I mentioned on Plurk/Twitter that I was going to make what I call "spaghetti al seminario". This is pretty simply stuff and you can put it together with brutal speed.
The name comes from the fact that in my seminary in Rome we got this stuff all the time. We got horse all the time too, but that is another story.
Get the water, with salt or chicken/beef broth in it started right away. Begin browning some ground beef… or horse, as you please in a good sized pot. Your carrots and onions will add a lot of volume. Season a bit with course salt and ground pepper. I work with a pretty hot surface and like the darker flavor the browning gives. This is 96%lean beef. I have some elk in the freezer that would have been perfect. Use a higher fat content if you want.
Meanwhile, chop up carrots, onion and garlic. Don’t be fancy. Just whack away. This is rough and ready.
Add the veg with olive oil. Season again, stirring to cover with oil and pick up some brown.
At this point I added some beef stock and sweated it down a bit. You can use a little of the paste type of stock/flavor too.
When most of the liquid was gone I added my canned tomatoes.
In this case the tomatoes were San Marzano and they were a gift from a reader here from my Amazon Wish List. Many thanks to TG of MO who checked the wish list and sent the flat of San Marzano tomatoes!
Chop up the tomatoes right in the pan. Don’t worry about breaking them up finely. The cooking will take care of a lot of that. At the end I like to have some identifiable pieces with a rough and ready preparation like this.
My oregano, which I brought in before the first freeze, has gone the way of all flesh. I therefore used dried oregano from my summer plants. Also, dried oregano has a very different flavor. Work with caution. I added finely ground hot red pepper, animi caussa. Season it to your liking. Use a little lemon juice if you want to keep the salt down and still brighten it up.
I added a little more beef stock and then put the fire to low and let it reduce for a time the merciless way: I was hungry. If you use the paste form of stock you can work faster, though I like some time for everything to integrate.
When I am making an express sauce like this, the fast and cruel way, I will often let it rest a minute or so just to see if it is going to separate a little, get watery. In that case, I crank up the fire again for a bit. This can be a little harder to gauge when working with whole or fresh tomatoes.
Finish with grated Parmigiano and ground pepper and a drizzle of good peppery first press olive oil. Garnish ad libitum.
If you want, you could cook your pasta (I recommend spaghetti for this, rather than penne or rigatoni) to just the underdone side of al dente and then finish cooking it right in the sauce. That can produce some nice results and the starch from the pasta can take care of some of your texture if the sauce needs more reduction. I didn’t do that this time. That technique permits the sauce to permeate the pasta a bit. Think about it.
Your pasta is going to taste like what you cook it in, right?
Just a tip. Try it.
Ecco. "Spaghetti al (Fr. Z’s) seminario". Un primo piatto sia veloce sia sostanzioso.
The carrots impart a sweetness that contrasts well with the salt and dark tones of the beef. Furthermore, they greatly increase the volume of sauce! Excellent for many guests and it keeps the cost down.
Serve with a modest but sturdy Italian red such as Santa Cristina. This doesn’t need a fancy wine. I would avoid anything light and fruity such as the incoming Italian novello or Beaujolais. Stick to the drier and structured end of the spectrum. A Chianti would work. But you can always do as the Romans do and wash this fast plate down with a cold sharp white, in the style of the Castelli Romani, which was all we got in seminary. Try a cold bottle of Frascati.
Having crusty bread to scrape the bowl will help. This is called "fare la scarpetta" or mop the plate/bowl. Literally something like "doing the little shoe thing". The image has to do with the shape of the heal, like the piece of bread cut in a slice off an oblong loaf and then halved. "Fare la scarpetta" is not done in a fancy place or formal meal. I can assure you it is done in a Roman seminary.
If you want a variation when it is well reduced, add a little heavy cream or half and half as it is resting and blend it in. Yum.
Many "slow food" style Italian recipes will work with beef and at least some carrot as well as milk or cream. This is the fast method when you need lots of food in a pinch.
Reverend Fathers, you can whip this up in no time when hungry seminarians descend on your rectory.