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What are tricks to the perfect spaghetti sauce?

What are some great recipes for homemade spaghetti sauce or some tricks that you think are key to getting it right? I have tried making it from canned tomato sauce/crushed tomatoes, etc but it never has that perfect flavor I'm looking for. Any suggestions?

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  1. What is that "perfect" flavor you are looking for?

    I like to reduce canned tomatoes. I just keep cooking them down until almost a paste.
    Then I add a bit of olive oil & fry the tomatoes.

    I go from there with different variations, depending what I am in the mood for that day.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Isabella

      Let me add when I am frying the tomatoes I am stirring almost constantly.
      This is basically making your own tomato paste from whole tomatoes.

      Season as you will for whatever mood you are in!

      1. re: Isabella

        the first step in making a good spegheti sauce is to burn the tomato sauce a little in a good olive oil..... after a few tries you will develop the perfect taste. THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP!!! for the perfect spegheti sauce !!!!

      2. Having gotten flamed by a couple of posters in the Giorgio Armani thread for a light-hearted crack, I'll step carefully here.

        For cooked sauces I have two things - add in some almost browned tomato paste (possibly the same princple at work as what Isabella describes) and, more obviously, cook whatever your sauce is long and slow.

        For uncooked summer sauces, needed are great ripe tomatoes, good olive oil, good black pepper and garlic, and the freshest of things like mint or basil.

        1. The only "trick" is to use the best ingredients you can lay hands on and not too many of them at once.

          6 Replies
          1. re: mbfant

            +1. Seriously, simple is best, quality tomatoes (I use canned San Marzano DOP), olive oil, garlic, salt, oregano, nothing else. Simmer...

            1. re: virtualguthrie

              This is a frequent post that always makes me wonder. As virtual has stated, this has to be the simplest recipe in the world to get right. I would start with sauteed shallots and maybe add some red pepper flakes, but otherwise the recipe above, if seasoned properly, will make a killer sauce.

              1. re: bnemes3343

                And, of course, for me anyway plenty of grated cheese at the end. What I love about the basic here is the ingredients are always on hand. Nothing to buy or defrost. And the pure flavors of the few ingredients shine.

                1. re: bnemes3343

                  I guess it's just so simple that people can't believe it and always end up adding a bunch of stuff that just distracts from the point (the tomatoes are the point after all). Now obviously there are a million variations of tomato sauce and many traditional recipes do call for things like onions and carrots and then there are meat sauces and the like.

                  It just always amazes me when people make pasta sauce with meat and vegetables and onions and everything else and it's just a big mess. These are the same people who ask me what I do to make my sauce so good. My response is always... nothing, absolutely nothing. Let the ingredients shine through, that is all.

                  1. re: virtualguthrie

                    My favorite really is Hazan's tomato butter sauce - I used one can of San Marzano tomatoes (I dice them if I feel like it, or cut them up with a wooden spoon as they cook if I don't), 6 T butter, and one large yellow onion, cut in half. Simmer for about 45 minutes at as low a temp as possible. Sometimes I'll toss with pasta, basil and parmesan, sometimes I add diced mozzarella - it's particularly good with smoked mozzarella.

                    As an aside, my grandfather, who lived his whole life in a v. small SW PA town, made a fabulous but completely unauthentic "spaghetti sauce" - ground beef, onions, carrots, celery, tomatoes, tomato paste - not sure what else at this point. This is what I grew up thinking of as "spaghetti sauce", and which I used to make a lot in college. Only when I moved to NYC, and a friend gave me Hazan's book, did I begin to understand more about what Italian cooking is about.

                2. re: virtualguthrie

                  Agree, I add some wine, but that is another blog. Just my preference, but a lot don't agree. Just my taste is all. I also like 1 very fine diced shallot. Again, just taste

              2. Here are a couple of tricks I picked up over the years.

                First, if the sauce is too acidic many people add sugar but a trick I learned is to add about a tablespoon of baking soda. It neutralizes the acid without making the sauce too sweet.

