25 January 2013

Crock Pot Gourmet: Super Spaghetti Sauce

Last week, I promised that I'd share my famous spaghetti sauce recipe today. It's super-easy and totally delicious. On many occasions, I've served this sauce to children whose parents insist "my child refuses to eat sauce. He'll only eat the noodles," and in all but one instance (the one time when the child stubbornly refused to take even the tiniest first taste), the picky eaters have come back for seconds on sauce. The combination of pumpkin and V-8 juice gives the perfect amount of natural sweetness to the sauce.

The basic ingredients you will need:

2 large cans V8 juice (original flavor)
1 large can pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling - you want pure pumpkin)
Italian seasoning
minced garlic
I often add:
1 large onion, diced
1 or 2 large bell peppers, diced
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced (or 1-2 oz. dried mushrooms - they'll rehydrate as the sauce cooks)
1 can chopped black olives
1 tsp. rosemary
And sometimes, I add:
1 lb. Italian meatballs or sausage
or 1 lb. ground turkey or hamburger, browned and drained
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
First, dump the pumpkin puree into the bottom of a 7-quart Crock Pot.
Add Italian seasoning (about 3 Tbsp, I think - I always just measure out a large handful).
Add 1-2 Tbsp. minced garlic. Or, if you have fresh garlic, add several whole cloves.
Toss in any of the "extra" ingredients you like.
This time around, I used chopped red bell pepper and meatballs, because that's what I had on hand. But my absolute favorite is a combination of bell pepper, onions, mushrooms and olives. The flavor is so full that you won't miss the meat, even if you don't often cook vegan dishes!
You can choose to make this as a delicious vegan sauce...
Or add your favorite meat, if you're more of the carnivorous type.
Cook on low heat for at least 4-5 hours. Flavor intensifies the longer you keep it cooking, so I'll often throw everything together first thing in the morning and let it cook all day long.
For a thicker sauce, add more pumpkin, or use only one can V8 (I'd probably use a smaller Crock Pot, in that case). When pumpkins aren't in season, sometimes it's difficult to find the cans of pumpkin puree in the store. In that case, I'll use pureed carrots or sweet potatoes instead. A little bit more work (peeling, cutting, cooking and mashing), but it's every bit as delicious!

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