an army wife's guide to life

food and homemaking goodness

My Quickest Pasta Sauce Recipe

This is not my grandmother’s sauce.
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And i put that in bold, because, in my family, that’s a huge no no. This is my sauce, the sauce I make when I’m pressed for time or just don’t feel like starting to cook in the morning but I want pasta. This is different. It’s not as tasty because it hasn’t simmered for hours, but it’s still good. And it’s more than good enough to share. This is one of those recipes where you can dress it up however you like, just remember to taste often and season well.

What you’re gonna need:

  • 1 lb (or less) of ground meat. I usually use ground beef, but Italian sausage out of the case is delicious, too.
  • 1 (28 oz) can, crushed tomatoes w/ basil. That was the only kind they have in my grocery store and I haven’t wished there was anything else.
  • 1 (12 oz) can, tomato sauce
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Italian Seasoning, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder
  • Salt&Pepper

Super simple, and the meat is totally optional. I’ve made it without before and it was delicious just like that, too. Basically all you’re gonna do is brown the meat with the garlic (or cook the garlic in a little olive oil if you’re omitting the meat), add your canned goods, then fill the crushed tomato can with water (slowly, so it doesn’t get weird and foamy) and add that to the pan as well. Season with Salt, Pepper, Italian Seasoning, Onion and Garlic Powder to taste and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. That’s it. Leave it longer if you have time, but 15 minutes should do the trick for getting it ready. Then just serve it over your favorite pasta. Simple and delicious.

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Split Pea and Andouille Soup

We have had so much snow here in Kansas the past few weeks, and that makes me just want to curl up with a cup of coffee and a pot of soup on the stove. And living here in Kansas means that I’m in the mood for soup way more than I ever was in the south.

Which led me to this experiment. My mother-in-law makes split pea soup every Christmas time with the leftover Christmas ham, and it’s really good. But I’m all about twists. And I like to make things a little spicier for me. Hence the Andouille added to the soup.

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Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. 1 medium onion, minced
  2. 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  3. 1 rib of celery, minced
  4. 1/2 cup shredded carrot (about 1/2 a large carrot)
  5. 2 boxes (32 oz.) beef stock
  6. 1 can fire roasted tomatoes
  7. 1 can tomato sauce
  8. 2 cups dried split peas
  9. 1 large link of Andouille sausage, sliced in half
  10. Garlic Powder
  11. Chili Powder
  12. Creole Seasoning
  13. Salt and Pepper
  • cook onion, garlic, celery, and carrot in a deep pot with an inch of oil, until the vegetables get soft. add the remaining ingredients, including the seasonings, to taste. i would totally recommend you start out with a little bit, and then add more as you go. it’ll get deeper as you let it cook down, plus, overusing the creole seasoning is always a bad idea. it’s too spicy and just tastes funny if you use too much.
  • let it simmer until it’s all cooked down together, and sear and cut the sausage before adding it back to the soup.
  • i served it with fresh bread and fried okra.
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Cheater’s Ravioli

I’ve been finding some awesome ravioli recipes, but I haven’t even started to master making fresh pasta…so I needed a different way to try my ravioli recipes.

And then it came to me: I could stuff it into manicotti. And that is what this recipe is. It’s portobello mushroom manicotti. Instead of using any recipe I found online, I just made it up on the spot.

Here’s most of what you’ll need:

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I added a few things along the way (there was no real plan, I was completely improvising.), and, you’re obviously going to need some kind of pasta sauce (I used the pot of sauce I have in the fridge), but I’ll let you know what you’ll need.

Preheat your oven to 350°.

So, you’re gonna want to start a pot of water to cook the manicotti (this recipe will make more than enough for the entire box, if that’s what you’ll need. For two people, half the box will do. Go ahead and wash the mushrooms and let them drain in the sink while you chop the onion and garlic (I used 4 cloves) very finely. In a somewhat large pan, go ahead and start cooking the onions and garlic in a little bit of oil over medium heat, until they’re soft and the onions are translucent.

While the onions are cooking, chop the mushrooms finely, adding them to the pan once the onions and garlic are soft. Add salt and pepper while the mushrooms are cooking, letting them go until they’re soft. Add the mushroom mix to a blender, including all the liquids in the pan, add a little heavy cream (or milk will work, too), and blend until at least somewhat smooth. It doesn’t have to be that smooth, there can be some texture to it. Fold the pureed mushroom and ricotta together until completely mixed.

When the water boils, cook the manicotti according to package directions, then drain. You’ll want to let them cool a little before handling them, and you’ll probably be working on other things while that happens anyway. Go ahead and put a layer of sauce on the bottom of your pan. Once they’re cool, unless you have a pastry bag, you can split them down the middle, so they can lay flat, and fill them with the mushroom-ricotta filling before rolling them back up. If you have a pastry bag, or know some other, brilliant way of filling manicotti, leave them whole and fill them. Also, if you know some other brilliant way of filling them, you should let me know.

If you do it my way, they’ll look like this when you’re done filling them:

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Cover them with another layer of sauce. If you want to, add a layer of mozzarella over the sauce, but I didn’t because I ran out of cheese (which is a total crime in our household). Bake for 30 minutes, uncovered if you don’t have cheese, but I’d cover it if you add cheese for the first 15 minutes at least.

And, enjoy!

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I know I sure did.

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Cheese Steak Calzones

Just a recipe today.

