While I believe that a 750ml bottle of red wine is a thing of beauty, finishing the bottle is another matter altogether, particularly with a small family like mine. So, today, since I have half a bottle of red wine in my fridge, I decided to make a meat sauce out of it.
Meat sauce is really a thing of wonder. I don't know why its called a sauce, it more like a stew to me. There is not much need to strict proportions, and though time consuming, much of the time is spent on simmering the sauce, with minimal attention needed, except for the occasional stir. I had a bit of problem with the bottom burning, and my mom said its because I didn't use the heavy bottom pot...not really sure if that's the case, if you know anything about this, please leave a comment, I'll really appreciate a heads up!
The wine I used is really quite bad, which is why there was half a bottle left =P I would say its borderline drinkable. A quick search online about cooking with wine, and you'll find that they all say to cook only with wine you will drink. Well, today's sauce received mixed responses; my mom and I found it to be quite delicious, while my dad and sis thought that, while tasty, the sauce had a slight bitter taste, probably imparted by the wine. Personally, I say that if you have a not-so-good bottle of wine on your hands, use it. The sauce tasted soooooo much better with the wine, even a lousy wine, then without. Its hard to describe the taste, just meatier, and a lot more aromatic. But, if you don't mind paying a little more for better quality, I'm sure the sauce will be even more amazing =)
* these 3 vegs are known as the aromatic 3, and is the usual base for most soups, sauces and stews. I like it not just for the taste, which is great, but also because I like lots of vegs in my sauce. So the amount is really up to your liking.
Minced meat, amount up to preference [pork, mutton, beef, chicken, whatever you want]
Lots of garlic [unless you hate them]
Some tomato paste/canned tomatos [doesn't really matter which or how much, as long as you have some; use the most convenient amount for you, like the can size your grocery shop stocks]
Red wine [use whatever you have, from 1/2 cup to half bottle. Just make sure that altogether, the liquid covers the ingredients by around an inch]
Oregano, or whatever herb you want
First, in a heavy bottom pot, fry up your roughly chopped garlic in cold oil, followed by the minced meat and the herb[s]. Once mostly cooked, set aside, and in the same pan, with a little more oil, stir fry the cubed vegetables until roughly softened. Pour meat mixture back into pot, and add in the tomatos and wine. Make sure that the liquid only comes up to around an inch above the other ingredients, topping up with water or stock if not enough. And then, just let it simmer away, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn't burn at the bottom. If it does burn, switch off the fire, stop stirring, and skim off the top, un-burnt portions into another pot to continue cooking, discarding the charred ingredients at the bottom. Simmer for as long as you have time for, up to 3 hours if you want, or just until the vegetables are soften, and you are good to go!
As for the casserole, its just one way of eating the sauce. I basically piled cooked spaghetti tossed in the meat sauce into a baking dish, cover with grated cheese, and baked til the cheese is brown.