Homemade Sloppy Joe sauce uses orzo as a base

When I was a kid, Sloppy Joes were one of my favorite meals. My mother probably loved making them, too, because they were so simple when all she had to do was stir a can of Sloppy Joe sauce into a pound of browned ground beef in the skillet, warm it up and spoon it into a bun. Easy-peasy.

It's still an easy favorite, but as my tastes have matured and I try to follow a more healthy diet, I shy away from the high sodium content found in canned Sloppy Joe sauce. Plus, it has high-fructose corn syrup. That's kind of scary and a no-no in my book.

Making your own Sloppy Joe sauce and stirring it into some orzo pasta allows Sloppy Joe lovers to have this nostalgic dish without worrying about unhealthy contents. And with the addition of fresh spinach to the mix, your dinner will have some healthful benefits.

(READ MORE: Coucous, orzo, quinoa offer international flavor, nontraditional salad base)

This is basically a one-pot dish if you don't count the colander for draining the beef. And if you really want to go on a health kick with this dish, ground turkey or chicken will work, but don't expect for the dish to have the same flavors that will remind you of what may have been one of your favorite childhood meals.

Sloppy Joe Orzo

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef, chicken or turkey

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

2 cups orzo or other small pasta

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 cups beef broth

1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce

3 tablespoons tomato paste

2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

3 cups packed spinach

In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons oil. Add beef; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until beef is cooked through and browned, about 10 minutes. Scrape beef into a colander set over a bowl, and let excess fat drain.

In same pot over medium-high heat, heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Cook onion, stirring occasionally, until starting to soften, about 5 minutes. Add orzo and garlic, and cook, stirring frequently, until orzo is lightly toasted and garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Add broth, tomato sauce, tomato paste, brown sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire and 2 1/2 cups water. Season with salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring frequently, until liquid is mostly absorbed and orzo is tender, 12 to 14 minutes. Return beef to pot, and add spinach. Cook, stirring frequently, until spinach is wilted and beef is warmed through, about 2 minutes more; season with more salt and pepper, if needed.

CLUMPIES MILESTONE

Clumpies Ice Cream Co. is hosting a yearlong Silver Jubilee to commemorate 25 years of serving up scoops in Chattanooga. The celebration kicked off last week with the release of the Royal Sundae, a blondie topped with vanilla bean ice cream, English toffee, an Italian cherry and salted caramel fudge sauce with a touch of silver sprinkles.

(READ MORE: The brand: Clumpies Ice Cream Co.)

In a news release, senior manager Ashley Bottoms said upcoming specials will include a Makers Collection Pint Pack featuring six limited-edition flavors made in collaboration with local businesses. A special pint pack will launch the first day of summer on June 20, and Clumpies' original shop, at 26 Frazier Ave. on the North Shore, will host a birthday event in October. For now, fans of the hand-crafted ice cream can enter to win a free pint pack monthly at clumpies.com/25th.

Clumpies has been a favorite of locals and tourists alike since opening its flagship location on the North Shore in 1999. The business was acquired by See Rock City Inc. in 2013. There are now two additional year-round locations — at 1401 Market St. on the Southside and at the base of the Incline Railway at 3917 St. Elmo Ave.

"When we stepped in 10 years ago, we hoped to build on the legacy of a local gem and help it flourish into the future," said Doug Chapin, president & CEO of See Rock City Inc. "Our mission is to make memories worth repeating, and it has been so much fun for our team to do so with ice cream. A decade later we've added two scoop shops, a food truck, carts, mail-order options and a world-class production facility, and we can't wait to kick off the next 25 years."

Contact Anne Braly at abraly@timesfreepress.com or annebraly.com.

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