Tonight I was poking through the depths of my fridge and pantry (and by pantry I mean the cabinet above the sink) to decide what to do with the rest of the beef-less ground beef I bought for yesterday’s Sloppy Trader Joe recipe. To my surprise I came across a jar of marinara sauce I had bought for my Christmas party. As you may have guessed, I never do jarred tomato sauce since it is so easy to make your own, however it can be just the thing when you’re in a jam and need something quick. Seeing the jar of red made me think of meat sauce, something I haven’t had in ages… hmmm. As much as the idea pleased me, if I’m going to use a jarred tomato sauce, I sure as hell better find something to dress it up with lest I incur the disdain of my family. I went to the fridge and discovered two zucchini and half an onion, all left over from my Simple Springtime Orzo – perfect. I diced the veggies and sauteed them in olive oil, salt, pepper, about a teaspoon of Italian seasoning, and a pinch of crushed red pepper flake. Once nearly cooked I added the beef-less ground beef and let it brown up a bit. At the very end I added in one minced clove of garlic, then poured over about 3/4 of the jar of marinara sauce, let it heat through, and prest0 – “meat” sauce.
I was feeling exceptionally good this evening so I ate the sauce just as is with a little grated cheese. The zucchini are substantial enough that they make it a hearty meal without the calories and empty carbs of pasta or rice. Cheap, hearty, satisfying, AND healthy – that is what the starving artist likes. Having said that you could most certainly serve this over elbow macaroni, penne, or even white rice (I promise I won’t tell). My roommate sampled the sauce and was utterly impressed by the flavor and texture of the meatless ground beef – she was shocked to hear it wasn’t real. For even more ideas you should check out my Weeknight Tomato Sauce.
Now I realize some of you are probably reading this saying, “really? you opened a jar of tomato sauce and dumped it over sauteed vegetables. Astonishing”. But that’s exactly the point: I didn’t just crack open the jar and heat up the sauce. I dug around and found ingredients laying around my kitchen that transformed an ordinary jar sauce into a satisfying, versatile meal. When times are tight and paychecks are scarce, this is exactly the kind of thinking and resourcefulness that can get you through crunch times without sacrificing flavor, style, or self respect. You starving artists know what I’m talking about ;-)