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Ratatouille Pasta Sauce with Meat and How to Use It
Ratatouille Pasta Sauce with Meat
Casserole Variation Using the Sauce
Why I Invented This Pasta Sauce Recipe
I made a rare trip to the supermarket last week to pick up some vegetables and I saw some gorgeous zucchini and eggplants. I had been planning to make a pasta sauce, and earlier I had picked up some organic ground beef at Costco I wanted to use . Since I love ratatouille, I thought I might combine the zucchini and eggplant with onions and tomatoes and add meat, since my husband insists he needs meat in addition to vegetables. I normally use meat in combination with other ingredients to cut down the amount of it we eat while giving Hubby enough to make him feel he has enough protein.
The recipes below are the result. I say recipes, plural, because once you make the sauce, which can be used to top any kind of pasta that suits you, it can also be used to as a base for other recipes. My husband was out of town the day I made this, so I immediately turned this into the casserole you see to the right. I had some for lunch and saved the rest for when I could enjoy it again with Kosta. The next day, I used the sauce as a sandwich topping. We both enjoy the sandwiches so much I haven't yet used the sauce as a stand alone over pasta, but I will.
There are just two of us at home now, so I may just freeze some of these to use later. I still have half a casserole, from which we got about five moderate servings, and at least a quart of sauce left over. The original sauce recipe make about 2-3 quarts, depending on the size of the vegetables you use. The eggplant I used was on the large side of medium. The onion was medium, and one of the zucchini was a bit larger than the other, as you will see in the pictures. It really won't matter much if the vegetables you use add up to a bit more or less. If you think they may be much larger than what I used, just add another clove of garlic or two.
Although the cooking and preparation time looks long, most of it is chopping up the vegetables. I often brown meat all at once when I buy it in bulk and freeze in recipe size portions until I need them. Although stovetop cooking is faster, since the sauce needs to simmer 2-2 1/2 hours, I just brought the ingredients to a boil and poured the sauce into a crock pot on low for about four hours before using it. Then I left it there a couple of hours longer until I knew my husband would have to stay overnight and wouldn't get home. So if you're in a hurry, cook on the stove top and keep an eye on it. Or if you want to do something else and won't need to eat for another 4-6 hours, put it in the slow cooker on low and go do something else.
I have illustrated the instructions for making the pasta sauce to the right of the instructions and the illustrations are numbered to correspond with each instruction.
The Zucchini and Garlic I Used
- 2 medium zucchini, diced
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 medium eggplant, cubed
- 4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 15 oz can tomato sauce
- 32-41 oz canned diced tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons dried parsley, crushed with fingers
- 2 tablespoons dried oregano, crushed with fingers
- 1/2 teaspoon thyme, crushed with fingers
- 1 teaspoon salt, if desired
- 1 cup water
What to Do with the Ingredients
- Lay out a bowl of about two quarts in size to put the vegetables in as you prepare them. Then as you finish cutting, chopping and dicing, put the vegetables in the bowl. Don't forget the minced garlic.
- Slice the zucchini lengthwise into quarters. Then slice the quarters crosswise to make small chunks. See pictures.
- Cut the eggplant into bite-size chunks. See picture for how I did it. You'll need a large knife. First cut in half crosswise. Then slice each half into slices. Then crisscross with the knife across a stack of slices .
- Chop the onion as shown. Be sure to chop both halves. I do them one half at a time because it's easier for me. You could use a food processor to chop them if it's easier.
- Peel and mince the garlic cloves. I always use a garlic press to mince mine, as shown in the picture.
- Put ground beef in skillet. Use wooden spatula to break it into chunks for browning.
- Cook ground beef over medium high heat, turning often, until it is brown, as in picture.
- Remove ground beef from pan and drain fat in colander. Set aside.
- Pour olive oil into 12-inch, deep skillet or very large saucepan with at least a 10-inch bottom. Heat it on medium high heat so you can see heat rising but not hot enough to smoke.
- Dump vegetables you have set aside, into the hot oil in skillet.
- Stir fry vegetables in oil until onion pieces are translucent, as shown in picture.
- When vegetables are tender and onion is translucent, add reserved and drained ground beef to vegetables.
- Mix meat and vegetables well.
- Add remainder of ingredients to pan. When you have emptied the tomato sauce can, add the cup of water to it and swish around to loosen the last bit of sauce into the water before adding.
- Mix everything well, and heat to boiling over medium high heat, stirring often to keep from sticking and burning.
- When sauce has come to boil, turn heat down and simmer for 2 to 2 1/2 hours over very low heat. Stir often to keep it from sticking and burning. You can also put the boiling mixture into a slow cooker and cook on low from four to eight hours to keep hot until you want to serve it.
Things You Might Need
This is on my wish list, since it is well-made and easy to clean. As you can see, my old garlic press has really served its time. An upgrade may be in order soon.
How to Use this Pasta Sauce
The easiest way to use this is over any cooked pasta, such as spaghetti. You can cook the pasta when the sauce is almost done, drain the pasta, and pour hot Ratatouille Pasta Sauce with Meat right over the hot pasta. It's nice served with a tossed green salad and French or sourdough bread.
You can also make a casserole with it. To serve four, add three cups of the pasta sauce to 4 cups cooked (2 cups dry) pasta. In my casserole, I used whole wheat penne pasta. You might prefer regular pasta. I just happened to have the penne pasta and I wanted to use whole wheat for extra fiber. Spiral pasta would also work well. I mixed the cooked pasta and the prepared pasta sauce well in a two quart casserole dish and sprinkled it with a cup of cheddar cheese because that's what I had on hand. It might be even better with Monterey Jack. We also sprinkled additional canned grated parmesan cheese on the casserole when it was on our plates. If you are making the casserole when everything is still hot and baking immediately, bake at 350℉ or 30 minutes. You can also prepare the casserole and refrigerate for another day. If you heat it when it's cold, bake it for 45 minutes. You can see my casserole in the introductory picture. It's even better on the second day after baking.
One very tasty variation that can be used for lunch or a snack is a Ratatouille Sandwich. This is best on sourdough bread. I used a rosemary sourdough which comes in a small sliced loaf. First I toast it. While it toasts I heat enough sauce in the microwave (unless I've already got the sauce hot) to top the number of slices I'm making. You'll have to eyeball it. If you guess wrong, it's easy to heat more. If you heat too much, you can put the rest back in the dish you took it out of. To make four small slices, I start with about two cups of sauce. When the toast is done, top it with the pasta sauce. Then top with the cheese of your choice. I used parmesan. Monterey Jack would also be delicious. If you use anything but canned parmesan, heat in oven or toaster oven to melt cheese, or just brown the top until the cheese melts. My toaster oven is broken, so I just sprinkled the hot sandwich with parmesan and ate it without further heating.
I like to serve this with a green salad (and chips if I'm feeling the need for something salty to crunch with it.) You can see my sandwich and salad below.