                Second, run the tomatoes through a food mill to remove the skin, seeds and pulp. It’ll make the sauce extra smooth.

                6 Replies
                1. re: TomDel

                  I just tried the baking soda - only a half-tsp to 3 quarts of sauce. The tomato element was 3 oz of paste plus two 28-oz cans of crushed. Sorry I did; it certainly neutralized the acid, but completely dulled the tomato flavor. I added another 3 oz of tomato paste and am hoping this will restore some taste. Live and learn...

                  1. re: greygarious

                    we always added a carrot to the pot to absorb the acid. I'm not sure that there is any scientific validity but that's what Grandma taught us....

                    1. re: chicaraleigh

                      Batali's basic tomata sauce has half a grated carrot. It's a great sauce without even adding anything to it. Almost need some meat to *cut* the richness. And just canned tomatoes.

                      1. re: c oliver

                        To each his own --- I routinely include grated carrot in spaghetti sauce but we all have different palates. According to the "sweet&low test" I am an under-taster, which means things need to be sweeter than normal in order to taste sweet to me. And the concept of meat as cutting richness runs counter to my experience. Fortunately, adding more tomato paste corrected the "baking soda blahs" in today's sauce and the lasagna turned out well.

                        1. re: greygarious

                          What I meant is that the basic sauce is an incredibly rich tomato flavor, almost needs something to dilute the intensity of the flavor. I was almost tongue in cheek when I suggested meat to cut it :) But one time I did use the basic sauce over some stuffed jumbo shells and the stuffing was quite rich itself. The sauce practically obscured the other flavors.

                        2. re: c oliver

                          not grated carrot for us - for us it's a whole carrot that you pull out at the end of the cooking process

                          my family recipe sauce is quite plain - olive oil, garlic, browned tomato paste, wine to deglaze after browning the tomato paste, add crushed tomatoes or whole - what ever you have on hand. Simmer low and slow for several hours with 1 whole carrot in the pot. About 20 - 30 minutes before eating, add some fresh basil, remove the carrot. Stir in freshly grated parm or lucatelli at the end.

                  2. Fresh is, IMO, the most important word in preparing a spaghetti sauce. Fresh ingredients are always better than packaged. That said, I do sometimes use canned tomato paste. But it's not the variety with a bunch of ingredients added by the manufacturer; just pure nothing added tomato paste. I usually prepare my spaghetti sauce with a stock base. Chicken stock is what I normally use. But veal stock or sometimes a shell fish stock works pretty well. A plain water base, nothing else added, produces a weaker flavored sauce that falls a bit short of my expectations of a flavorful sauce. Fresh tomatoes (I like the food mill recommendation) with freshly chopped herbs of your choice and a good quality wine. Taste, taste, taste .... but wait for about ten minutes after adding an ingredient before tasting so you get a better sense of how your adjustment worked. Also remember that the sauce is going to be used with a rather bland pasta so it's flavor has to be hearty enough to hold up.
                    I also agree with the idea of "toasting" the tomato paste in the pan, if just a little a bit - just don't burn it.

                    1. Wow - can't begin to think how to start answering this question. I'm assuming (as it appears do the other respondents of this thread) that you mean a red sauce. And for sake of a shorter answer, mean only standard 'spaghetti' and no other type of pasta.

                      Overall, I group my red sauces either as fast or simmered - either can have meat or fish. Basically, fast sauces, cooked very quickly, rely on very fresh ingredients just heated through and together before being tossed into the pasta. I make a puttanesca, marinara, or just small halved tomatoes and garlic for a fast great, meal. Tuna added to a fast sauce when I want a change.

                      Simmered sauces start with a soffritto cooked either fast or slow (it depends on how you want your sauce bold or soft), of onions, garlic, sometimes carrots, and tomato paste. I add the dried herbs here to heat them up and then the chopped tomatoes. I'll either blend/press the sauce here or leave it chunky. If I'm using them, I'll add roasted meats/fishes/stocks at this point and fresh herbs. It then simmers until it (or me) is ready. I try not to get it too think if I'm using it for spaghetti.

