I have a confession (or perhaps I’m confessing for my mother, too – sorry, Mom!): we never made homemade spaghetti sauce in my house growing up. Not that I recall, at least. What I do remember are the jars of Prego, and then Classico brand later on in my childhood, a tradition I continued in my own home over the last dozen or so years. I thought homemade sauce was the purview of big Italian families (and called gravy, right?) who probably make sauce as part of a weekly tradition. I, on the other hand, only recently tried my hand at making my first batch of red sauce. And you know what? It was delicious! And pretty cheap, even with all organic ingredients. So I decided to try again, tweaking some of the ingredients and methodology and making a much larger batch so I could freeze it and save some for later. I love having this sauce at the ready for a simple pasta dish, lasagna and more. I even tossed a scoop into my meatloaf recipe (in lieu of processed ketchup) while the sauce was still simmering on the stovetop!
Homemade Spaghetti Sauce
Makes about 4.5 quarts (9 pints)
- 4 T good quality extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 large carrot, diced
- 1 stalk of celery, diced
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 28-oz. cans of whole peeled plum tomatoes
- 2 28-oz. cans of crushed tomatoes (or tomato puree)
- 1 6-oz. can of tomato paste
- 2 t. dried oregano
- 2 t. dried basil (you could use a 1/4 cup or so of chopped fresh basil)
- 1 1/2 t. dried marjoram
- 1 t. dried thyme
- 1-2 t. red pepper flakes (optional)
- salt and pepper to taste
Heat a large stock pot on your stove over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pot and sauté the carrot, celery and onion for a few minutes until the vegetables soften.
Add the garlic and sauté another minute, stirring constantly.
Pour the two cans of whole peeled tomatoes into a bowl and squeeze them with your hands to mash them up. I forgot to do this before pouring them in this time around, so I simply used my wooden spoon to smash them in the pot. Trust me, it’s easier to squish them up before you start the cooking process.
Add the 4 cans of tomatoes plus two cans of water, as well as the tomato paste, dried herbs, black pepper and remaining two tablespoons of olive oil. Use my Aunt Jean’s tip for adding the water – fill each empty tomato can halfway with water and then pour in the pot. That way, you get every bit of tomato-y goodness out of every can. And you can always remember when increasing or decreasing the amount of sauce you’re making, it’s always one 1/2 can of water to every full can of tomatoes.
Bring the sauce to a strong simmer over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low, maintaining a good simmer. After about an hour or so of simmering, the tomatoes will be pretty well broken down. (You can always take a potato masher and break up any remaining large pieces).
Simmer the sauce for at least 4 hours, or up to 6 hours or so. Continue to stir the sauce frequently while it’s simmering and becomes nice and rich and thick.
Toss with your favorite pasta and serve immediately or let the sauce cool and then save it in jars in the refrigerator (it will keep for several days) or store it in the freezer for later.