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Strong flavors beef up sauce

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There is nothing subtle about this meat sauce.

It is jammed with flavorful ingredients, starting with a healthy four cloves of garlic (double it if you dare) and finishing with tomato paste, balsamic vinegar and Parmesan cheese.

Along the way it also takes on some serious seasonings and — for good measure — a half pound of prosciutto.

It may seem like overkill, and that's the point. From-scratch pasta sauces generally develop their deep, rich flavors from a long simmer on the stove. But weeknight cooking usually doesn't involve that luxury.

To compensate for the faster pace, ingredients with serious oomph are employed. They also are ingredients that need little time to disperse throughout the sauce, such as the vinegar and Parmesan.

One warning — salt only at the very end. Many people will find the saltiness contributed by the prosciutto and Parmesan to be more than enough.

If you want to give this already thick sauce a chunkier texture, add a 12-ounce jar of roasted red peppers (drained and chopped). For a bit of heat, try diced pickled jalapeno peppers.

If you find prosciutto a bit pricey, substitute an equal amount of lean bacon or deli-sliced ham. The flavors will be different, but still delicious.


Start to finish: 30 minutes

Servings: 6

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium red onion, finely diced

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon dry basil

1 teaspoon dry oregano

1 1/4 pound lean ground beef

1/2 pound prosciutto, finely chopped

28-ounce can diced tomatoes

3 tablespoons tomato paste

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a large saucepan over medium-high, combine the olive oil, garlic, red onion, paprika, basil and oregano. Saute until the onion is tender and seasonings are fragrant, about 5 minutes.

Add the ground beef and prosciutto. Continue to saute until the beef is cooked through and the proscuitto begins to brown, about 8 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes and any juices, tomato paste and vinegar and bring to a simmer.

Reduce heat to low and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, to let the flavors combine. Stir in the Parmesan cheese until melted, then season with salt and pepper.

Nutrition information per serving: 392 calories; 189 calories from fat; 21 g fat (7 g saturated; 1 g trans fats); 98 mg cholesterol; 13 g carbohydrate; 36 g protein; 2 g fiber; 1,753 mg sodium.