The Meal Planner

The biggest thing that I have learned these past few months that I've been teaching while being a mom of two small girls is that dinner needs to be:

1. Easy
2. Minimal effort

If not, there's a good chance I'll get home, flop down on the couch and realize I'm too tired to think about the mult-step recipe that's slotted in the meal plan for tonight's meal and I'll call my husband and tell him to pick something up on the way home.

Spaghetti and meat sauce is the kind of meal I have made a thousand times since I was a teenager. The ratio of ease of preparation to family pleasing taste is so great that I think it has become a default meal on most people's meal plans. While I do love a good spaghetti and meat sauce every once in a while, it screams BORING. I could make it with one hand tied behind my back in the most tired of tired moods, but week after week, month after month on the meal plan and nobody wants to go near it with an eight foot pole (no matter how easy it is).

This dish is different enough to be exciting yet the method is easy enough that it could quickly become a go-to meal. Swapping out the ground beef for ground pork adds a nice savoriness and just a touch of balsamic vinegar adds a sweet tang. I never want to go back to my regular spaghetti sauce after this.

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Serves 4


1 lb ground pork
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 rib celery, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jar spaghetti sauce
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper

3/4 lb penne


In a large skillet over medium high heat add the pork, onions, garlic, celery, and mushrooms. Fry for about 8 minutes breaking up the meat as it cooks, until the meat is browned and the veggies are soft. Pour in the jar of spaghetti sauce and scrape up the good bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the balsamic vinegar, basil, sugar, salt and pepper and turn the heat down to low. Simmer and stir occasionally for 15-20 minutes.

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil. The sauce will simmer while the pasta is cooking. When the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook following package directions.

Drain pasta and serve with the Sweet Basil Pork Ragu over top.


Click here for printable version of Sweet Basil Pork Ragu.

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THE RESULTS?

I have made this dish twice in the last couple weeks and Steve and I gorge ourselves on it every time. The sweetness combined with the savory pork is an addicting combination. I suggest swapping out the veggies for whatever combo you and your family like, or whatever is in your fridge. Add diced carrots or leave out the mushrooms, whatever tickles your fancy. It's the addition of pork, balsamic vinegar and basil that makes this dish so special.

As you probably noticed I suggest to put the pot of pasta water to boil on after the ragu has already been assembled. I do this to give the ragu a longer simmer time to allow the flavors to mingle and combine, but if you are in a rush put the pot of water on to boil at the same time as beginning to brown the pork. This will cut down your cooking time.


I was able to find this ground pork for cheaper than I can find ground pork; $1.75/lb which is GREAT for Canadian prices. For more inexpensive meal ideas check out the $5 Dinner Challenge and Gayle's Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap.

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8 Responses
  1. April Cavin Says:

    Nice twist on an old stand-by!



  2. Divina Pe Says:

    That looks really great.


  3. Drick Says:

    like the ease of this ... great sounding meat sauce


  4. Sounds great - love the fresh basil.


  5. lisa Says:

    just found your blog..can't quite remember how. I think it's awesome!! I love how it looks and can't wait to try some of the recipes. You are inspiring me! you've done an amazing job with it. I noticed that you are from Southern Alberta, I grew up in Lethbridge but now live in calgary...looking forward to reading more.



  6. Thanks for the great comments everybody! My mouth watered as I wrote this post and ended up making it for supper the same night....so delicious.

    Lisa - Wow another Southern Alberta girl! I actually currently live in Lethbridge. I'm glad you like the blog :)