No-Peek Oven Roasted Merlot & Sweet Italian Sausage Spaghetti Sauce
Why haven’t I done this before?? The flavors are AMAZING (deep and perfect) and it is a meal for the ages! So simple and I am in love with using one pot for the entire meal. The day I made this, I had just less than two hours at home in the middle of the day.
The middle of the day ((like 2 pm)) isn’t exactly the best time to be making dinner. I knew I wouldn’t be returning home until dinner time, so my mind began taking inventory of my pantry and fridge. Then I began thinking, what can be cooked in 4 hours?? The slow cooker usually needs more time,the stove top can not be left unattended … so the dutch oven it is!
I always have the GOOD kind of sweet Italian sausage on hand ((from Lovera’s Italian Market in Krebs Oklahoma)) & Merlot. I also had 1 lb of cooked unseasoned ground hamburger ready to go.
I also try to have onions, carrots and celery on hand. But this week, celery was GONE! Drat. I love finely chopped celery in spaghetti sauce – not this week though!
Instead of celery ((not that it is a comparable substitution)) I used micro-cubed potatoes. Sounds strange I know, but it was so tasty. The potatoes added an additional hearty element without adding more fat and calories.
I also try to have my favorite jarred pasta sauce and a few mini bottles of good wine on hand, and thankfully I was stocked up!
Canned crushed tomatoes are another essential pantry item, in stock ((yay!!)).
Sun-dried tomatoes and sweet pickled garlic help bring out the flavors of the “Old World” without any effort.
The fresh herbs are a real treat, I always keep fresh parsley on hand, it adds a sprinkle of freshness to a meal. I also always have thyme on hand ((which mustn’t be confused with TIME ON my hands – because, that is in short demand)). I have planted thyme & chives in my flower beds as ornamental edibles and they have really taken off – so pretty and truly bring me happiness to have them so readily available.
On an unrelated note: I have a lot of thyme on my hands – I need to start selling it! Let me know if you need some extra thyme. Haha, I love the play on words!
With all of these things on hand and a nice variety of dried pastas, I knew spaghetti was in my future. But it would need to simmer in the oven – and I had never done that before ((or heard of it being done before for that matter!!)).
I browned the Italian sausage, drained it & added the cubed veggies. I cooked the veggies for a few minutes in order to allow them to soften a bit. Added the hamburger, a few garlic cloves and tablespoons of sun-dried tomatoes and the crushed tomatoes, pasta sauce and wine & let it simmer away while I gathered my herbs.
This time, I didn’t feel like picking the leaves off of the thyme stems (( really was in too much of a hurry to deal with that minutia anyway)). Instead, I tied the bundle of thyme up with baker’s string. That was a handy thing for sure!
Once I brought it to a simmer, I placed it in a preheated oven ((300°)) and walked away.
I wasn’t totally sure how it would turn out – would it be too watery?? Would it be dry and burned?? Either way – it was in the oven and I was off to take care of the tasks of the day.
When I walked back in the door, I was greeted with the most lovely, sweet and herbaceous aroma. I immediately knew, it had to have worked!
I boiled my pasta and pulled the sauce out of the oven. I couldn’t open the lid fast enough….it was gorgeous! The brought red tomato sauce had turned into the most lovely deep shade of crimson. The leaves of the thyme sprigs had dropped from the stems and become scattered throughout the sauce. The veggies were tender…and the sauce was the perfect thickness.
Literally, my heart beat faster as I realized it had worked! The recipe risk was big – but no need to worry about that any longer because perfection in a pot ((or in this case a dutch oven)) was staring back at me.
I scooped a few spoonfuls of this hearty Merlot & sweet Italian sausage ragu style sauce over my over-sized rigatoni-like noodles and topped it off with some freshly shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Is it too corny to say it was love at first bite? Yes, I think it is – so pretend I didn’t say that!! I was really good, wink. A deep sweetness was able to be developed through slow cooking all of the tomato sauces and sun-dried tomatoes. The potatoes and other veggies added a wonderful, hearty chunky texture and complemented the meats without making the sauce too heavy. The wine and the fresh herbs cooked just long enough to trick me in to thinking an Italian grandma of generations past snuck into my kitchen while I was gone and perfected our “gravy”.
In other words, this meal was a real winner.
I hope you enjoy this unconventional method for making “spaghetti sauce”. I can’t wait to hear if you love it as much as I do. If you don’t love it as much as I do, I can wait a pretty long time to hear about it. Kidding, a little.
- 1 lb sweet Italian sausage, browned, casing removed and sliced
- 1 lb browned ground hamburger (drained)
- 4-5 medium carrots, skin left on & diced
- 4-5 medium potatoes, skin left on & diced
- 1 medium sweet onion, chopped
- 1 to 1 1/2 c chopped fresh parsley
- 1 to 1 1/2 jars of your favorite pasta sauce, approximately 3-5 cups ((I LOVE Braum's DiNicola))
- 1 to 1 1/2 cans of crushed tomatoes, approximately 3-5 cups ((Italian style or plain))
- 10 oz of a very good quality Merlot
- 2 c water if necessary
- 4-5 cloves of sweet Italian garlic packed in oil ((or 2-3 whole cloves of garlic))
- 2-3 T seasoned sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil
- 1-2 T dry Italian seasoning
- 1-2 t smokehouse steak seasoning (or s & p)
- 1 bay leaf
- 15 to 20 sprigs of thyme, tied in a bundle with baker's string
- Preheat oven to 300°. In a large dutch oven, brown sausage and hamburger. I left my sausage in the casing, cooked it through, removed the casing and sliced the sausage. I liked it that way because the sausage slices added another texture to the sauce. However, removing the casing after it was cooked was a pain in the rear. In addition, my hamburger was previously browned and frozen, that saved me a few steps.
- Once meats are cooked, add chopped & diced veggies and parsley to the dutch oven ((over medium flame)).
- Next, add pasta sauce, tomatoes and wine. At this point I added a few (2) extra cups of water, just to rinse all of the sauce and tomatoes out of the cans. I can't stand to throw any residual sauce away!
- Add remaining ingredients, stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Taste and adjust seasoning, but take care not to over salt at this point. The sauce will reduce slightly in the oven and you can add more salt but can't fix it if it is over salted.
- Place in the preheated oven for 4-5 hours. Keep covered and don't peek. Magic will happen if it is left alone!
- Remove when cooking time is complete & serve over your favorite pasta and shave some Parmigiano-Reggiano atop the sauce -- or eat as a chunky Italian stew.
- *I had a few half full jars of crushed tomatoes and pasta sauce in my fridge so my actual amounts are slightly obscure. This recipe is open to interpretation for sure, so please know that you can increase or decrease the pasta sauce and crushed tomatoes by half and it will still be great. The main thing to keep in mind is to make sure your meal yields enough sauce for your family. I bet that really confuses the issue.