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Take your place at the table

Beef Mushroom Rigatoni Photo

It’s dinner time.

(Seriously, how is it already dinner time again?!)

You know the drill: The baby starts screaming, pretty much as the clock strikes 5pm. How could it be any different?

As soon as you manage to wrangle the screaming baby into her carrier and start hopping up and down with her like a maniac, your toddler decides it’s time to start asking for food.

“Mama, can we have spaghetti? With the yummy sauce from the jar? Pleeease?"

You want to say yes with every bit of your hopping self.

Beef Mushroom Rigatoni Picture

Even if it means getting yourself and the kids dressed and out to the shop, just for a jar of spaghetti sauce.

But you’re well aware there’s not much goodness in a jar of spaghetti sauce. Heck, you need a university degree to understand the label! For a jar of sauce?!

So, you decide you’re going to make spaghetti sauce all from scratch. As soon as you announce this to your toddler, she’s a screaming mess. Because “Mama, but I can eat the sauce from the jar!"

Yes, dear, we know you can eat it. But it doesn’t mean you should.

And then all of a sudden you’re required to balance a still-screaming baby (despite the ventilation being cranked up all the way), a carrot-washing toddler flooding the kitchen, and burning bits of onion at the bottom of your pot.

By the time your husband gets home you’re just about ready to hand him the kids and head out for ice cream all by yourself.

Your solution? Make a gigantic batch of sauce. And then freeze it in portions, ready to thaw out.

Beef Mushroom Rigatoni Image

But you’re scared of ending up with a tasteless, watery blob of defrosted sauce. Like all the times you tried making and freezing spaghetti sauce before.

Here’s your relief: You can scratch all those memories. If you cook the initial sauce the right way, you will not end up with plates of pasta swimming around in water:

You need to add as much flavor and texture as you can to your batch of sauce, because otherwise you will end up with a big pile of defrosted sadness on your plate.

Brown the beef until all the meats’ liquid has cooked away, instead of draining it.

Cook the sauce with a closed lid for as long as you can, but then take off the lid and cook it until it’s quite thick. That way, if you end up with some condensation in your frozen sauce, it will not turn out watery after reheating.

Beef Mushroom Rigatoni Pic

When you get all of that right, you’re only missing one vital piece: An absolutely delicious recipe.

Good thing I have this amazing Beef Mushroom Rigatoni recipe waiting for you, right?!

P.S: You can of course use other pasta shapes than Rigatoni. But let me share this mama-secret with you: They cut easily into thirds. Those pasta rings are easy for toddlers to spear onto forks. They make a much, much, much smaller mess than spaghetti. And you get to eat real, adult-shaped pasta for once.

Beef Mushroom Rigatoni Recipe


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large onions, peeled and chopped
  • 6 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 pounds mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried italian herbs
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 3 14.5 ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • cooked rigatoni and parmesan


  1. Heat the olive oil in a gigantic pot (one you have a lid for) over medium-high heat. Add the onions and carrots and cook until they’re starting to brown, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add the ground beef and brown until all of the juices from the meat have evaporated. Resist the urge to drain, wait until the juices are gone. And resist the urge to stir too often, as well. Once every minute (or less) is fine.
  3. Stir in the mushrooms and garlic and cook again until all the juices from the mushrooms have evaporated. It’s OK if brown bits stick to the bottom of your pot - that’s a ton of flavor right there.
  4. Once everything in your pot is nicely browned and looking quite dry, stir in the tomato paste, oregano and Italian herbs. Roast it for a minute while stirring constantly.
  5. Pour in the red wine all at once (careful: steam alert!) and cook it for a minute. Then stir in the tomatoes, bay leaf and seasoning. Bring to a boil once, then reduce to a tiny simmer and cover with the lid.
  6. Allow the sauce to simmer for as long as you can, but at least one hour. Then remove the lid and continue simmering until the sauce has thickened to your liking. Check for seasoning, then serve over cooked rigatoni with parmesan.
  7. To freeze the sauce, make sure it is quite thick. Allow it to cool completely before packing it into freezer containers in portions. Label the containers, or else you will probably wonder what ever you made there 6 months down the line. Freeze for up to three months. To reheat, thaw in the fridge overnight and heat in a pot on the stove. Make sure to boil it for at least a minute, just to be safe. If the sauce is too thick, add a few tablespoons of pasta cooking water.


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