Thursday, March 4, 2010

Slow Simmered Meat Sauce

The inspiration for this recipe was two fold:  first, I have a brand new set of GORGEOUS Pampered Chef Knives in my kitchen that I was dying to use.  Second, the day before, I had seen this post about spaghetti sauce made in the crockpot with all the spices of Italian sausage, minus the actual sausage.  Intriguing.  

So I found myself at home on Friday with a semi-sick child.  Not so sick that he needed constant tending, but sick enough to stay home.  Around noon, my thoughts wandered to the kitchen and all the lovely food I could chop with my new knives.   I decided to use the recipe I had seen the day before as my inspiration and make a spaghetti sauce that simmered slowly on the stove top all afternoon.  This is how I remember my mom making sauce when I was a child.  She would start it in the early afternoon, and torture us with the lovely smells until dinner time.  

The finished product was excellent.  It really did taste of Italian sausage, even though I'd only used ground turkey.  The kick from the red peppers was perfect.  Just a bit of warmth, not fire.  The chopped vegetables retained some body, which was surprisingly satisfying: sweet carrots, and softened (but not mushy) bell peppers in every bite. 

NOTE: The sauce had a little too much liquid for my taste, so I've changed the final recipe to remedy this.  I also would recommend, for those who aren't worried about watching points, that you use chicken stock instead of broth.  The gelatin in the stock, which comes from simmering the bones, serves as a thickening agent for whatever you are making.  However, that same gelatin adds calories that I wasn't willing to "spend," especially when it comes to an already calorie-laden dish like spaghetti with meat sauce.  

FINAL NOTE: Ground fennel seed is what is supposed to give this dish it's sausage flavor, but I didn't have any, so I substituted some rosemary herb seasoning (a blend) for it.  It ended up still tasting like sausage, but just use what you have in your cabinet (think Italian herbs like oregano, thyme, or basil.)  No need to make a special trip to the store and complicate your life even further.   
Slow Simmered Meat Sauce
Servings:  9
Serving size:  1 cup
Points per serving: 3 

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 lb 93% lean ground turkey
  • 1 large onion, or 2 medium, chopped 
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped
  • 2 carrots, finely diced (since they take the longest to cook out of all the veggies)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons dried rosemary herb seasoning (or 1 tablespoon each of ground fennel seed and dried thyme  See note above for further substitutions.)
  • 1 tablespoon steak seasoning
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 30 oz tomato sauce
  • 12 oz marinara sauce (I used this because I wanted to use up what was in my fridge.  If you don't have extra sauce to use up, just use a second can of diced tomatoes.)
  • 15 oz diced tomatoes (or 30 oz, depending on if you add the marinara sauce-see above.)
  • 12 oz chicken broth (or stock--see note above)
  • 10 oz box of frozen chopped spinach, thawed a bit
  • 8 oz water, if necessary
  1. Heat a Dutch oven or your largest saucepan on medium high heat.  Add oil.
  2. Brown the turkey in oil, until no longer pink.
  3. Add onions, peppers and carrots to the pot and allow to soften a bit, about 10 minutes. 
  4. Add rosemary herb seasoning, steak seasoning, Worcestershire sauce and red pepper flakes to the pan.  
  5. Add garlic to the pan.  Once you get a strong whiff of garlicky scent (approximately 30 seconds) add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and chicken broth.  
  6. Reduce heat to low and allow sauce to simmer, partially covered, all afternoon, or approximately 4-5 hours.  Sauce should reduce and thicken.  If sauce reduces too much, add water, as needed, to loosen it up.  
  7. Approximately one hour before you are ready to eat, plop the spinach in the sauce and allow it to heat up and completely thaw.  Stir it up to distribute it throughout the sauce.
  8. Serve with whole wheat pasta and enjoy.  
Recipe inspired by


  1. Kelly, I can't wait to try this!! My mom used to make spaghetti sauce in the crockpot, and reading your post brought back great memories of coming home after school to that smell.

    I love using ground turkey and PC has an incredible rosemary herb seasoning that I will try as you suggest. So glad I finally had a moment to check out your blog. You are now bookmarked on my favorites. :-)

  2. Also, thanks for the info about chicken stock vs broth. I didn't know the difference before now.