Monday, February 27, 2012

Faux Italian Sausage Meat Sauce with Hidden Veggies for 3 Mealpod Recipes

Artwork: Italian Decadence - colored pencil by Nicole Caulfield 

If your family is like mine, it is very rare that everyone is completely happy with a given meal. Everyone has to make sacrifices. This week I did Italian - good ole red sauce Italian, but I did it 3 ways to make everyone happy. One red sauce and 3 Mealpod Recipes that is. I made a noodle-free eggplant lasagna for me (a recipe I posted before here), a whole wheat noodle lasagna for hubby, and whole wheat angel hair pasta for the kids. The sauce WAS a compromise however - because I added loads of hidden veggies (shhh the kids don't know how many I put in there).

If it weren't for making the meals into Mealpods (portioning them and freezing them in packs) I would not be able to cater to everyone's tastes. I spent two hours cooking all the recipes but I got about 24 servings of food out of it - with 3 different varieties. Not bad! 


The sauce is the big star in all of these recipes. When I went shopping, the ground turkey was on sale - CHEAP. I don't really like the aftertaste of ground turkey so I decided to make a faux Italian sausage meat sauce using 2 lbs of the turkey on sale and 1 pound of ground sirloin. We try to keep our meats lean and lower in saturated fat if we can. I figured the sirloin would add some flavor, but then added fennel seeds (the seeds in Italian sausage), and red pepper flakes right into the meat before cooking to mimic the flavors of sausage.

Another camouflaged element in the sauce were those veggies. The trick to getting the kids to eat the veggies in the sauce and not pick them out is to cut them very very small. I think some people put them in the food processor after cooking and pour them in the sauce like a V8 but I like the chunks in the sauce even if they are small chunks. 

So here is the recipe for the chunky sauce which you can layer in lasagna like I did, put it over pasta, or heck it tastes so good you can eat it as is. Hey its just like chilli! 

Meat Sauce w/ Faux Italian Sausage & Hidden Veggies

This is a kid-friendly - chunky meat sauce with lean meats and teeny vegetables


  • 1 lb ground sirloin
  • 2 lbs ground turkey
  • 1 zucchini chopped really small
  • 1 small onion chopped really small
  • 2 bell peppers chopped really small (your choice on color)
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 clove garlic or garlic powder
  • 30 oz strained Pomi tomatoes
  • 2 cans tomato paste
  • 2 tbs Italian Seasoning
  • 1-2 tbs olive oil


  1. In a large bowl combine your meats and add fennel seeds, garlic powder, and crushed red pepper.
  2. Brown in a pan and drain, set aside.
  3. Dice your veggies really really small like the photo above and sautee with some minced garlic, olive oil, and Italian seasoning until softened. 
  4. In a large pot pour in your strained tomatoes, tomato paste, and add in your veggie mixture, and meat mixture. 
  5. Bring up to a simmer and them simmer for about 30 minutes. 

- I used the sauce layered in the no-noodle eggplant lasagna. Recipe here (this one was for me)

-  made a traditional noodle lasagna layering it with whole wheat noodles, part-skim ricotta & egg mixture, and part-skim mozzarella.  (for hubby & the kids a bit) This recipe is really the noodle-less one but replacing the eggplant slices with whole wheat noodles. The trick to keeping it healthy is picking the part-skim dairy products (Sis might disagree on this one). 

-  lastly just mixed it with some angel hair whole wheat pasta for the kiddos who don't really like ricotta. 

& here is the most beautiful thing. The freezer all stocked back up! There are still bags of other pods but they were getting pretty empty. You must be wondering if we eat frozen food every night. Well of course not. We ate fresh today, and we do a couple of other nights too. The Mealpods are eaten about 4 or 5 out of 7 nights which is such a treat not to cook on those nights without ordering takeout!

- Nicole

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