no one complains. In fact, everyone usually enjoys it and there are always leftovers for the kids.
I was headed in this direction one night this week. My meat was just about browned. My daughter was working on her word sorts with a little help from multi-tasking mommy. And then… my go to sauce was no where to be found!!! It was a small crisis. I had created my own top chef challenge, unintentionally.
But sometimes my creativity gets really flowing under pressure. I’m a litigator after all. Well, in a matter of a minute, I had a large can of crushed tomatoes open and poured over the meat. I was quickly and generously shaking in dried oregano and basil and garlic powder. Then a few lonely green olives that had been hanging around in the refrigerator got chopped and went into the pot. Hmm, still going to be bland. In went some salt and pepper. I looked at the Cholula (Step away from the hot sauce, Julie…) And then, I saw IT as I was rifling through my cabinet of canned and jarred goods that had enjoyed a lengthy shelf life. Cue the trumpets! Into the pot went about 3 tablespoons of Trader Joe’s Red Pepper and Artichoke Tapenade.
I crossed my fingers and let the concoction simmer as I went back to helping with the homework.
Now, a short word about zucchini. I love to serve meat sauce over roasted zucchini that has been tossed in a little oil, pepper and grated Parmesan and roasted in the oven. It takes 2 minutes to prep, about 20 minutes to cook and it reduces the amount of pasta you eat. In fact, sometimes we eat no pasta at all. That wasn’t the case this week. I served my “secret” meat sauce concoction with Barilla Plus multi-grain farfalle with omega-3 (good for the developing brain, particularly if eaten while playing a math game) AND roasted zucchini.
Success! My daughter enthustastically announced (unprompted, no less) a few things at the start of our meal and math game (It’s “Fall 4 Math” week at OxRidge School). 1. “Math is fun!” (phew!). 2. “Mom, you are the best mom in the whole galaxy!” (Hardly, but :)). 3. “This is the best pasta with meat sauce I’ve ever had!”
So on the next week night when you find yourself reaching for the phone to order that pizza, rethink it. Reach for some Trader Jo’s Tapenade and make this “secret” meat sauce with roasted zucchini and farfalle. It doesn’t need or require a lot of love, but it is yummy nonetheless.
Finally, a word to my loyal readers. Those who aren’t loyal can stop reading.
You will notice a new category on my home page called “Week Night.” I realize that this blog is called “Weekend Table.” But as one of my very good friends pointed out to me, people that like to entertain on the weekend may also appreciate very easy week night recipes that can be made in little time with little energy as well. And I got a fairly good response to my Spicy Black Beans with Zucchini and Flank Steak posting, which certainly falls in that category. So I figured I would give it a go. These “Week Night” recipes are not showstoppers. They are tasty dinners for the family or for good friends you don’t need to impress. They include tricks for using up leftovers or may contain a “secret” (perhaps time saving. . or rescue. . . or better yet umami) ingredient. Let me know if you’d like to see more of these.
- 1 lb ground lean meat (e.g., 93% lean ground beef or ground turkey)
- 1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
- 1 tbsp dried basil
- ½ tbsp dried
- 4-6 green olives chopped (optional)
- 3 tbsp Trade Joe's Roasted Red Peppers and Artichoke Tapenade
- ½ box Farfalle
- 2 zucchini, chopped
- 1 tbsp grated parmesan
- Ground pepper
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Shaved parmesan
- Brown the meat in a sauce pan, approximately 5 minutes.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, basil, garlic powder, oregano, tapenade and olives and salt and pepper to taste.
- Bring meat sauce to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cook pasta according to directions. Combine chopped zucchini, parmesan, pepper. Place on a baking sheet and cook on 425 for approximately 20 minutes.
- Spoon pasta and zucchini into a shallow bowl. Top with meat sauce and shaved parmesan.