The perfect spaghetti sauce is hard to come by. I started out with a recipe from my neighbor and went from there. You can use different tomato ingredients (puree versus paste versus sauce). The main taste comes from the mix of tomatoes, herbs and fat. If you’re a vegetarian, you’ll want to add olive oil to this recipe in place of the meat. Fat–whether in the form of olive oil or meat juices changes plain tomato sauce and gives it depth.
This is a crockpot recipe. If you simmer in a pan on the stove, you’ll want more water in the mix (ie use puree and add some water and then let it cook down). When I have fresh tomatoes from the garden (or frozen ones) I use tomato paste in place of the tomato sauce, because fresh and frozen tomatoes have a ton of water in them. When I don’t have fresh tomatoes, I use tomato sauce as the base. You need to fill your crockpot about halfway with either tomato paste/tomatoes/sauce or just tomato sauce. Here’s what I do:
3 or 4 large cans no-salt-added tomato sauce (depends on the size of your crockpot)
1 small can tomato paste
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Hold in reserve 1 tablespoon white sugar–taste it when it’s nearly done; you may want this additional tablespoon of sugar. I almost always put it in.
1/2 tablespoon to 1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tsp oregano
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
4 bay leaves
Grill 6 Hot Italian Link Sausages. Cut in half and add to the crockpot. Even if you don’t like to eat the sausage, herbs from the Italian sausage, along with pork flavor really help flavor the sauce. My neighbor also grills a boneless pork chop or two and adds them to the pot. They are quite good soaked in sauce!
You can leave the meatballs out–but again, it’s the meat that really help flavor the sauce.
1 pound or slightly less, hamburger
1/4 to 1/2 cup extremely well-minced onion
1/4 to 1/2 cup extremely well-minced celery
2 slices of finely shredded bread
8 ounces grated parmesan or romano cheese
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp thyme
Mix all ingredients very well in a bowl. Form into 1 inch balls. Heat a skillet with 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil. Place meatballs in skillet. Cook very brown on one side before trying to turn. Some cheese may melt onto the skillet and cause the meatballs to stick a little, so use a fork or thin spatula to work them carefully over onto the undone side. Cook well on at least two sides. As the meatballs are done, gently spoon them into the crockpot. Once all the meatballs are in the sauce, add a scant amount of water to the bottom of the skillet. Scrape the oil and remnants and pour into the crockpot.
After the meat has been added to the sauce, cook on low for several hours (at least 3). You may want to add a little salt, but if you added Italian links, there will be plenty of salt in the sauce. Also check the ingredients on the tomato products–many of them contain salt. The cheese in the meatballs also contains quite a bit of salt, so you may not need any additional.
Once the sauce is done, serve over spaghetti noodles. Good sides? Salad and French bread!