Stop! Before you read any further, you need to be prepared to forget everything you already know about making meat sauce. If you don’t know anything, then google ‘how to make a great meat sauce’, learn a few things, and then go ahead and forget those. That’s because our parents’ meat sauce recipe is so beautifully unusual that you’ll be left wondering what you have gotten yourselves into. If you’re worried that it’s going to be a flop…relax. There’s always take-out.
So, what makes this meat sauce different? Well actually, if you have Greek parents, then it might be quite familiar to you. However if your parents do not come from the birthplace of democracy and modern medicine, chances are you’ll find it odd. Except for the onion, there are no finely chopped vegetables, sautéed until soft and sweet. There is no browning of the ground meat, no gentle stovetop simmering for hours. There is no added cheese, no tomato paste, no secret spoonful of sugar, and no fresh (or dried) herbs. Instead, you will lightly sauté some onion and then toss the rest of the straightforward ingredients together in a pot where your ground meat will basically boil in tomato sauce. There’s a little more to it than that…but barely.
Once again, a few simple ingredients come together to create a dish which is remarkably delicious. And once again, the quality of these ingredients is key. In particular, the meat that you use will greatly influence the sauce. Our parents use equal quantities of both pork and veal in their meat sauce. Although you can certainly substitute either of these for another type of meat, we suggest that you stick to the original recipe, at least the first time. We doubt you will play around with it too much later on, as the original version is so good.
Our parents always use the best cut of meat they can find and then grind it themselves. Here they use pork tenderloin and veal front and end up using 1 1/2 pounds of ground meat total. If you don’t have the ability to grind your own meat then we strongly suggest that you make friends with your local butcher, because he or she can do it for you. Go ahead, introduce yourself. Feeling a little intimidated making nice with someone holding a meat cleaver? Looking for an ice breaker? Tell them about Mia Kouppa. Don’t be shy…we won’t mind.
We realize that not everyone has a kitchen scale, so we measured that 1 1/2 pounds of ground meat is the equivalent of approximately 3 cups of ground meat.
Our parents always serve this meat sauce with spaghetti. Although you can certainly substitute penne, macaroni or fancy bow-tie shaped pasta, we think that spaghetti is the perfect companion for this sauce.
The cloves listed in the recipe are optional…primarily because one of us hates cloves, and is convinced that there is a significant portion of the population that hates them too. So, if you don’t have a strong opinion either way, add the cloves. If you are a clove-hater, omit them and be happy (and relieved that you won’t accidentally bite into a whole clove which was mistakenly left in the sauce).
This recipe makes enough meat sauce for 4 generous servings of pasta, each with a very generous serving of meat sauce (just look at the pictures!). Even at that, you will likely have sauce left over. It freezes very well and is perfect to have on hand for a last minute supper idea or take-along lunch.
Mia Kouppa: Spaghetti and meat sauce
- Spaghetti, 500 grams
- 1 teaspoon salt for the pasta water
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 4 3/4 cups home-made tomato sauce or passata (strained tomatoes)
- 1 1/2 pounds ground pork and ground veal, total. (3 cups total)
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 heaping teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 cloves, optional
- grated mizithra cheese, optional
- Heat oil in a medium to large sized saucepan and cook onion for about 5 minutes over medium high heat until soft and very slightly caramelized.
- Add the rest of ingredients to the pot. Stir well.
- Reduce heat to low/medium and cook, uncovered for approximately 45 minutes. Stir regularly to prevent sauce from sticking to the bottom.
- When sauce is almost ready, boil your pasta. Add 1 teaspoon of salt to a pot of boiling water and cook spaghetti according to the instructions on the package.
- Drain pasta once cooked. Serve on plates. Top with meat sauce and sprinkle with mizithra cheese if desired.