Last night was one of those nights where you wish you could rewind the clock to have just a few more minutes to get dinner on the table. Even an extra 5 minutes to get the table set would have been a blessing! We got home later than normal, everyone was hungry, patience was waning, and there was absolutely no time for a fussy, time-consuming meal. Since the dinnertime meal fairy had not paid us a visit in our absence….wouldn’t that be nice???…I knew I had to come up with something fast.
Fortunately, I had planned ahead, if you can call it that, by taking an extra 30 seconds in the morning to grab a baggie with some frozen Italian sausage out of the freezer and had tossed it in the fridge to thaw during the day. I like to use Italian sausage to spice up drab pasta sauce. When there’s just no time for homemade tomato sauce (as is usually the case), I make my own semi-homemade version by using a jar of sauce and some clever add-ins.
You don’t need to thaw a whole pound of burger to make a tasty, jazzed up pasta sauce. A more economical solution that’s just as hearty is to use 1/4 or 1/2 pound of ground beef, ground turkey, or Italian sausage along with 1/4 to 1/2 pound of veggies. When I use ground beef or turkey, I typically brown a full pound, and then I’ll save half to freeze for later. Then, the next time I make pasta sauce, I simple defrost and dump it in…no precooking necessary. For Italian sausage, it’s even easier. I buy the Jennie-O sausages when they are on sale for buy-one-get-one-free, and then I freeze them in baggies with two sausages per baggie. Two sausages are all you need to add some spice and extra protein without much expense.
For the veggies, I use whatever I have on hand. Mushrooms are my favorite. The Hubs is not a fan of mushrooms in most dishes, but in this one, they are so cloaked in a veil of sauce and their flavor is so overpowered by the spicy sausage, that Hubs doesn’t even mind them. Broccoli works great as well if you chop it small enough to cook through so that it incorporates into the sauce without being too firm. Diced pepper is another nice option.
Pick your favorite noodles to complement the sauce. I prefer bowties, as they work well with the thick sauce. Don’t forget to top with some fresh parmesan cheese!
Spicy Italian Sausage Pasta Sauce
2 Italian sausages
1 jar spaghetti sauce
1/2 package mushrooms, sliced (about 4 ounces)
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
Heat oil in large saucepan over medium high heat. Cut slit in sausage casing lengthwise and squeeze sausage out of casing and into the saucepan. Discard casing. Use a fork to break up sausage while cooking. When sausage is almost cooked through, add onions and mushrooms. Then, add garlic cloves with a garlic press. Cook for a few minutes until mushrooms and onions are tender, and then add spaghetti sauce. Reduce heat to low and simmer for a few more minutes. Serve over hot noodles.