One of our favorite ways to use just a little meat, and to use it to flavor a dish instead of providing the bulk, is to make pasta sauce. This is probably a very familiar sort of recipe to you, too; quick and easy pasta sauce with a little meat is one of those no-recipe dishes that many of us like to pull together on the fly. Here's one example of a "recipe" we recently made as a topping for a whole mess of fresh pasta. We were cooking for a crowd, but we only used three little sausages.
A pasta sauce really doesn't need much meat at all. (Of course, it can be vegetarian entirely.) If you are adding meat, just a little goes a long way in flavor and body. It all just depends on how you use the meat. We crumbled up our three bratwurst-sized Italian sausages, taking off the casing in the process, and browned them really, really well. The more you brown the meat, the better it will taste - at least in a sauce like this. We also left all the grease in. The sausages didn't give off very much, and it seemed better to leave all that flavor in the sauce.
In the end, it was just a little meat, but a whole lot of flavor and plenty of sauce for a monster bowl of pasta that fed about 15 people as a side dish. Yum!
The recipe here is a little rough; you can adjust the quanitites to whatever you have around.
3-Sausage Pasta Sauce
Enough for at least 2 pounds pasta
3 uncooked pork sausage, such as sweet or spicy Italian sausage
2 onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon (or so) tomato paste
1 cup (or so) red wine
2 32-ounce cans plum tomatoes
1 rosemary or thyme sprig
Salt and pepper
Heat the olive oil and brown the pork very well. Turn the heat to low and add the onions - cooking and stirring until they are soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Add a squirt of tomato paste and fry it over medium-high heat, stirring, for about a minute. Then add the red wine and tomatoes. Crush the tomatoes a little in the pot, then bring to a simmer and add the rosemary or thyme.
Simmer, partially covered, for as long as you can - the longer it simmers the better the flavor. When you want to serve it, taste and season with salt and pepper.
For the pasta dish pictured above I tossed the pasta with the sauce directly, then added about a pound of whole milk mozzarella, chopped into big chunks.
Related: Italian Template Recipe: Pasta, Meat, Greens and Cheese