This recipe came from the Penzey's One magazine. I don't think I'm going to renew my subscription because I feel like everything I make from it is only sub-par. This was good, quick, and easy, but not anything special. It kind of had a funny aftertaste (to me, at least) from the balsamic vinegar (which I normally swoon over).
4 oz ground beef (I used soy crumbles)
1 14 oz can whole tomatoes, no salt added
1 small to medium yellow onion, minced
1/2 red bell pepper, cored and minced (optional)
4 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced (optional)
1 Tbsp balsamic or red wine vinegar
2-3 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp fennel seed
2 piquin peppers, crushed, or a dash of cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper
4-6 oz thin spaghetti noodles (dry) (I used farfalle)
1 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp granulated garlic
1 tsp olive oil (optional)
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Heat a large, heavy duty pan over medium-high heat until hot. Break the ground beef into large marble-sized chunks and drop into the hot pan, leaving a bit of room between the chunks. Let brown on one side, then stir to turn over so the beef is nicely browned on both sides and stays in hunks, 3-5 minutes. The key to lower fat cooking that still has flavor is good browning, so don't rush it or put too much meat in the pan at once. Remove the meat from the pan once brown, drain on paper towels. Pour off almost all of the fat, then add onion and red bell pepper. Stir over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes, until everything starts to get nice and brown. Add the fennel seed (crush it if desired), oregano, and red pepper. Stir, then add balsamic vinegar. The vinegar will bubble up, use it to dislodge the tasty browned bits. Add the juice of the can of tomatoes, let it simmer a minute while stirring, then add the browned beef and whole tomatoes. Use a fork to chop the tomatoes a bit while they are still in the can. Give everything a final stir, reduce the heat so the sauce barely simmers. Cook about 20 minutes, which is just enough time to cook pasta and set the table. For pasta, bring at least 2 quarts of water to a rolling boil. Add thin spaghetti noodles, cook until done, 7-8 minutes. Drain, add basil and garlic, stir, let stand 1 minute. If you won't be eating within a minute, use the tsp of olive oil to coat the pasta and keep it from sticking, otherwise, you don't need it. Divide pasta between two plates, ladle sauce on top, sprinkle with cheese and enjoy. Great served with Italian bread and a salad.
Makes 2 servings.