Spaghetti with meat sauce is a staple dinner at our house, but I’m always trying to change things up – especially to get more vegetables and our preference for Asian flavors in the mix.
How Asian you want to go is up to you. To go lighter on the flavors, use button mushrooms and Savoy cabbage. To go a little heavier, add some minced fresh ginger along with the garlic, up the toasted sesame oil, use lo mein noodles and add rehydrated Chinese black mushrooms.
The sauce is a little more soupy than a traditional Italian-American meat sauce.
If you’d like, you can skip the addition of the liquor. It adds a subtle layer of flavor, giving the sauce more depth, but it’s not essential.
Linguine with Asian-Inspired Pork and Mushroom Sauce
1 pound lean ground pork
¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce, or more to taste
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil, or more to taste
2 tablespoons mild olive or vegetable oil
¼ cup finely diced onion
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons bourbon or whiskey (optional)
1 medium carrot, scrubbed well then cut into ¼-inch cubes
4 ounces Napa cabbage, cut into ½-inch pieces
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed then cut into ½-inch pieces
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste
3 cups homemade or no-salt-added chicken broth
1 pound dried linguine
1 bunch scallions (trimmed), white and light- green parts, finely chopped
Combine the pork, half the soy sauce and the tablespoon of toasted sesame oil in a mixing bowl, using your clean hands to incorporate. Rest the mixture for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive or vegetable oil in a large nonstick saute pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the onion and garlic; cook, stirring, for 3 to 4 minutes until the onion softens. Add the pork mixture; cook for about 6 minutes, breaking up any clumps, until the meat loses its raw look. Pour in the bourbon or whiskey, if using; cover and reduce the heat to medium. Cook for 3 minutes.
Transfer the pork mixture to a clean bowl and return the pan to the stove. Increase the heat to medium-high; add the remaining tablespoon of olive or vegetable oil. Once the oil shimmers, add the carrot, cabbage and mushroom pieces and the salt. Cook, stirring every minute or two, until the cabbage wilts and the mushrooms release their liquid, about 6 minutes.
Return the pork mixture to the pan, then stir in the broth and the remaining soy sauce; once the liquid comes to a boil, cover and reduce the heat to medium-low; cook for 15 minutes.
Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain.
Stir the scallions into the pork mixture. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt, soy sauce and toasted sesame oil as needed.
Serve warm, either in a serving bowl, tossing the sauce with the pasta, or in individual bowls, topping each serving of pasta with the sauce. Serves 6 to 8.
Per serving (based on 8): 460 calories, 26g protein, 48g carbohydrates, 19g fat, 5g saturated fat, 65mg cholesterol, 410mg sodium, 3g dietary fiber, 3g sugar.