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I have a confession to make: I hate tomatoes! *gasp!!!!!*

I dislike the texture, the bitterness, the acidity. I have come to tolerate them in small quantities but would never eat a straight tomato, make a very saucy pizza or willingly eat tomato soup.

It’s no surprise, then, that I dislike pasta sauce. I remember as a kid, so many of my friends would get excited about spaghetti and meatballs and I would dread having to eat it. I noticed my son takes after me and doesn’t like pasta (to the point where he would cry when I would try to feed it to him). Over the years, I have made many recipes in an attempt to find a sauce I like, and after all this time I’ve found that that meant creating one myself.

Here are my requirements for a good pasta sauce:

  • Not bitter or acidic
  • No one over-powering flavour (like oregano or rosemary)
  • Must have veggies in the sauce
  • Have a bit of spice
  • Must be a hit with my entire family

I borrowed from three sources: Bolognese sauces from Jamie Oliver and Giada de Laurentiis, and Bucatini Fra Diavolo, a pasta in the Franny’s cookbook. I decided to make a big batch to eat that day for dinner and serve to guests the next day.

What you’ll need

3 or 4 tbsp Olive Oil
1 large yellow onion
5 or 6 cloves of garlic
2 large carrots, washed and peeled
2 celery stalks, washed
1 lb lean ground beef or turkey
1 28oz can of diced tomatoes
1-2 tsp of white sugar*
1 jar passata
1/2 tsp oregano (you can add more if you like oregano but I find any more than this ruins the taste for me)
1/4 cup finely chopped mint
1/4 cup finely chopped basil
1/4 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley
1/2 tsp or more red pepper flakes
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
Penne Rigate or pasta of your choice
Freshly grated parmesan, to taste
Pecorino Romano, to taste

Instructions

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan. Dice the onion and mince the garlic, and sautée once the olive oil gets hot. Cook onions for about 8 minutes.

Put carrots and celery in a food processor and pulse for a few seconds, until veggies are shredded (but not too liquid-y). Add veggies to saucepan and sautée for 4-5 minutes.

Turn heat up to high and add the ground beef. Stir occasionally until beef is completely cooked.

Add the diced tomatoes, passata, herbs and spices and sugar and turn heat down to low. Let it simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Cook penne or pasta of your choice according to package instructions. Drain, rinse in cool water and toss with some of the sauce. Add some fresh parmesan, pecorino romano and more red pepper flakes, to taste.

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It passed the test for our family of 3! Benny was actually silent for a part of the meal (and that never happens) because he was stuffing his face with pasta. Rony and I thoroughly enjoyed it, too!!

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*The sugar takes away the acidity of the tomatoes. I’m told red wine does the same thing, but I haven’t liked the result as much when I’ve tried it. I think I just like my wine in a glass 😉