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September 7, 2006
Jazzed-up jarred sauce

[Totoro bento set featuring spaghetti, meat sauce, avocado salad, mandarin oranges]

Top: avocado tossed with lime and lightly salted; mandarin oranges
Bottom: spaghetti* garnished with red bell pepper confetti and spinach sakura flowers
Side: meat sauce for the spaghetti
(Everything is Totoro today, down to the utensils set, which includes chopsticks, a knife, and a spoon.)

* Tinkyada brown rice spaghetti tastes just like regular wheat-based pasta.

[totoro bento set]What do you do when you're craving a big plate of spaghetti, but you don't have the time to make up a nice meat sauce from scratch? Why, you jazz up some store-bought sauce of course!

My family has always made spaghetti sauce like this, so I thought everyone else did too. It was only later in life, after dining out more often (also a rarity during childhood) and encountering people whose moms had always cooked up big batches of sauce from scratch, that I realized there was a whole world of pasta sauces out there for me to discover ("Pesto? What the heck is pesto? Alfredo? You can make pasta sauce without tomatoes?"). I guess we just didn't know any better. But every now and then, as happened last night, I get a craving for the meat sauce that I used to eat as a kid. Since my part-Italiano hubs was out of town, I was able to indulge my craving without offending any staunch supporters of made-from-scratch sauce. :)

P.S. The RSS feed, which features the 10 most recent bento, now has pictures! Not sure why the heck I couldn't figure out how to do that to begin with. :P

3/4 pound lean ground beef
1 small onion, diced
2 bell peppers, diced (I used yellow)
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
salt, to taste
1 jar of store-bought pasta sauce (I used Amy's Garlic Mushroom)
  1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and onions and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the bell pepper and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
  2. Push the vegetables to the sides of the pot and add the ground beef to the center. Cook the beef, using a spatula or wooden spoon to break up any large chunks.
  3. Once the beef has evenly browned, add the jar of pasta sauce and stir well. Add the crushed red pepper and salt to taste. Lower the heat to maintain a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes -- or whatever time is needed for you to boil up some pasta!

* Use gluten-free products
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