Crock pot cooking is not for the faint of heart. It takes some faith. It forces you to pile tons of ingredients into a cooking vessel and then wait hours to find out if it was worth it. There’s no seasoning as you go, no “This is starting to go poorly so, honey, maybe you should start thinking about what you want to order for dinner.”
Usually, even if a dish is lackluster it’s still edible. Last weekend, I hit a slow cooker fuck up (sorry, there’s no other way to describe it) so epic that I’m surprised I didn’t cry. Cooking Light lured me to try their Osso Bucco in a slow cooker. Our first weekend off in weeks was originally blocked for trailer testing. But that date was set long before the “quick interior fix” turned to “basically total overhaul.” (Side note: We have walls and floors!!) Instead, we figured we’d log some time working on the trailer, which made a nicer slow cooker meal sound appealing. I was totally blinded by the idea of a restaurant style weekend meal that was basically ready when we walked in from a long day of trailer work. So blinded that I actually convinced Hubster it would be worth the $12 per pound veal shank. I’m still not sure how we made it out of Schnucks with that still in hand.
Veal, onions, celery, wine and stock simmered away for hours and when it was time to sample: EPIC FAIL. Seriously, I’ve never experienced such a lackluster dish from the crock pot. The price of the meat just added insult to injury. So we ordered pizza and I pulled the meat so later I can make the most expensive pot pie in the history of the world.
The good news is that the failed recipes really put dishes like this in perspective. It turns out that the restaurant style dish I wanted, appeared on a random Tuesday in the form of this simmered spaghetti sauce.
Unlike the super sad osso buco, this sauce truly calls for humble ingredients. Chunks of ground beef are nestled in a sauce that’s not too sweet or too tart. A minimal amount of sausage adds the perfect lusciousness. As with anything, the spices can be modified to your taste. I kept it minimal to allow the meat to shine and finished each bowl with some grated Parmesan.
The best part? This makes a big batch, easily 3 – 4 meals for two. We’ve worked through most of it and each forkful pushes the Veal Catastrophe of 2012 further away.
Simmered meat sauce
Slightly modified from Cooking Light
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions
2 medium carrots
6 garlic cloves
½ lb Italian sausage
1 ½ lb ground beef
½ cup black olives, sliced
¼ cup tomato paste
1 ½ tsp sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
1 15oz can tomato sauce
3 cups dried campanelle or other wide noodle pasta
Parmesan cheese, optional
Chop onions and carrots. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion and carrot to pan; sauté 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, mince the garlic. Add garlic to the pan and sauté for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Place vegetable mixture in a slow cooker. Add sausage and beef to skillet; sauté 6 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Drain the beef mixture well and add to the slow cooker. Stir olives and next 9 ingredients (through tomato sauce) into slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.
Prepare pasta according to package directions. Serve sauce with hot cooked pasta; top cheese if desired.