                      If garden tomatoes are available, I'll definitely use those. Otherwise, I'll use a San Marzano can of whole tomatoes (hopefully in water). For any kind of sauce I'll remove the basil stems added at the start of cooking that are floating in the sauce and replace it with fresh basil at the end. Sometimes sauces with have wine (or other alcohol) added at the beginning and sometimes not.

                      There must be thousands of official Italian red sauces for spaghetti and many more thousands of 'Mama's'. If you begin to use other shapes of pasta, then the answer expands exponentially.

                      If you can describe 'that perfect flavor', where you tasted it or who cooked it, perhaps we can come up with a more precise answer.

                      10 Replies
                      1. re: alwayscooking

                        okay, wow, so overwhelming!

                        This is what I normally do - tell me what you all think. I add a little olive oil to a pan, heat it, lots of garlic and onions and let that saute. Once they are a little soft, yellow, I add in the meat. Let that cook, add dried oregano, basil, salt pepper, and mushrooms. I usually use whatever tomato product I have on hand - I have never really differentiated between whole canned, tomato paste, sauce, etc and would like to know the difference in terms of flavor.

                        For those that cook the tomato paste, i'm assuming you do this in a separate pan? What do you use to thin the sauce out then?

                        Its hard to describe in words the perfect sauce - one that is perfectly sweet and tangy, lots of garlic flavor (never too much garlic!!) and not too herby. Just that perfectly traditional italian sauce.

                        1. re: cups123

                          "What do you use to thin the sauce out then?"
                          Good question. Personally, I start with the tomato paste and a very light amount of oil, then use the stock to thin the cooked paste before I begin blending the other ingredients.
                          I appreciate the remarks of "alwayscooking" in that they cover points that I and some others overlooked by making a distinction between a quickly prepared sauce and a simmered sauce. That's an important consideration and often introduces some margin for variations in the manner of preparation.

                          1. re: cups123

                            I really didn't mean to overwhelm! Sorry, but it's just an open ended question.

                            On to your sauce:

                            Your soffritto is the onions, garlic, and pepper and salt. For a sweeter sauce, slowly simmer the ingredients until they caramelize. (I am assuming that the onion is diced and the garlic is minced.) Don't add all of your garlic here - if you want more of a bite, you can add some later.) Add a largish dab of tomato sauce and let it brown a little. Add in the dried oregano and stir all of it together briefly.

                            Using canned tomatoes, dice them and add it to the pot. Add red pepper flakes, pepper, fresh basil, and a clove or two of crushed garlic. Check seasoning and adjust. Bring to a high simmer until reduced by 1/4 or 1/3. For a smooth sauce, blend gently in an blender, with an immersion blender or in a food mill.

                            In a separate pan, sear or fry the meat and add to the pot. For a meatier tasting sauce, add some beef stock. Mushrooms can also be added now as well. I like to sear the mushrooms before they go in at a very high temp with very little fat but that's a personal thing. Check seasoning, remove and replace basil, and simmer on low for about 20 minutes.

                            I'm assuming you're using hamburger. If using cubed meat, you will need to add it earlier and simmer it longer (you won't need the stock). Mushrooms again will go in at the end for the final simmer.

                            Sure hope this works - I'm really bad with measurements or writing a recipe! My best advice is to taste and adjust. Please let me know if you make it and how it works out.

                            1. re: alwayscooking

                              Okay, so in the first step, am I "frying" the soffrito in olive oil? Also, can you add the tomato paste after the garlic/onions have carmelized to brown it or does that have to happen before or separately?

                              Also, in your recipe you used sauce and canned tomatoes - what exactly is the difference taste wise with all the various permutations of tomatoes?

