Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Getting sauced on Saturday night

I don't know very many people who don't like spaghetti. Premade sauces are convenient and quick (and if I'm perfectly honest, some of them actually taste pretty good). But they're expensive and sometimes have chemicals or other ingredients that aren't exactly traditional. Besides, making your own is really easy. It takes a few minutes to put together, an occasional stir, and just a low, long simmer. Also, it freezes beautifully, so it's something you can make ahead and have on hand when you need a quick meal. So last Saturday night I decided to make a batch of sauce.

This is basically the recipe my Irish family used when I was growing up. So we start with the basics:

I use three large cans of tomato sauce, one small can of tomato paste, fresh garlic, oregano, bay leaf, basil, olive oil, salt and pepper. I start by mincing two or three cloves of garlic (okay, three or four -- I love garlic). Of course you can use a garlic press, but mine is really wimpy so I just mince it with the good old chef's knife.

So I pour the cans of tomato sauce into the pot. I use about a third of a can of water to rinse out the cans and get all the sauce that clings to the insides. Add the can of tomato paste and wisk thoroughly to disperse the paste through the tomato sauce. Add the garlic, herbs, salt, pepper and a generous splash of olive oil. You can make this fat-free, of course, but the olive oil just adds so much incredible flavor.

Wisk the seasonings in thoroughly. Simmer over medium-low to low heat (stoves will vary). You need to keep the heat low and stir every so often because tomato sauce will stick and burn fairly easily. But it's only a few seconds about every fifteen minutes. Allow to simmer for about two and a half to three hours, or until it reaches the thickness you like it. I leave mine for three or even a bit more because I like mine REALLY thick.

There are a lot of ways to vary it. You can add mushrooms:

You can break up Italian sausage and add to the sauce (I personally love sausage and mushroom sauce). You can add black olives, or you can even add meatballs. You can add just about any veggies you like. Let your pantry and your conscience be your guide!

You can also put it on a lot besides pasta. Ever have a hot meatball hero sandwich with melting mozzarella or provolone on it? To die for! You can also use the sauce for pizza, as a baste for chicken or meatloaf -- the possibilities are endless.

As soon as I can afford an immersion blender I'm going to learn to make it from fresh tomatoes (but that's another post).


  1. I can just imagine that sauce bubbling away on the stove! I'll bet the aroma is wonderful! I love garlic too so it looks like the perfect recipe for me! I suppose you could use this for lasagna too...thanks for posting this! Maybe I'll make it for the kids and I tonight.

  2. I too can just smell the aroma from you lovely sauce as I read your post here! Looks delicious!
    Garlic is a GOOD thing. And I love fresh mushrooms in my sauce.
    Thanks for sharing!

  3. That sounds good. In my family we had a variety of sauces, one was a "doctored" sauce, that started with a store bought sauce. Always a great base!