I struggled with what to call this sauce. It’s not rich enough to be a Bolognese and not heavy enough to be a ragout, but it’s in the same ballpark. In fact, if anything, it’s a lighter combination of both, full of zingy lemon and fresh herbs; perfect for early spring when a heavy braise doesn’t quite feel right but you still want a satisfying, meaty pasta sauce. I like to grind my own chicken thighs (you can do this easily in a food processor), but you can just as easily substitute ground turkey or pre-ground chicken if you’re not on a budget. It’s also great in the summer when you can use fresh tomatoes.
Adapted from an ancient printout in my old recipe binder. I’ve been making it for years, and haven’t the faintest idea where it came from. It yields about 6 servings. It’s admittedly cheaper when you grow a variety of your own herbs, but even if you don’t, it’s still worth making.
• About 1 1/4 lbs. chicken thighs (or pre-ground chicken or turkey): $2.50
• 2 T oil: 6 cents
• 3 T butter: 18 cents
• 1/2 an onion, chopped: 10 cents
• 1 large carrot, finely chopped: 3 cents
• 1 large celery stalk, finely chopped: 9 cents
• 10 mint leaves, torn (garden): $0
• 1 cup dry white wine (I used chicken broth because I didn’t have any wine): 7 cents
• 2 cups chopped whole tomatoes (from a can—do not used diced—or fresh): $1.19
• 1 tsp chopped rosemary leaves, chopped (garden): $0
• 1 T chopped sage leaves, chopped (garden): $0
• 4 long strips of lemon peel with no pith (use a very sharp vegetable peeler), finely chopped (this allows it to cook longer in the sauce and keep its flavor, unlike zest would): 30 cents
• 1 lb. pasta shape of your choice (short, chunky shapes are best): $1.19
• Parmesan for garnish (optional)
• Side salad (optional) (our lettuce is out of control right now)
TOTAL: $5.71/6 = 95 cents/serving
If you’re using whole chicken thighs, grind them in a food processor. (You may have to do it in batches, depending on the size of your processor.)
Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet or sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook until translucent, 5-6 minutes. Add the carrot and celery and cook until softened, another 3 minutes or so.
Add the chicken, turn the heat up to medium-high, and cook for 6-7 minutes.
Add the mint leaves and the wine (or chicken broth) and stir. Cook until wine has evaporated. Add the tomatoes and lower the heat to medium-low.
Simmer for about 45 minutes, uncovered, until sauce has thickened and most of the tomato liquid has evaporated.
About 10 minutes before it’s about to be done, set a pot of salted water on to boil.
Add the rosemary, sage, and lemon peel, cook for 10 minutes longer, while the pasta cooks.
Drain the pasta and add to the sauce.
Serve with Parmesan and a side salad, if desired.