Thursday, January 19, 2012

Spaghetti Sauce

Pasta in red sauce is one of our go-to meals.  Its cheap. Its easy. Its relatively quick.  It can make a little or a lot depending on whether its just the two of us or if we're having company.  And we like it, no matter how often we eat it.

I grew up eating Ragu. Doctored Ragu, usually, with browned ground beef and onions, seasoned with garlic, Italian seasoning, and whatever else was on hand and sounded good.  Mom would serve this with a green salad and some garlic bread.  It was good, and we always enjoyed it.

Over the years, though, I've become a little more health conscious. (A little, you know. Not enough to keep me from the occasional fried zucchini or from putting real butter on my bread!)  I've become a food label reader, and I don't always like the things I see on spaghetti sauce labels. Who wants artificial flavorings, preservatives, or high fructose corn syrup in their tomato sauce?! You can always find and buy a brand that is more natural, but then you have to pay through the nose!

Or, you can make your own.

"Did she just say make your own spaghetti sauce?!" "I don't have time to do that!" "I'm not that good a cook!"

Yes, I did. Yes, you do. Yes, you ARE.

My friends, spaghetti sauce is EASY.  And if you make a batch of it, there will be enough for dinner tonight, plus dinner tomorrow, and maybe, depending on your portion size, two more dinners further down the road sometime.  It freezes easy, it cans well (if you're into that sort of thing, and I am!), and it beats the pants off of any sauce you find at the grocery store, and that's the truth.

Meaty Spaghetti Sauce

2 lbs Italian sausage, or a combination of sausage, ground beef, ground pork- whatever
1 small onion, finely chopped
4 minced garlic cloves
2-15 oz cans diced tomatoes
2 cans tomato paste
4 small or 2 large cans tomato sauce
2 cups water (for 2 hrs simmering)
1 tsp sugar
4 oz fresh basil, minced or 3 tsp dried
1 bunch finely chopped parsley or 3 tsp dried
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
pinch of red pepper (up to 1/2 tsp- but be careful!)
1/4-1/2 cup rich beef broth or red wine

Like always, do your prep work before you start: chop your onion, mince your garlic, chop up your herbs, get your spices together in a prep bowl, open your cans. 
Brown your meat. Just before it loses the last bit of pinkness, add the onions. Let them cook until they're soft, stirring occasionally.

So... there's a lot of steam in this picture. But you can tell its browning meat and onions, can't you?
Don't worry about scraping the bottom.  You'll do that in a little bit.
Once the onions are soft and translucent, pour the tomatoes, sauce, paste, and water in the pot. Gently scrape the browned bits off the bottom.
If you look closely, you can see the three different tomato products. Paste, sauce, and diced.
Add your seasonings and bring to a boil.  Turn the heat down to a low/medium low setting, add the beef broth or red wine, and cover the pot.  You're going to leave this on the stove for two hours, stirring only 3-4 times.  Leave it alone and let the flavors "marry". You don't HAVE to leave it on for 2 hours.  One hour will work, but reduce the water by half if you do.  I wouldn't leave it on any longer than 2 hours though. 

About 20 minutes before your two hours are up, put a pot of water on the stove to boil and preheat your oven to 350.  Butter a good loaf of bread and sprinkle it with some parmesan or romano cheese. Boil whatever type of noodles you want- spaghetti, rotini- my personal favorite, ziti, etc... according to package directions.  Put your bread in the oven right after you put the noodles in the pot.   After you drain your noodles, put them back in your boiling pot, and spoon the sauce over top to whatever consistency you like.  Take your bread out of the oven, and serve it all up!

Now that wasn't so hard, was it?  I have another recipe that is more of a marinara sauce (no meat) and is especially suited for canning. I think I like it even more than this one. I'll share that one sometime next month or so.

In the mean time... What's cooking in your kitchen?

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