The Art of Spaghetti Sauce

I decided to make spaghetti & meatballs for everyone tonight. And I don't cheap out and do jars of spaghetti sauce when I do it. I am doing the all day cooking thing. I went to Whole Foods and bought tomatoes, and ground beef and all that stuff. As I was starting the cooking process, I decided to write my rules of making my sauce. They are very flexible for the most part and you can get retty creative with it as long as you follow some basics.

  • The first thing to to buy the best ingredients you can find. If you can't get good ripe fresh tomatoes, use canned, it's what I usually do anyway.
  • Tomato paste is your friend (I'm using 3 cans of it today--I like it thick & chunky).
  • Dried herbs at the beginning, fresh at the end.
  • It's really easy to chop garlic in a blender, or just smash it.
  • Choose your ingredients based on what you like, and what you think will go together. Don't leave out onions just because someone doesn't like onions. The only time you should take their opinion into consideration is if they have actual allergies, like mushrooms, or peppers, or whatever.
  • When using fresh tomatoes, PEEL them. Otherwise you will have skins stuck in your teeth, and it gets disgusting. You can do thing by boiling a big pot of water, sticking a fork into a tomato and dipping it into the water for 5-10 seconds. You will see the skin start to peel back from where the fork is sticking into it. With the fork still in it, use a paper towel to grab at the skin and slide it off. It should come off easily. If it does not, dip it back into the water for a few more second. Be careful of course, as the water, and the tomato, are hot.
  • When using canned tomatoes, never buy tomato "Sauce." This has spices in it, and is liquid-y, and does not leave you a lot of room to play. If you want a smoother sauce, go for a tomato puree, but check to see that it's seedless. Make sure you read labels. I buy Diced tomatoes. if you want something smoother, buy Petite Diced, Del Monte makes it, and probably other. I usually go for large diced and whole tomatoes. I use a combination because that way you get a few really large chunks and some more bite-size chunks. All of these come with liquid. I try to get organic, but it's not always available. The only problem with the whole tomatoes (and the reason I don't use those exclusively), is that they still have seeds. The Diced are usually seedless.
  • Use Onion.
  • Use lots of Garlic.
  • Use lots and lots of herbs like basil and oregano.
  • Beyond tomato, garlic, onion and herbs, you can add pretty much whatever you want:
    • ground beef
    • sausage
    • clams and/or clam juice
    • green peppers
    • mushrooms
    • broccoli
    • anchovies
    • melt in cheese
    • chunks of roasted garlic
    • It's pretty much just limited by your imagination

  • The way I always start is by sautéing the onion & garlic (and mushrooms and peppers, etc), then I add meat or meat juices (if a clam sauce). This is the only point I salt anything until the very end. If I'm not adding meat, which I usually don't, I add a can of tomato paste and some juice from a can of diced tomatoes. Then I add whole tomatoes first, so I can cut them a bit with whatever spoon or stirrer I'm using (always wood) against the side or bottom of the pot. Then spices: dried basil, oregano, and Italian seasoning. Diced tomatoes get stirred in, and then the whole thing simmers for a while. At some point meatballs get made and thrown in. You can add any other liquids, wine, vinegar, more clam juice, based on taste and texture at this point. Stir in any fresh herbs then throw over pasta.

Play with the texture and ingredients. I figured out a new sauce today with onion, 2 cans of tomato paste, and a large can of diced tomatoes with a bunch of spices. It'd be really good as a super chunky Arabiatta sauce.

And don't forget the garlic bread...

Question of the Day: What's your favorite kind of pasta?

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