Italian sausage pasta sauce

One of the main reasons I started this blog was to give myself a reason to cook more. Unfortunately, most of the time I get home from work too tired to do anything constructive, so I end up ordering out or just not eating. Recently I decided that I would solve this problem by making large amounts of different meals and freezing them in small servings.

So far, it’s been going pretty great. I’ll be keeping track of these with the Freezer Meal category, and adding some thoughts about freezing to the end of each post.

Pasta is always an easy meal, but store-bought sauce never really does it for me. I love a sauce with some meaty goodness to it, so the highly-rated Jo Mama’s World Famous Spaghetti instantly caught my attention. The Italian sausage came from an excellent local butcher, Olympic Meats. They make the sausage at the store and use casings that are easy to split and pull the meat out of, which spreads the meat out through the entire sauce rather than leaving it in larger chunks.

Italian sausage pasta sauce
2 lbs Italian sausage, casings removed
1 small onion, chopped
3 – 4 garlic cloves (3 tbsp), minced
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
2 (15 ounce) cans tomato sauce
2 cups water
3 teaspoons basil
2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon fresh coarse ground black pepper
1/4 cup red wine (I used a Cabernet Sauvignon)

In a very large pot, brown the Italian sausage. Add the onions and cook until they soften up a bit. Throw in all of the various tomato types (diced, paste, sauce) and the water and mix everything together. Add the basil, parsley, brown sugar, salt, red pepper, and black pepper, and mix well again.

Bring that whole mess to a boil and pour in the wine. Reduce the heat to low, stirring.

Stir the sauce every five or ten minutes and cook until it almost-but-not-quite reaches the desired thickness (it seemed to thicken up a bit more as it cooled). Some people like a saucy sauce! I like mine a little thicker and didn’t have a whole lot of time, so I cooked it for about an hour with no lid on. I bet cooking it with a lid for a couple of hours would make it taste even better.

If you want to serve it right away, cook up pasta and pour some sauce on it. I used a heaping 1/2 cup, but some might prefer a little more. If you aren’t hungry at the moment or have some leftovers (I’m guessing the latter will be true)  you can freeze it, as I talk about after the results section.

The result

This sauce was great. I was worried that there weren’t enough spices, but everything turned out to be quite flavorful. I am not the biggest fan of sausage chunks, so spreading it throughout the sauce by removing the casing turned out to be a terrific choice. Usually I’m not a big fan of the tomato parts of a pasta sauce, but for some reason I really enjoyed it here.

We stopped by 3 Floyds on a recent trip to Michigan and picked up a case of Alpha King. I ate the pasta with one of those to wash it down. It was most excellent.

The freeze

The whole point of this exercise was to produce a meal that I could freeze and easily reheat. As I mentioned, my serving size was about 1/2 cup, so I froze the pasta in Ziploc bags with two or four servings (1 or 2 cups). This way I can make dinner for myself and Abby, or I can make enough so we both can pack a lunch the next day.

Reheating was a snap. We made the pasta and left it in the strainer, then used the same pot we made the pasta in to reheat the sauce. Once it had heated up a bit we threw the pasta back in and mixed it all together. The whole thing took about 15 minutes, and most of that was waiting for the water to boil.

This was an amazing dish to freeze and reheat. If anything, it tasted even better after thawing it out again. I will be making this again once my frozen stock is out. Judging by how delicious it is, I would guess that’ll be sooner rather than later.