Spaghetti Sauce

It’s a “trying to beat a Spring cold” Saturday here in One Woman’s Kitchen.  Mostly that means I feel okay except that I get tired very quickly.  Still, there are things to be done.  I normally keep spaghetti sauce and chili in my freezer for those nights when I just can’t manage anything else for dinner or for cool rainy nights when I can’t think of anything I’d rather have.  Alas, the freezer is empty of spaghetti sauce. Time to rectify that.

Someone asked me once if homemade spaghetti sauce is really that much different than the sauce you can buy in a jar.  Quelle horreur!  Of course it is.  Completely different.  I know a lot of folks start with a jar sauce and then add things to it.  I guess that makes me wonder why, if you’re going to add a bunch of stuff to a jar sauce anyway, you don’t just take one more step back and start from scratch.  Give it a try.  A lot of folks have a family standard recipe for spaghetti sauce.  I end up making it a little differently every time depending on the time of year and what I have in the house.

Today I have to thank Greenway Beef and Ault’s Family Farm for the ground beef and ground pork, respectively.  I thawed and browned a pound of each, mixed together.  I put half (so 1 lb total) in today’s sauce and vacuum sealed the other pound to use another day.  Every spaghetti sauce I make includes garlic, sweet onion, peppers and tomatoes.  I don’t like green peppers so today’s sauce has one red pepper and one yellow pepper.  I also had some matchstick carrots and some sliced baby bella mushrooms in the fridge so I added some of each.  In the summer I might also throw in some grated squash.  Adding grated squash or carrots is a terrific way to get in some extra vegetables without having to tell anyone.  They pretty much disappear as they cook.

That brings us to the tomatoes – important enough that they get their own paragraph.  In Italy, and on cooking shows, the San Marzano tomato is the tomato of choice.  They’re touted as the most flavorful cooking tomato around.  And they’re great.  They aren’t always available in my local grocery store and there’s a significant price uptick for the San Marzanos.  Honestly, I’ll put a locally grown, home canned tomato up against a commercially canned San Marzano any day.  The tomatoes in the jars lined up in my basement beat any store bought can of tomatoes out there.  All that to say when you’re making a tomato-based sauce, the tomatoes count.  Use good ones.  It makes all the difference.  If you’re nearby come over and I’ll trade you a couple of quarts for an hour or two of work getting the garden ready!

So everything is in the pot with some oregano and pepper, simmering away.  I have some fresh basil so that doesn’t go in until the end.  I also won’t add salt until the end.  The tomatoes were salted when we canned them so it’s possible I won’t need to add any extra.  As the sauce simmers, uncovered, it reduces so the flavors intensify.  If you taste early in the cooking and then add the salt that you need at that point you may be sorry in a few hours.  I let it simmer 3-4 hours.  If you need to add a little tomato sauce or puree to maintain the sauce consistency you like, feel free.

This is another one of those recipes that’s more of a guideline than a recipe to follow exactly.  Like I said, I make mine differently each time.  One note, if you want to be sure you can repeat a recipe make careful notes as you go.  It’s always disappointing to get to the end and discover this is the best sauce you’ve ever made only to realize you can’t duplicate it because you’re not exactly sure what you did!

Good? Almost every time.
Easy? Sure, brown, chop, add, simmer. That’s it.
Good for company? Sure, not fancy, but good.
Special shopping? Nope.

Spaghetti Sauce

Ingredients

1/2 lb ground pork
1/2 lb ground beef
2 Tbsps olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large sweet onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
2 Tbsps crushed dried oregano
4-5 Tbsps tomato paste
1-2 C matchstick carrots
1 C sliced baby bella mushrooms
2 quarts peeled tomatoes, undrained
4-6 Tbsps fresh basil, chopped

Directions

In a large stock pot or Chef’s pan brown ground beef and pork together. Drain and set aside.
Heat olive oil in the same pot. Add garlic, onion and peppers. Saute 5-6 minutes, until they begin to soften.
Stir in oregano and tomato paste.
Stir in carrots, mushrooms and tomatoes.
Simmer, uncovered 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally. Add tomato sauce or puree as needed to maintain the proper consistency.  Add the fresh basil in the last hour of simmering.
Let sit until the fat rises to the top. Remove the fat with a paper towel or lettuce leaves.
Freeze any extra. Keeps for months.

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