What you’ll need:

  1. 1 medium onion
  2. 1 lb beef (I used ground, but you can use some kind of steak as well)
  3. Butter…yes, butter
  4. 3 cloves garlic
  5. Worcestershire sauce
  6. Brown Mustard
  7. Tomato Paste
  8. Red Pepper (I used the canned roasted type)
  9. Mozzarella Cheese
  10. 1 Recipe of your favorite Pizza Crust or the store bought type
  11. 1 egg (optional)

Start by melting the butter in a small frying pan, and slicing the onion in half then into thing slices. Go ahead and start the onions on medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until they’re starting to turn brown and delicious.

In another, larger frying pan add olive oil and let it heat, while mincing the garlic. Add the garlic and let it cook until it starts to soften. Add the meat and brown it with the garlic. Once it’s browned, add Worcestershire sauce, mustard and tomato paste, to taste. (I used just enough Worcestershire to coat the bottom of the pan, and about a tablespoon each other the mustard and tomato paste.)

Once the onions are nicely caramelized, add them to the beef and let the mixture start to simmer, letting the liquid start to cook down and thicken. This is also when you want to add the red pepper. I used a can of roasted red peppers, and maybe about 2 or 3 large chinks, which you’ll wanna mice finely and add to the mixture.

While the meat mixture is cooking down, preheat the oven and prepare your dough (or make it, if you have a quick dough to make).

Put one layer of Mozzarella on the rolled out dough before using a slotted spoon to put the meat mixture on one side of the dough (you won’t use the whole pound, and if you do, you’re doing it wrong). Put another layer of cheese on top of the meat, just for kicks (and for cheese lovers).

Fold the dough closed and seal the edges closed, folding them over generally works best. If you want a nice, shiny crust, whisk one egg in a bowl and use a pastry brush to give a light coating on the outside of it, but you don’t have to do that. Just bake according to the directions that come with the crust.

Then enjoy. I served it with ketchup and mustard as the condiments, just like you would with the sandwich. It’s as easy as that.  This fed the two of us, but it can easily feed more. I used less than half of the meat mixture on this calzone, you could easily make so many more on this, or just have really yummy leftovers of the filling.

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Ravioli Soup

So this is going to be another pictureless post, because I’m an idiot who likes to forget how to take pictures. Also because my camera is out of batteries at the moment and I’ve been too lazy to put new ones in. Anyway, around here, it’s been rainy and cold and, well, perfect soup weather! This is the time of year I love the most. It’s just starting to get cold, and I’m starting to dream about all the soups I’ll get to eat through the fall and winter. It never really happens the way I plan it, but it’s always nice to dream about. And the first seriously rainy, cold day is usually the day I make my first soup.

That day just happened to be yesterday. And as it happened, I already had a soup in mind to create, so I jumped on it. Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. Spicy Italian Sausage (I used three links, which I pulled out of their casings, but you could use a pound that was never cased in the first place)
  2. A medium sized onion, roughly chopped
  3. About three cloves of garlic, peeled and minced (you can add more or less depending on your tastes, or leave it out if you don’t keep fresh garlic around [but seriously, who does that?])
  4. A (15 oz) can of diced tomatoes (not the fire roasted kind…and the ones I used were canned in sauce, so I didn’t drain them)
  5. A (8 oz) can of tomato sauce (to give an extra kick of tomatoey goodness)
  6. Two boxes of beef stock (I don’t know what size…sorry, but use the boxes, not the cans because they’re bigger. If you go with cans, you might need, like, four or so…maybe)
  7. Onion powder
  8. Garlic Powder
  9. Italian Seasoning
  10. A bag of Mini Raviolis (I used cheese, but you can use any variety…but seriously, the cheese was good)
  11. (Optional) I also added about a tablespoon of tomato paste, because I have a tube that needs to be used and I’ve been adding it to everything…it’s not strictly necessary, though

So once you’ve chopped up your onion and garlic, you’re going to put them in your pot with a little olive oil and get them going until they start to get soft. (If you’re me, you’ll add some salt and pepper at every stage, just to make sure all the flavors are coming out the way they best can, but that’s just me.) Once they’re starting to soften, you can add the Sausage and brown it, breaking it up as it cooks. (Again, I add some salt and pepper here.) Once you’ve got the sausage cooked through, you can add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste (if you have it) and the beef stock. I recommend adding them in that order, because if you add the stock  first, things tend to splash (call it experience). To that you’re going to add that onion powder, garlic powder and Italian seasoning. I didn’t measure, but it was probably a little less than a tablespoon of each, and you’ll want to definitely add salt and pepper at this point, to your taste.

Here’s the thing about adding salt and pepper to taste with a soup: I find that with any soup (or long-simmering sauce for that matter) you’ll want to let the whole thing come to a boil and then cool slightly before you get aggressive with the seasoning. This lets everyone get happy in the pot and figure out their balance. then you can add the salt and pepper a little at a time, stirring and (most important) tasting between each addition, until the flavors are balanced. This is the difference between an alright cook and a great one.

Once you have everything balanced, you’re going to want to let it simmer at least half an hour. Just remember that the longer you let it go, the richer and deeper the flavors are going to get. I started mine at 9:30 in the morning, and we ate at 6:30 that night. I just kept the stove on low all day and gave it a rest when it was looking a little low. I also ended up adding some water because of how low the soup was looking, since we had guest coming and I didn’t want to not have enough. Adding water, though, is completely up to you. Just like the salt and pepper, it’s all about taste.

When you’re ready to eat it, you simply cook the ravioli according to package instructions (not in the pot,but separately) until they start to float (that’s how my mom taught me to tell if they’re done.) Then simply strain them, ladle a few into the bottom of your bowl, and ladle the soup on top. Then top with Parmesan cheese, because cheese makes soup delicious.

This pot fed four people, and most of us got seconds, so it would probably feed up to eight people without seconds. Just trust me, though, they’ll probably want seconds, cuz this is an awesome soup.

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