Tuesday, January 8, 2013

roasted vegetable and beef pasta sauce (that also happens to be thyroid radiation diet approved)

One of our dear friends was diagnosed with thyroid cancer just before Christmas. This would be unhappy news any time of the year, but right before the holidays it seemed especially poignant to this young family. 

What do I do when I want to cheer someone up? I cook for them. So, before we left Idaho to return home to CT, I stocked their freezer with a few hearty, comforting meals for when they got back from surgery and his diet was especially restricted, due to radiation.  While this meal is thyroid radiation-approved, it's also particularly family friendly, healthy, and delicious, so I am writing it up and sharing it with the broader full plate audience as well. 

A quick note: the photo above is a little misleading b/c one of the things our friend cannot have during radiation is dairy... but after cooking and lovingly packaging everything up for him and his family, I forgot to take any photos of their stash. So, this was the evening my family enjoyed the meal out in Idaho, and you'll have to just imagine the brown rice pasta and sauce, minus the cheese. The recipe is really easy, and it's a superb way for any family to get lots of vegetables incorporated into a one-dish meal!

Roasted Vegetable and Grass-Fed Beef Pasta Sauce
makes 8 servings
(freezes well)

oil of choice
6 cups chopped vegetables and herbs of your choice*
2 lbs grass-fed beef, ground

Preheat oven to 375. Drizzle a bit of oil on a rimmed baking sheet. Place veggies in a single layer on baking sheet and roast until fork tender and slightly browned, about 15-20 minutes. Transfer veggies to Cuisinart food processor and pulse until pureed. In a large saucepan, sauté the ground beef with the pureed veggies, until cooked through. Serve over cooked pasta of your choice.

Optional additions: if you do not have any dietary restrictions, and would like additional depth of flavor (or you have red wine kicking around your counters), you may add any or all of the following:
red wine
splash of vinegar
chopped tomatoes
salt & pepper 

*Batch 1 veggies/herbs: carrots, onion, fennel bulb, garlic eggplant, fresh oregano. Batch 2 veggies: zucchini, carrots, onion, garlic, fennel bulb. The only thing to keep in mind is that if you're not adding any salt, tomatoes, wine or vinegar (b/c of any dietary restrictions), then you'll want to choose flavorful veggies and lots of fresh herbs to get your big flavor boost that way.

This was the batch I made for my friends while we were out in Idaho: carrots, oregano, garlic and onion on one baking sheet...

eggplant and fennel on the other.

Then when everything with roasted

I transferred the veggies to the Cuisinart

and pulsed it until pureed.

I did the same simple steps with the baking sheet full of eggplant and fennel: roasted it, and then popped it into the Cuisinart

and pulsed it until pureed.

Last night, I made the dish again, this time back in CT, so just for my family. (I purposefully made 8 servings so I cold tuck some into our freezer for an upcoming night when things are busy and I don't have time to cook). This time I made it with zucchini, carrots, fennel, garlic and onions.

But the veggie step is exactly the same: roast, then puree. You can really make this recipe with any vegetables you choose.

Then, in each case, I added the veggie puree to the grass-fed beef and sautéed it until cooked through. When cooking for my friends' family, I stopped there. I'd purposefully chosen flavorful herbs and veggies, and nothing else was needed to make a delicious meal.

But for my family last night, I added a splash of red wine, a splash of balsamic vinegar and a sprinkling of good salt and pepper. Once the wine and vinegar had reduced down, the sauce was even more earthy and rich.

But both ways, this is a rich, flavorful sauce that is packed with goodness.

The sauce freezes perfectly, so I recommend making double or triple what your family will enjoy for dinner the night you make it, and tucking another dinner or two in your freezer.

And, as is the case with most dinners around here, it moonlighted in a Kindergarten lunchbox today... to rave reviews. I hope your family enjoys this healthful, comforting pasta sauce as much as mine does!

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