I love Italian food! In fact, spaghetti with my mom’s homemade sauce is still what I ask Mom to make every year for my birthday dinner- and that has been my request almost every year since I was a little girl.
So, imagine my dilemma when I found out that my husband, Tim, really did not care for Italian dishes- particularly red sauce. He’s not a picky eater. But, he’s fairly adamant about this.
Well, for the first half of our marriage, I really did not fix very much “red sauce” meals other than the occasional lasagna or homemade sauce when I just really really craved some beloved Italian, but I knew he wasn’t enjoying those meals.
But then, a year or two ago, I decided that I was going to try to come up with a sauce that he enjoyed- so we could both be happy. Surely I could change his mind with the right recipe!
So, after playing with it a little bit, I came up with this fresh sauce. Tim now ASKS me to make it and loves eating it! Woo-Hoo!!!! Welcome back to the table, Spaghetti!
I either use tomatoes directly from our garden, or in the fall and winter, I use tomatoes that I have preserved by freezing. (you could also use canned, if that’s all you have available.) This sauce is not a thick sauce like you might find in the bottled variety. It is much thinner, due to the fact that I only use tomatoes- no prepackaged tomato sauce or paste. It is also very full of meat- ground beef in our case, though you could also use sausage, if that’s what your prefer. Other fresh ingredients like peppers, fresh herbs, garlic and onion also add delicious flavor.
Every now and then, I might play around with a different sauce, like this Roasted Tomato Sauce, but this one here is definitely my go-to and favorite. It also makes great left-overs, since the flavors have all that time to meld together even more.
Please note, too, that sauces are one of those things that might take different amounts of ingredients each time- and you can add more or less of something to make it better fit your tastes. But the amounts I’ve included here on the blog, are a good standard to start with. Add as you see fit for your family!
A homemade sauce is a labor of love. It does take more than 20 minutes to whip together. Allow at least an hour to let it simmer. And depending on where you are starting in the process with the tomatoes, allow another 30 minutes-1 hour to put it together.
Here’s what you need:
- 4 cups of chopped up or crushed tomatoes- or 1 qt. size bag of preserved tomatoes. (I begin with a colander full of fresh tomatoes that I think will give me about 4 cups once I’ve removed the skins and crushed up) OR if you are going the canned route- you could use 2 16 oz. cans of diced or whole or crushed tomatoes.
- 1 to 1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
- 1 medium onion, chopped fine
- 1 or 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- Olive Oil
- 2 cups water
- 1 1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
- 1/4- 1/2 tsp. chili powder
- 2 Tbs. fresh herbs, chopped fine (approx. 2 tsp. Basil, 1 tsp. Thyme, 1 tsp. Parsely, 2 tsp. Oregano) or dried Italian seasoning
- 1 small green pepper, diced
- Fresh Parmesan Cheese, finely grated
First- if you are beginning with tomatoes fresh from the garden, you are going to need to remove the skins. Start with Step 1. If you are starting with canned or preserved tomatoes, you can skip to step 2.
Step 1:. Boil a pot of water. When boiling, add your fresh tomatoes and allow to simmer in the water for 1 minute. Remove from the pot and transfer immediately to a bowl of ice water. One by one, remove the tomatoes and remove the skin. It should slide right off.
Chop around the core add add the tomatoes to a colander over a bowl that will catch any liquid that drains from the tomatoes while you are working. When you finish chopping the tomatoes- you want to have about 4 cups.
Step 2: Transfer them to a food processor and blend until the tomatoes are smooth. You will notice I did not remove seeds. I don’t find the seeds to be very noticeable in the finished sauce, and they certainly do not change the taste. So, I never remove the seeds, which saves time and tomato.
You want to end up with 4 cups of crushed up tomatoes.
Set these aside.
Step 3: In a large saute pan, add about 2 Tbs. oil. Brown the ground beef and chopped up onion in the oil. When half-way browned, add the mined garlic. When completely browned, drain.
Step 4: Add the meat back to the same pan and pour in the tomatoes, water, green pepper, and the spices and seasonings.
Now all the sauce has to do is simmer for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Stir occasionally. After the sauce has cooked for 20 minutes or so, taste it and check your seasonings. Adjust as needed.
When the sauce is almost finished, sprinkle in a little freshly grated Parmesan cheese, if you like.
The sauce will thicken and darken in color as it cooks.
If the sauce seems to be getting too thick, you can always add more water and continue to cook.
I usually do add an additional 1/2- 1 cup of water.
Serve over Whole Wheat Pasta and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese for a delicious dinner!