Sunday, October 11, 2009

Spaghetti sauce from a jar? Bite your tongue.

I've noticed that lately, the prepared food ads don't say "good as homemade" anymore. They say "good as restaurant food" or "better than restaurant food." When did that happen? One of the most common "good as homemade" accolades used to go to spaghetti sauce in a jar, but I can tell you, nothing is as good as homemade.

Now, full disclosure, I'm a big fan of jar spaghetti sauce. We always called it "fake spaghetti" and it was a quick, almost-like-homemade meal for those nights when you just can't bring yourself to cook and you don't want to spend money on pizza. I remember my daughter, I think it was, showing me some p.r. puff piece or column (sometimes it's hard to tell the difference) about moms "heating up the Ragu in a pot" and putting it on spaghetti. Amateurs. The real moms cook the spaghetti and just dump the Ragu onto it straight out of the jar. The hot spaghetti heats it up just fine. Oy.

But nothing beats homemade.

Spaghetti with meat sauce

1 6 oz can pure tomato paste
1 8 oz can whole peeled tomatoes

1/2 pound chopped beef
1 half medium onion, diced
1 large green pepper, diced
10-15 medium mushrooms diced
2-3 medium garlic cloves, smashed or pressed
dried oregano, salt, pepper to taste

In a medium frying pan or 2-quart saucepan, brown the chopped beef, don't worry if the pan gets a little browned too. Do not drain the fat off (the fat gives it flavor, and also releases the essential oils in the herbs). Add a couple tablespoons of olive oil, let that heat up, then add the diced vegetables. Add the oregano (couple three tablespoons?) and some salt and pepper. I like dried herbs for spaghetti sauce. Saute until the onion is starting to go translucent, then add the tomato paste. Scrape back the meat/veggies and let the tomato paste brown just a little, then add the whole tomatoes, about 1/2 cup of red wine and a cup of water. Browning the tomato paste gives the sauce a nice flavor.

Simmer down to a thick sauce and spoon hot over your pasta of choice.

You can make a sauce your own by experimenting with other flavorings like cinnamon or orange zest.

Sprinkle with commercial parmesan from a jar, or grate your own parmesan or romano. Serve with a nice chianti. By candlelight.


  1. I used to cook the spaghetti and then mix in the Ragu which was heated separately. That is until the trick you mention popped into my head.

  2. My kids used to look for evidence of my terribleness as a mother, which they would then brag about.