A pretty picture of a dish, which is not this dish.  New York City, May 2010.

This recipe requires five ingredients (but you can add more) and can feed a family of four easily, but I developed it on the road as a solo, one-pot dinner that I could make quickly and stretch over several days.  Here’s my favorite frugal, nourishing, grain-free, comforting, stretchable, versatile dinner recipe.

Simple Stew-ish Sauce-y Dish

2 Tbsp your favorite cooking oil (I highly recommend coconut oil)

1 onion, chopped coarsely

1 lb. ground beef

4 cups chopped greens

12 oz spaghetti sauce

Melt coconut oil over medium heat and add onion.  Cook, stirring when necessary, until slightly transparent.  Add ground beef and break up, sauteéing until about halfway browned.  Add greens and mix in, then cover for a few minutes until they wilt.  Add spaghetti sauce and stir thoroughly; cover and lower heat slightly, and let simmer for 15-30 minutes to let flavors mingle.

I love to eat this straight up as a sort of a stew, but there are lots of ways to make it work for you.  Here are a few ideas:

My sister was coming up short for dinner ideas one day and I told her about this recipe.  She traded out the greens for eggplant and zucchini, and ended up with a fantastic late-summer ratatouille that her kids couldn’t get enough of.  I’ve also used mushrooms and broccoli, leeks and asparagus, and I bet the dish pictured above – sweet potato and eggplant, topped with clover sprouts – could be mimicked with excellent results.  There’s really no way to mess it up.

Although the recipe itself is grain-free, of course it makes a fantastic sauce-y sort of thing for pasta.  Sprinkle some cheese (or if you’re dairy-free like me, try my favorite cheese substitute) on top and you’re rarin’ to go.  Spaghetti squash would be a nice grain-free alternative, too.

This dish fed Eric and me over two nights; on the second night I stretched it a bit by throwing in some more veggies, heating it all in a saucepan, cracking two eggs on top, and covering the pan for about 10 minutes while the eggs cooked sunny side up.  This was a gamble on my part, but it totally paid off.  We loved it.

It’s been my go-to dish for almost a year now, and I won’t get tired of it but I’d love to hear creative variations that I haven’t thought of.  What would you do?