We live in a golden age for healthy cooking. You’ll find endless recipes via great websites and apps, and supermarkets have an increasing array of what most any recipe calls for.
But sometimes typical recipes are “too much” to deal with in a day of work, commuting, family, exercise, and other things you need or want to do. Too much thought required before you’re next at the supermarket. Then too much time there finding everything. Too much messing around with measuring spoons and cups, chopping things, and squeezing or pressing. Too much time cleaning up!
The following “recipe” for meat sauce, pasta and vegetables (so simple I feel funny calling it that) is an antidote to all that. Ingredients are already on-hand at home, or you can find with eyes closed at the store. Couldn’t be easier to cook. Clean-up is basic. And it’s good for you, man.
Often, “what is easy” is “what gets eaten.”
So, having this type of simple, healthy “go to” recipe really helps the OlderBeast quest for sound nutrition.
FIRST, THE MEAT
Get a one-pound package of ground bison or the leanest ground beef you can find (often this will be 90+% lean).
Why consider bison? It’s a little leaner and lower-calorie than beef – though in this recipe you’ll be removing much of the fat anyway. It also has more iron and vitamin B-12, and often was raised without antibiotics. But 90+% lean beef is great, too.
Cook it in a medium-sized pan at medium-high heat to get it all browned, breaking it up with a spatula into “crumble” size pieces as it cooks.
Once you don’t see any pink in the meat, take the pan to the sink and drain the fat. You can use a strainer or just hold the lid firmly against the pan while leaving a small space on one side of the rim, and tilt carefully it to let the fat drain out.
NOW, THE SAUCE
Take a typical-size 24- or 25-ounce jar of tomato sauce, and combine it in the pan with your cooked/crumbled/drained meat. Add some crushed red pepper or hot sauce, if you want.
Use no-sugar-added sauce. This should have 3-5 grams of (natural) sugar per serving, vs. 10 or more grams of sugar in many packaged sauces. It’s one thing to eat some sugar because it’s in ice cream or something else that’s “worth it”…but there’s NO reason you need this in your pasta sauce, dude.
Cook meat/sauce mixture on medium-low heat until it’s all hot. You can serve it right then.
Or, if you want, leave it simmering on the lowest setting for 1-2 hours. This is convenient if you want to have the “hard” part of this recipe already cooked, then do something else for a while (like work out, perhaps), then just have to make pasta and vegetables to be done.
PASTA & VEGETABLES
You don’t need me to explain how to cook pasta. I just have three suggestions:
1. Whole grain pasta. It has higher nutrients and fiber than regular pasta, and a more-complex form of carbohydrates for longer-lasting energy and lower rate of conversion-to-fat.
2. Don’t use too much pasta in each serving. The idea is to have a lot of the “volume” be vegetables. They’re great for you in their own right, of course, and in this recipe they act as a “vehicle” for the sauce, too. They’ll make you full enough without overeating pasta.
3. Eventually, consider ditching the pasta altogether to cut calories and (if this is a goal) carbs. This meat sauce on vegetables alone is great – and can include noodle-like vegetable preparations if that makes if feel more natural. Even if you don’t go all-vegetables, think about further reducing pasta and increasing vegetables.
For the vegetables, use the microwave with a small amount of water in the bottom of a covered microwave bowl. You can follow your own tastes and use what you have available. In particular, though, these vegetables work well (one of them, or 2+ combined):
⇒ Broccoli. Really good for you, and holds sauce well. 1:45 to 2 minutes in the microwave.
⇒ Cauliflower. Similar benefits to broccoli. Also, it can be chopped up (or you can buy it this way) to simulate small-form pasta like orzo. You might see this referred to as “cauliflower rice” on packages. 4-5 minutes in the microwave.
⇒ Zucchini can be sliced into “zoodles” with a spaghetti-like shape (here’s an inexpensive vegetable cutter made to do this). 60-90 seconds in the microwave.
This recipe feeds 4 people, but it’s not exactly four “servings” of each thing. Meat and sauce are a little higher than a serving, and there should be about two vegetables servings per person, if you’re using enough. The pasta is more like a half-serving. Also, nutrition facts will vary a little base on what mix of vegetables you use.
All disclaimers now made, here are approximate stats (including a little dry Parmesan cheese): 500 calories, 40 g carbs (within that, 7 g fiber and 7 g sugars), 36 g protein.
If you skip the pasta and increase the vegetables, you’ll further cut calories and carbs (and then maybe have a piece of fruit for “dessert”).
The road to OlderBeast is partially a philosophical one: consciously developing a state-of-mind about maximizing the second half of your life. This recent OlderBeast article captures this state-of-mind and where it comes from.
But philosophy alone doesn’t keep you in good health. So translating your long-term intent into practical, daily things is the name of the game.
This recipe is an example of that!
“If you don’t eat yer meat, you can’t have any pudding. How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat yer meat?” (Pink Floyd, Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2—click to listen)
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