                              1. re: cups123

                                Opps (and thanks for the clarifying questions!):

                                - The onion, garlic, salt and pepper are slowly sauteed/'fried' at a low temp in olive oil.
                                - When the soffrito has cooked, push it aside and add the paste in a cleared area in the pan to brown
                                - I reference 'sauce' after the canned tomatoes have been added (I hope). When the ingredients have all been added it officially becomes 'sauce' (or for those who want to argue - "gravy", etc)
                                - I prefer whole San Marzano or Pastene Kitchen Classic tomatoes in the can for a simmered sauce. I then dice them. I've had arguments with others about using crushed or diced tomatoes in the can - I think the whole tomatoes taste more like tomatoes (silly to think that this would cause a disagreement!)

                                Please ask away and remember to taste as you go. The flavors you want at the end will be there at the beginning - just a tad a more forward and bold.

                                1. re: alwayscooking

                                  I've always used San Marzano canned toms until I was visiting my sister in a small NM town and the only toms (at the Wal Mart) were Del Monte. Well, I had just read a taste test saying they were great, so I tried them. Just as fabulous!

                                  Btw, I use carrot/onion/celery to start, usually throw in a few red peppers and garlic, then simmer away. Watch the sugar/sodium content in canned toms when seasoning.

                                  1. re: dpnpt

                                    I honestly use what I have. I guess the standard is like yours dpnpt, very classic, but sometimes just onion, garlic and tomatoes, sometimes white wine, sometimes not.

                                    I guess I am never one to follow or make thing the same time after time. But I think the sauce should match what else you are making. I had some great Italian sausage my friend had made fresh and gave me. Being a bit spicy and sweet I decided to make a sauce with a little balsamic, red wine, carrots, celery, onion and a little fennel. I was great. But I had a 4 cheese ravioli a few weeks ago and basically used tomatoes, garlic, onion and nothing more. Just some seasoning and simple. I am making shrimp again tonight because I have some fresh shrimp am I am using parsley, white wine, fresh tomatoes, fresh mushrooms, shallots, and garlic. A basic sauce for the most part. Add the shrimp and serve over angle hair pasta and top with fresh basil and parm. Three relatively generic spaghetti sauce but 3 different version.

                                    For meatballs, probably, tomatoes, onions, garlic, fresh herbs and a little red wine. Most often that is what I would use. Parm of course.

                            2. re: cups123

                              After I brown my meat in a little oil, i usually drain all but maybe a tablespoon of oil and cook a sm can of paste until it carmelizes and gets the flavor of the meat up then add that to my whole, crushed tomatoes. the flavor it adds to the sauce is just wonderful.

                              1. re: caseylou

                                Agree, if I have some paste (usually those tubes) I add a little. I does add richness)

                                1. re: caseylou

                                  caseylou - I'm starting to wonder if we're related! the ravioli, the braciole and now the paste - we did the same thing with the tomato paste!

                            3. Here's Anne Burrell's recipe from her FoodTV show:

                              If you do try it, please let us know how it turned out.

                              1. Mine may be different, but I will throw it in. I use a good canned tomato, a good San Marzano, garlic, olive oil,
                                onion fine chopped, tomato paste, yes a little red wine, fresh basil and parsley and dried oregano. My standard. I love it every time and so easy. I do add a dash of sugar to just sweeten but not too much. Also red pepper for some dishes. Salt and pepper always to taste.

                                If fresh, olive oil, garlic, onion and fresh chopped tomatoes, I don't peel and don't mind the peel. For some sauces I do blanch the tomatoes first and peel but not normally, then add the paste, some wine and seasoning same as above and let simmer.

                                I may be old school or new school. But that is my standard sauce. It is plain, simple classic to me, great and everyone always asks me for the recipe.

                                Just my 2 cents, I know it isn't traditional but it is great and for 30 years have made it this way.

                                1. Olive oil. Minced garlic. In the pot. When garlic is golden pour in a 28 oz. can of Italian tomatoes. (For reference I use Pastene Kitchen Ready). Add a little salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Let that simmer for about 15 minutes then add either fresh sliced basil or crushed dry and a bit of red pepper flakes to your liking. In the meantime you have thrown your pasta into boiling water and when the pasta is al dente & drained the sauce is ready. Grate either Pecorino Romano or Pamigiano Reggiano over each serving and mangia. If you want to you can add some minced Italian parsley over as well.

