A tale of two spaghetti sauces

I made two pasta sauces in the past two weeks.

The first was Marcela Hazan’s tomato sauce with onion and butter, adapted from her book Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, discovered via Smitten Kitchen. Here’s the rough guide:

  1. Peel an onion and cut it in half.
  2. Throw it in a heavy pot with a 28 oz can of tomatoes and 5 tsp. of butter (slightly more than half a stick).  Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally and crushing the tomatoes against the side of the pot until the ingredients turn into sauce (35-40 minutes).  Keep an eye on it – it cooks a bit faster than you think.
  3. Remove the onion and discard it.  Or chop it up eat it in the kitchen or serve it at the table and use fresh bread to pick up sauce-covered onion chunks.  It just doesn’t go in the sauce when you put it on the pasta.
  4. Serve over 1 lb. cooked pasta with grated parmesan to taste.

It was amazing.  I see why every food blogger in the Western Hemisphere has gone apeshit over this simple sauce and used the words “light” and “rich.”  It brings out the flavor of the tomatoes.  I think it would work great on something like gnocchi, where you don’t want to overburden things.

Today I made a “kitchen sink” sauce with way more ingredients and steps.

  1. Brown 1 lb of ground beef and 1 lb hot italian sausage in a heavy pot until no longer pink.  Drain and set aside.
  2. Cook an onion slowly over low heat until translucent and golden.  Add 8 cloves of crushed garlic and cook until mellow.
  3. Throw the ground meat back in with the onion and garlic.  Add about 1 tsp dried oregano, 1/2 tsp dried basil leaves, 1/2 tsp dried thyme, 1/2 tsp of dried rosemary, and a dash of crushed red pepper.
  4. Add 1.5 cups red wine, 2 tbsp. tomato paste, and a 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes.
  5. Add 1 lb sliced mushrooms that have been sauteed in a little bit of butter or olive oil.
  6. Bring to a boil, then cook over a low heat for 3 hours.  Add 1 tbsp. of sugar to take the edge off.
  7. Salt and pepper to taste before serving over pasta.

This makes a TON of sauce – I’m eating some of it with spaghetti tonight and freezing a bunch.  Maybe I’ll make a lasgagna with it.  It came out really good – meaty, dark, hearty.  But of the two I think I prefer the three ingredient version.

What’s your can’t-miss sauce recipe?

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One response to “A tale of two spaghetti sauces

  1. My mother makes the best spaghetti sauce I’ve ever had, though I’m sure that’s partly because I grew up with it. Her recipe says it came from the LA Times, but I just looked around online and couldn’t find it. This is my estimated recreation:

    1. Very finely chop an onion, green pepper, a couple sticks of celery, and some fresh garlic (we put it in a food processor thing, it’s still chopped though, not pureed). Cook all the veggies in some olive oil until soft.

    2. Add two #10 cans of tomatoes, one sauce and one whole or sliced. Can you tell we make this in vats?

    3. Add plenty of basil, oregano, and pepper to taste, along with a couple bay leaves and some red wine. Let simmer as long as you’d like — we keep it on the stove on low for a couple hours.

    Sized down… probably 1/4 onion, 1/2 pepper, 1 stick celery, and the can-size that fits in your hand (I am completely blanking on size… 10 oz? 28?). The veggies give it a nice texture as well as flavor, and herbs/wine are easily adjusted. If eyeballing measurements is a good cooking strategy for you I’d say go with that.

    Serve over pasta, bread, in lasagna, on pizza, in a bowl with cheese… It’s delicious and freezes well, hence cooking in bulk — it’s a bit of work, but gives you dinner once a week for a few months.

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