Homemade Spaghetti Sauce
A good tomato pasta sauce is at the heart of many wonderful meals. A rich tomato sauce seasoned with garlic, onion and herbs is a classic. My family just called it Spaghetti Sauce while using it to pull together a variety of recipes. It is delicious on its own over a bed of pasta but also serves as a base in which to simmer flavorful bits of meat or a few stout meatballs for more substantial fare. It can also be layered into a Lasagna, served over Eggplant Parmesan or used on a Pizza to name just a few more possibilities.
If you can make a decent Spaghetti Sauce you have the means to entertain. You can cook for two or ten… or more in even a small kitchen. Serve it over pasta, complement it with a salad and breadsticks or garlic bread and you have the core of a meal that satisfies most any appetite.
Entertaining on a Budget
To give your spaghetti dinner a romantic twist let Andrea Bocelli set the mood with some background music. Decorate the table with candles and fresh flowers. Share some cheese and olives as an appetizer and finish the meal with Chocolate Decadence (or one of these simple ideas from Ina Garten) for dessert.
If you aren’t in the mood for an intimate dinner, throw a red checked tablecloth over a long table instead. Put on Dean Martin, or other mid-century crooners, buy a tub of Spumoni ice cream to serve with cookies for dessert and entertain friends with a family-style Italian dinner.
However you decide to serve it, a good go-to tomato-rich pasta sauce is a recipe you want to be able to put your hands on in an instant. Once you have one it will serve you well.
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
1 6-oz can tomato paste
¼ cup fresh Italian herbs (basil, oregano & parsley), chopped
½-1 teaspoon salt (according to your taste)
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon fennel seed
Place a large skillet (or saucepan) over medium heat. When hot, add 2 Tablespoons olive oil. When the oil shimmers add the onion and garlic. Saute until soft and translucent.
Add remaining ingredients and simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes.
Leftover sauce can be frozen for later use.
Dried herbs can be substituted for the fresh ones, in a pinch. Use about 1 teaspoon of basil, oregano and parsley or 1 Tablespoon of a dried Italian herb mix.
To make a hearty meat sauce, begin by browning about 1½ pounds of a combination of ground beef and Italian sausage (I use about half and half. You can use either spicy or sweet Italian sausage, according to your taste preferences.) Drain the browned meat. Add the onion and garlic to the meat mixture and continue as directed above, omitting the olive oil, if desired.
For layering in lasagna or other casseroles make a thicker sauce by adding a second 6-oz can of tomato paste along with the other ingredients.
For Spaghetti and Meatballs - prepare the sauce as directed. After it has simmered for 20 minutes add the meatballs and continue to simmer for another 30-45 minutes.