                                  This is my family's basic sauce. There are infinite variations....

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: Gio

                                    I think our families knew one another ... I love the basic sauce like that. I do like some dried oregano, but pretty close.

                                    To me that is the perfect sauce ... and yes a million variations ... even me, I change mine according to what I'm serving, what pasta and what is in my fridge.

                                    1. re: kchurchill5

                                      Yes.... sometimes dry or fresh in season from my garden oregano. Also, sometimes I fry some pancetta in EVOO then remove from pan, add minced garlic, etc. then everything else and add back the pancetta at the end. Infinite variations. Buon appetito!!

                                      1. re: Gio

                                        I like the pancetta, I add that to my bolognese too, but in the spaghetti, nice addition.

                                    2. re: Gio

                                      Gio, Are your tomatoes crushed or whole?

                                      1. re: cassoulady

                                        The tomatoes are crushed. The company calls them "Kitchen Ready." My family has been using these tomatoes since the Pastene company was founded back in 1848 in the North End of Boston. The tomatoes are not overly acidic and make a very nice sauce whether it's a marinara or other...

                                    3. On a totally separate note, I made spaghetti sauce with GROUND TURKEY for the first time (instead of beef) and to me at least, it tasted so much better!! I had my doubts but used it for health reasons, and it was just delicious! It adds a very different but dynamic flavor..I highly recommend it!

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: cups123

                                        I eat turkey a lot in sauce and meatballs. Just as good to me. I highly recommend it. Good for you.

                                        1. re: cups123

                                          yeah, I like turkey, too. It's kind of sweet compared to beef.

                                        2. I recently made my hubby's mom's famous sauce and without giving away the family recipe, two things make a huge difference (as I've never really been thrilled with any red sauce): a layer on top of chopped fresh basil (that's how she measured) and a couple carrots to cut the acid (take them out later) - I added my own touch to the recipe by adding finely grated carrots (maybe less then a cup). Time is important - let that baby go all day.

                                          1. I start by deeply browning ground Italian sausage and ground beef, then stirring the garlic and onion into the meat and rendered fat until they soften and become translucent. Push aside and brown some tomato paste, then add the canned tomato, herbs, and any other vegetables (mushrooms, bell pepper, sometimes carrot, zucchini, and/or celery). I like a sweet sauce but don't add sugar until it's nearly done, because the vegetables add sweetness as they cook. If adding grated cheese to the sauce, it goes in at the end of cooking so it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot.

                                            My sauce would horrify a genuine Itallian cook, but it sounds like your idea of spaghetti sauce isn't "kosher", either. An authentic sauce would have fewer ingredients and probably no onion. I've had them and don't care for them. In summer, I use a very small amount of diced pancetta instead of sausage and beef, and load the sauce with eggplant, mushrooms, and other vegetables, all shredded. This creates a thick sauce, with the eggplant and mushrooms contributing a meaty texture that is very satisfying.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: greygarious

                                              Greygarious, when you shred eggplant, are you peeling it first? Is it diced or are you really shredding it? I love eggplant.

                                              1. re: cassoulady

                                                No, I don't peel it. I use the fine-shred blade of my Börner V-Slicer, so it's a julienne but I think the coarse shred side of a box grater would also do. I started doing this last summer, when the eggplants were young (hence, less bitterness and fewer seeds). Used the same julienne for the carrots, zucchini, celery, and peppers, and the thin-slice blade for paper-thin rings of onion. The long pieces give the sauce a lot of body. I am enough of a carnivore that I would not be happy with a meatless sauce. The 4 oz of pancetta to 4 quarts of sauce isn't much, but browning intensifies the flavor, and with the "meaty" texture of eggplant and mushroom I am totally satisfied. Because it's loaded with eggplant, onion, and other vegetables, a lot of liquid is released, so I use mostly tomato paste, plus diced fresh tomato. It's a take-off from the Eggplant& Pepper Tomato Sauce in the CH recipe section. And, off-topic but the Stir-Fried Roasted Eggplant in Deborah Madison's "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone" is the best eggplant dish I've had. It includes tomato and can double as a chunky pasta sauce.

