Friday, October 11, 2013

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

I'm not a big fan of buying spaghetti sauce, primarily because I never have any when I'm in the mood for spaghetti.  It's annoying.  And expensive.  And if you're anything like me, you probably buy a different brand every time because you buy it so rarely that you always forget what you got last time and whether you liked it or not.  (Anyone else? No? Just me then.)  Also, every organic sauce I've bought has chunks in it.  I loathe tomato chunks in spaghetti sauce.  So then I have to run the sauce through the blender before I use it, and that's best case scenario-- it's much more likely that I'd forget it had chunks in it (because it's certainly not supposed to) and dump it in the pasta before I realize.  *facepalm*

So here's the alternative: make your own.  I'm not quite to the point where I grow my own tomato sauce, primarily because I can't seem to outwit our growing season.  (Yet.  I have my engineer husband on the job.)  This year I bought tomatoes and canned them into sauce, primarily for the satisfaction of it, since it certainly doesn't save money like growing your own does.  But I do now have what I hope will be a year's supply of sauce in the pantry, and you know what the great thing about tomato sauce is?  You can make all sorts of stuff from it.  Forgot to grab enchilada sauce last week?  Make some.  Craving spaghetti?  Whip up some sauce.  Chili?  Got the stuff, right here.  It's awesome to have a few ingredients that means you can cross a zillion products off your shopping list.  And if you grab tomato sauce in Costco sized increments, I'd be willing to bet that anything you make with it will be substantially cheaper than buying the product itself.

Anyway, back on topic.  I like a plain spaghetti sauce-- I've come across and tried recipes that actually call for sugar in them, and for the life of me I can't figure out what that's all about.  So here is my favorite basic recipe that you can whip up while the pasta is cooking.  If you want to add meat, get the sauce bubbling on the back burner and while those flavors meld and the pasta cooks, brown the meat.  Multi-tasking is the way to survive, enjoy, and even glean satisfaction from cooking from scratch...not to mention get it on the table before midnight.

1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 t. salt
2 T. dried oregano
2 T. dried parsley
2 T. dried basil
4 c. tomato sauce
Okay, first off we know very well that if you're pressed for time or intimidated by this "making your own" business, you can totally opt for dried onion and garlic powder.  There's no shame in baby steps, and it's better to make it at all than to buy it.  (Did that sound condescending? It's not supposed to sound condescending.  Don't take it as condescending.  Thanks loads.)
So two cans of tomato sauce:

And then the onions and garlic.  (True Confessions: I would use dried garlic and onion every time if I didn't have this little gem. Onions cause tears, and they're slow to cut, and it's just miserable all around.)

Dump the onions in, then the spices.

Mix together and bring to a boil, then simmer for 20-30 minutes.  (Now would be the time to get the pasta and meat going.)  Then take a picture of it while it's blurping and get sauce on your lens.  Seriously, try it.  It's a hoot.

And there you have it.  It really doesn't take any more time than getting the store bought sauce heated up and dumped in with the other stuff you have to cook anyway, BUT if multiple pots of food going at once is a little big in your head because it's been a long day and you can't muster up what it takes to convince yourself it's not a big deal, then here are some ideas (to be considered and applied before the night you're freaking out about dinner):

-This sauce takes 30 minutes.  Seriously.  So next time you have a brain that can handle it (that would be: not evening), and a few minutes to chop things and then let them cook themselves, get out your food processor and multiply this recipe by about 6.  Cook it in your stockpot and freeze it in meal amounts, whatever that might be for your family.  If you freeze it in jars: when you're ready to thaw it, speed it up by putting the jar in a pot of COLD water and slowly bringing it up to about medium.  Takes a couple hours, but it's much quicker than letting it thaw on the counter. If you freeze in plastic, dump it in a sink of hot water.

-If you're a canner, can it instead of freezing.  Remember: it's fast food paid for in time up front.  And way healthier.

-If you really want to have some instant meals in the pantry, fry up the appropriate amount of meat to go with the sauce and mix it in, then can or freeze it.  I've done this for the first time this year and it's pretty much incredible to have on hand.  It's a pressure canning situation with meat in it, though, so plan for that.

-As far as the meat goes, talk about easy to make in bulk: if you're making supper, just make 4 pounds of meat instead of 1, then divvy the rest up and freeze it.  Browned burger thaws super quickly in hot water or can be dumped straight in to whatever you're making.


  1. I LOVE making sauce! I'm looking at next week to dive into a day of meatballs and sauce. Question...I simmer my sauce with meatballs and sausage, if I take the meat out and freeze it separately, could I can the sauce in a water bath?

  2. I think you'd probably be safe, although if it were me I'd probably up the acid content just to be sure-- especially if you have onions and/or peppers in it. (Lemon juice, vinegar, citric acid...kinda your call.) OR you could borrow my pressure canner and make absolutely sure. :-)

    1. Feeling a bit intimidated with the pressure canner! Maybe you could go over how to use it on Saturday??? I really don't want to risk it :)

    2. Oh, good idea! The exploding issue everyone's concerned about is really not a huge'd almost have to try. Using it is easy once you learn the steps that seems intimidating in the beginning.

    3. IMO, if you are going to pressure can, you just as well leave the meatballs in the sauce. Pressure canning is really no more difficult than water bath. It just takes longer.
      Kirstyn: The reason they call for sugar in tomato sauce is because of the acidity. Again, IMO, a little soda does the same thing. Rather than adding sugar, you are reducing the acid. Win/Win.

  3. I've been hungry for spaghetti, and this just pushed me over the edge. Spelt pasts, here I come!