A week ago I ran my first race of the year, the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon. It's an all female half marathon run in Grand Rapids, MI. This is the third year for the race and I've run it all three years now. It's fun race and I've really enjoyed being a part of it over the past few years. This year the race turned out the best yet both due to the weather and some course changes they've made. The first year of the race the weather was just awful, it was super cold (in the low 30s) with rain/sleet/snow the whole race along with a nice strong wind. Last year the temperature was okay, but I was scared it was going to rain the whole time. This year however, the sun was out the whole race and the temps were in the mid 40s or so. There was a little wind, but it was mainly a cross wind and not too bad, definitely could have been worse! The race organizers have also tweaked the course every year and this year it was by far the best yet. All in all a really nice spring run that I hope to be a part of for years to come.
Although I'm not a big believer in the need to truly "carbo load" the night before a half marathon, I like to just pretend that it's necessary so I can whip together a big bowl of pasta and feel like it's a requirement that I eat it all! For this race a simple meat sauce was calling my name. This is the type of spaghetti sauce that my mom would make all the time when I was growing up, so for me this is true comfort food. It is so quick and easy to throw together and it always turns out simply delicious. Honestly, this is one of my favorite meals of all time, it will never get old, something I will return to over and over again. The perfect pre-race dinner for my first race of the year.
There's no need to follow a recipe like this exactly, it's really easy to mix things up based on your preferences and what you have in your fridge/pantry. So don't feel tied to the recipe. You can use your favorite herbs and spices, the type of meat you prefer and really any type of canned tomatoes, whole, diced, or crushed. Other than that all a simple sauce like this needs is some onions and garlic and you're all set. In all honesty, this is one of my favorite meals of all times, and also a perfect pre-race pasta dinner.
A few race pics; here's me at the finish, very happy that I'm almost done! And below me with some friends and fellow race participants, all glad to be finished!
Simple Spaghetti Sauce
- 1/2 pound Italian sausage (can use turkey, chicken, or beef)
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 28 ounce can whole tomatoes
- 1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1-2 tablespoons dried oregano (or more if you like!)
- 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
- Red pepper flakes, to taste
- Olive oil
- Pinch of sugar
Brown meat in a large skillet. Remove from pan and drain on a paper towel if desired. Add a couple teaspoons of olive oil to the pan and add the onions and a couple pinches of salt. Cook over medium to low heat until beginning to wilt and starting to turn slightly golden, about 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until nice and fragrant, a minute or two. Add the tomato paste and let it cook and caramelized for a few minutes without stirring, then mix it into the onion/garlic mixture.
Add both cans of tomatoes and the meat back to the skillet and stir to combine. Add in the oregano, rosemary and red pepper flakes and stir again. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce to medium-low and let simmer. Taste, and add salt and a pinch of sugar as needed. You can eat it right away if in a hurry, but it tastes better the longer it can simmer and thicken, letting the flavors blend into a perfect sauce. I recommend at least 30 minutes but it will still be delicious if you can't wait that long.
Serve over spaghetti and top with freshly grated parmesan cheese and some julienned basil leaves or minced fresh parsley.