                                            2. I agree with everything that has been said here. The two key elements of my favorite red sauce are canned italian tomatoes (like San Marzano) you won't believe the difference if you smell/taste them side by side with a generic U.S. brand. I did this and it was a big "Ah Ha" moment in replicating a really good sauce. Also, simmering for a very long time is key. I simmer my sauce for a minimum of two hours, this weekend it was more like 5 hours. Finally one of my favorite additions is about 1/2 cup of quality balsamic vinegar. The depth of flavor and sweetness from the balsamic makes a wonderful sauce. Hope this helps! I'm going to write about the whole process and put the recipe online with photos this Friday.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: Phoo_d

                                                I usually fry my meat in oil ,sweet italian sausage, a few pieces of pork, and homemade meatballs just to brown the outside. Then I usually use 4 cans of San Marzano whole tomatoes (crush by hand), to 3 cans of crushed tomatoes. to 1 small can of contadina tomato paste. I know contadina paste comes in different flavors but I use the plain. Then I add the meat to the tomatoes, take a handful of grated locetelli cheese, mince up some( a handful) of fresh basil and let cook. Maybe 5 hours. Start med high to get going then reduce the heat to med. It will just get thicker the more you simmer it down. You will be able to see when its starts getting thick when its done. Make sure you stir the sauce from time to time while its cooking so it doesn't stick on the bottom especially in the beginning when you get the heat up. This amount usually makes enough for 4-5 meals. Freeze until ready to use.
                                                (Just my preference, I know a lot of people add oregano but unless you really like oregano, it sometimes reminds me of pizza sauce so I don't add it)

                                                1. re: Phoo_d

                                                  thanks for the tip! the balsamic vinegar made my so-so sauce SO much better!

                                                  1. re: ellenjean12

                                                    Hi Ellen - That's terrific! I'm glad that it worked for you. Sometimes I even put a little balsamic in the meatballs for extra flavor. It's great stuff!

                                                2. My two cents. I never use ground beef, rather hot Italian sausage (sweet is fine also). Also picked up a tip from Batali and I only slice my garlic now. I like the flavor better. There's also the Hazan tomato sauce (chow thread below)


                                                  It's so delicious as a base, it needs nothing else but you can always build on. We all seem to eat it out of the pot :


                                                  I pretty much always had some (1/2 cup?) red wine.

                                                  1. I would start the onion first, and then add the garlic later so as not to burn it. Also add a bunch of finely chopped parsley here.

                                                    1. I generally used canned tomatoes and the rest of the juice in the can and break the tomatoes up with a potato masher--not a lot, just a little bit. I saute garlic run through a garlic press, coarsely chopped onions, and coarsely chop green bell peppers. I undersaute in the frying pan because the vegetables are going to soften after they are put in the sauce and I want them to have some texture left.

                                                      The flavorings I add to the tomato sauce (in a large saucepan or pot) are usually garlic (already in with the vegetables--but see below), dried oregano, dried basil, chopped fresh basil (added at the last minute), allspice, salt and pepper. Unless I am cooking meatballs with the sauce, I try to only cook the sauce for about ten minutes after it comes to a simmer--and continue to simmer, don't boil. If you cook the tomato sauce longer than 10 minutes or so, I find that the longer cooking time dulls the flavors, especially the tomato flavor.

                                                      Okay, now for heresy. I add a couple of tablespoons of ketchup about three minutes before I am going to finish simmering. Also, I find that the cooking sometimes mutes the garlic so much that I squeeze a couple more cloves, though a garlic press, into the approximately three quarts of the tomato sauce that I am making. Yeah, the garlic is raw and I'll keep tasting the sauce until it seems right to me, but it doesn't take very long. As noted above, about the time I stop cooking the sauce, I will add the fresh basil.

