Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

Homemade spaghetti sauce always makes me think of my Dad.  This was his specialty and I remember him simmering a sauce for hours, wonderful smells wafting through the house.  I make this very much the same way he did.  It freezes well and is often my go-to meal for those nights I don't feel like cooking. 

I always start with a couple of cans of tomatoes - usually a can of diced and a can of ground.  If you use whole tomatoes or 2 cans if diced, I'd recommend that you roughly process them so your sauce will thicken nicely.  To the pot, I add about 1/2 cup chopped onion, a chopped green pepper and about 8 mushrooms sliced.  I also add 2 or 3 cloves of garlic finely chopped.  One cup of red wine and a dash of red pepper flakes (how much depends on how spicy you like it) adds some great flavour.  However, you can add or substitute any vegetables your like.  For example, I have used celery, carrots, zucchini or eggplant in the past.  Mix and match however you like but I'd keep the added vegetables to 2 or 3 cups total so you get a good finished consistency.  Sometimes I saute the vegetables in a little olive oil before adding the tomatoes and wine.  I have also roasted the vegetables on occasion and used them in the sauce (a very good way to use leftover roasted vegetables).  When I'm trying to cut calories, I put it all in the pot together to cook so you don't need to add any fat.

Now for thickening, you can add 3 or 4 tablespoons of tomato paste like I did here or you can use my Dad's trick and peel and finely dice an apple.  This makes a sweeter sauce.  For the seasoning, add salt and pepper to taste.  I always add parsley, basil and oregano.  If I can get them fresh, then I chop up about a Tbsp of parsley, Tbsp of basil and 2 tsp of oregano but I don't add them til the end of the cooking time.  If it's the middle of winter and I'm using dried herbs, I add about a tsp each of parsley, basil and oregano and I add them right up front.

Simmer the sauce in a large pot for 2 to 3 hours until it is thickened to your liking.  At this point, you can freeze it or boil up some spaghetti and serve it with meatballs and a generous helping of fresh grated Parmesan cheese.  I like to make plain meatballs - ground beef with salt and pepper, formed into balls and baked in the oven.  I use a rimmed baking sheet covered in parchment and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 to 30 minutes.  Bon appetit!

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