                                                      1. There needs to be *some* type of sweetness to reduce the acidity of the tomatoes. Ideally, if you use tomato paste (I believe this to be a must for a great, rich sauce), give it a fry (don't burn) in olive oil to caramelize, thus bringing in natural sweetness; Otherwise, use some wine. Lastly, if natural sugars aren't available, use about 1/4 teaspoon of table sugar. It's amazing what that small amount of sweet will do to smooth out the flavors.

                                                        1. I know what you mean re: missing that 'perfect' flavor... for me, the aha step was adding about 1 - 2 tsp of anchovy paste along with the tomato paste after browning my onions/etc. I also find adding 1 c wine or vodka (recudce by half then add your tomatoes) really draws out the flavors and gives the sauce amazing depth. ditto the other posters - the longer you can let the sauce cook, the better.

                                                          1. To cut the acid - a bit of honey. Very good indeed!

                                                            1. I add a half cup vodka to the sauce 5 minutes before I take it off the stove, and it makes all the flavors go POP. I didn't even have to use any red pepper last time like I usually do, and it had a great kick from the pepper, which I sprinkled over the onions while they were alone in the oil with the garlic. You don't taste the vodka, but you taste EVERYTHING else. It's like pasketti sauce nitrous :D

                                                              1. Fennel seed, ranging from whole to coarsely pestled.

                                                                Dried oregano, dried basil

                                                                Chopped parsley stems.

                                                                More garlic, raw, than Dracula could shake a stake at. I usually do the garlic and parsley stems in the small food processor. Bell peppers chopped in same: that and a pinch of sugar to honor my mom's original recipe.

                                                                Caramelized tomato paste and hand crushed whole canned tomatoes.

                                                                Bulk sausage and ground beef 50/50, browned.

                                                                Fish sauce and/or anchovies.

                                                                Simmer in huge pot, using flat wooden spoon to keep bottom from scorching, for 3 hours at least, adding water as needed for your preferred viscosity. Then allow to cool overnight , remove fat layer at top, and transfer to quart ziplocs for freezer. This is a semi-annual bulk recipe to provide quick nuking. Made in spring and fall where the back porch serves as overnight cooler at 25 degrees. Chicken stock is made in bulk with same phenology.

                                                                1. Though I typically make a slow-simmered meat sauce with canned tomato, during harvest season I enjoy a quick sauce made with pancetta, scallion or leek, yellow tomato (fresh chunks or whole yellow cherry), and red bell pepper. The rest of the ingredients are the usual suspects - garlic, basil, cheese, etc. It's not cooked for long, so the tomato remains chunky. I make this because although the taste is not unusual, it has great visual appeal.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: greygarious

                                                                    My friend gives me bags of yellows. I love them. Try a light vodka cream sauce. Really good with the sweet yellow. I use scallions and red pepper, basil and pecorrino usually for a little tang and garlic of course. What a great dish over a spinach pasta for some contrast. The last time I found a great tomato past which I used which was a great flavor. Also you can put some fresh spinach in with the pasta the last 30 seconds, drain and then top with the sauce and fresh grated cheese. The fresh arugula or spinach gives a great flavor to the pasta along with the fresh sauce.

                                                                  2. I really love pasta. And I'm only 18 but here's the recipe I use when I make spaghetti:

                                                                    Saute minced garlic and chopped white onion in a small pan with olive oil. Add to a pot that's simmering with:

                                                                    26 oz can of del monte spaghetti sauce, usually the garlic and herb kind
                                                                    6 oz can of tomato sauce, usually contadina
                                                                    8 oz can of crushed tomatoes

                                                                    Add spices (oregano, salt/pepper of course, parsley, and a bay leaf or two. No basil, as I absolutely detest it). Add browned ground beef and cook on the stove until you're ready to eat. Sometimes I'll put a small can of mushrooms in too.

                                                                    If I'm lucky I'll wake up in the morning and put it in a crock pot so it can simmer all day while I go to class. If i'm too lazy for that I let it simmer for about 30 minutes. I use the same sauce to make lasagna.

                                                                    And, curiously, I've never added sugar or a potato/carrot to cut the acidity. Granted I love things like salt and vinegar chips, olives, pickles, etc so that might just be my tastes.

                                                                    Not the most pure or classy form of spaghetti sauce, maybe, but it's easy, tasty and cheap for a college student. Also freezes fantastically.

                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                    1. re: speakhandsforme

                                                                      Creative in the kitchen at 18?

                                                                      You will be amazing in a few years. Keep up experimenting and get a couple of really good cookbooks, Julia, Marcella, Jacques, just to name a few. :)

                                                                      1. re: speakhandsforme

                                                                        You might also like the Marcella Hazan sauce that is just tomatoes, butter and an onion. Also very easy, and does freeze well. One can of (San Marzano) tomatoes, chopped up, into a pan with an onion peeled and cut in half and 6 T of butter. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to a bare simmer for about 40 minutes. Fabulous with just basil, or some basil and chopped up mozzarella.

                                                                        1. re: speakhandsforme

                                                                          That sounds great, but why not cook the beef right in with the sauce? Or brown it first and then cook the onion and garlic in the rendered fat. Don't want to waste those tasty beef juices. I wish I'd been more like you in college -- we got better by the end, but our idea of home cooking was Tuna Helper.

                                                                        2. Wow, What an Interesting Thread !!

                                                                          I usually start out by sautéing a goodly amount of onion, garlic, and chopped up celery in olive oil. I like to watch cooking shows; Lidia B., also starts out by carmelizing a bit of tomato paste along with the vegetables. San Marzano tomatoes, either canned or fresh (I have raise San Marzanos in the garden). A splash of a good hot-sauce at the very end of cooking.

                                                                          I also like the flavor of meat in the sauce, so make meatballs/Italian sausage and fry them.....along with any fond from the bottom of the pan. When I don't have the meat to add, any left-over meat gravy in your fridge will go very well.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: Lisbet

                                                                            This is a recipe I have used but have put in some of my own touches:
                                                                            800g good, tinned plum tomatoes or ripe fresh ones. If using fresh they must be perfectly ripe.
                                                                            2 tbsp best olive oil
                                                                            1 small onion, finely chopped. Red or 'sweet'.
                                                                            2 garlic cloves, crushed
                                                                            1 tsp cane/Demerara sugar. I've used molasses and liked the end result.
                                                                            Dash of red-wine vinegar. Tiny pinch of baking soda. Pinch of Kosher salt.
                                                                            Some stems of fresh basil. Amount depends on how much you like basil. A few stems are enough if you just want an undertone of their flavour.
                                                                            Slow simmer lid off until thickened.
                                                                            Make sure to sieve out the skins/seeds/basil stems/garlic pieces.
                                                                            Finish with a T of ghee. The milk solids in table butter and tomatoes do not play well together IMO. Stir al dente pasta into the sauce. The pasta ought to just barely absorb the sauce. Add in a bit of the pasta water if the consistency gets too thick.
                                                                            The finished dish, believe it or not should look like you've dumped a can full of Chef Boyardee on the plate then given it a nice twist. Don't forget the grated PR and a light sprinkle of chili flakes and fresh ground pepper.
                                                                            There should be no pasta sauce swimming on the plate.
                                                                            Serve on HOT plates.

                                                                          2. You have to burn the tomato paste in a good olive oil. This is the first step to a perfectly flavored sauce!, try it!

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: JohnSkrynski

                                                                              I have tried it.
                                                                              I don't think "burn" is quite the right word.
                                                                              Perhaps 'scorch'.
                                                                              "Burnt" OO isn't going to taste very nice IMO.
                                                                              Each to their own right?

                                                                            2. Put in a good sized lump of fresh butter AT THE END! This butter will have nothing to do with Hazan's 'frying' butter.

                                                                              (And there's a lot of good tasting tomatoes out there than the exorbitantly priced San Marco.)