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Old 03-27-2005, 09:32 PM   #1
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Spaghetti Sauce Recipe: Your Thoughts/Feedback/Suggestions

Do alot of you guys make your own spaghetti sauces? I recently started making one of my own, and have had mixed results. Just curious what kind of a base you use, what herbs you add, if it's worth the time to make from scratch, etc. Just spaghetti sauce talk. Also, what is different from spaghetti sauce and marinara sauce? Is it just semantics?

Here is what im using now, if you have any ways to tweak, let me know!

2 can crushed tomatoes 14.5 oz
1 can tomato paste 6 oz (not sure the little can)
fresh basil , 1 bunch, the little pack of leaves
a few garlic cloves
crushed sea salt and crushed black pepper
1 pound ground beef
1 medium onion finely chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil

i sautee the onion in olive oil until soft, and brown the meat, then i stir them both in sauce, and simmer on low for 45 minutes. I add the basil towards the end of the sauce cooking.

Any comments or ideas? Can i saute the onion and hamburger in same pan?

All of your feedback on spaghetti sauce is appreciated!

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Old 03-27-2005, 09:54 PM   #2
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Yours seems like a good basic recipe.

IMO the key to good sauce is the tomatoes. Personally, I don't use crushed tomatoes, as the less they are processed the better they taste. I use whole, peeled ones. I crush them myself with the fingers. Also, San Marzano tomatoes(from Italy, not the USA) cost more but are IMO very worth it. Muir Glen brand tomatoes are good, too.

I usually use my own dried basil in sauce, as it has a stronger taste. And oregano, too.

How do you use the garlic?
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Old 03-27-2005, 10:12 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jennyema
Yours seems like a good basic recipe.

IMO the key to good sauce is the tomatoes. Personally, I don't use crushed tomatoes, as the less they are processed the better they taste. I use whole, peeled ones. I crush them myself with the fingers. Also, San Marzano tomatoes(from Italy, not the USA) cost more but are IMO very worth it. Muir Glen brand tomatoes are good, too.

I usually use my own dried basil in sauce, as it has a stronger taste. And oregano, too.

How do you use the garlic?
I use a garlic press, and i just squeeze 3-4 cloves in the sauce once it starts simmering. Ive heard, and seen, people sautee the garlic in the olive oil with the onion, but i tried this and the garlic burnt. Any hints from you i'd love. First time on a cooking board, and i just got seriously into cooking about 4 months ago.

About how many Roma tomatoes should i smash up to make my own sauce? Are Roma better for sauce than the normal style? Thanks for your replies in advance friend.
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Old 03-27-2005, 10:17 PM   #4
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jennyema pretty much said everything i was gonna say. all i can add:

do you cover the pot, or leave it open to reduce? flavors intensify as it reduces. try putting one of those splatter screens over the pot, to allow water vapor to escape while keeping the bubble splashes from getting all over the stove.

make sure you "toast" (not dark brown or black) the garlic before adding it. it will add a little bitterness to the sauce if put in raw. not a big problem, but i don't like to add any sugar to my sauce to sweeten it, so i try to remove anything that adds bitterness. i also like to add a diced onion, browned in evoo, to add sweetness.

costco has great deals on huge cans of san marzano tomatoes. i have found them as good, and even cheaper than muir glen. but the whole key to this sauce is the tomatoes, so don't try to save a few pennies. use the best tomatoes available, even if you have to spend the extra dollar per can for the muir glen. if using fresh tomatoes, as from a garden, let them come to the fullest ripeness possible on the vine. if you must, break off the entire branch from the plant and bring it inside to ripen in a brown paper bag. never put them in the refrigerator. i do this
in the fall if a frost is coming, and there's tomatoes left on the plants.

do you always add ground beef? try adding browned pork sirloin chops or rib ends instead, and simmer until they are falling apart. a totally different meat flavor, better imo.

for a garden style sauce, try adding browned diced onion and green pepper, sliced or quartered button mushrooms, sliced zucchini rounds, carrots, and even diced celery. almost any veggie, so long as it's not bitter, goes well in sauce.

opps, gotta run to work, bbl to finish...
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Old 03-27-2005, 10:24 PM   #5
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I usually sautee the garlic first. Takes the edge off it. Keep the heat lower and it should not burn. Or toss it in toward the end of sweating the onions. But your way is perfectly fine.

I usually use two cans of food quality whole peeled tomatoes.

I only use canned tomatoes or fresh tomatoes from my garden.

I like San Marzanos which are similar to Roma tomatoes. I think SM and Romas have better, more concentrated flavor.
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Old 03-27-2005, 10:57 PM   #6
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thanks for all of the great info. Already getting great tips. As for the tomatoes, so 2 cans of whole tomatoes, then i smash those up? What if i just get the ones fresh from the grocer, the roma tomatoes. How many should i buy to equate the two cans? Also, how should i cook that pork sirloin for the meat? do i cook them fully before putting them in the sauce? Or just brown them in EVOO? Do i brown them and then cut into small pieces and let them finish up when they are simmering in the sauce? Also, i usually simmer my sauce at 3. Which is i guess on the lower spectrum of Medium - Low heat. Any reccomendations about that? Also, will leaving a lid on when i simmer the sauce make a difference in taste, or is it just splash resistance like you mentioned? Thanks both of you for the replies!
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Old 03-27-2005, 11:04 PM   #7
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Personally, I never use tomatoes from the supermarket for anything. I only use canned or fresh from my own garden. It's a rare find to come upon fresh supermarket tomatoes that aren't mushy and tasteless.

Good canned tomatoes are nearly always much superior to fresh ones from the market (esp. San Marzanos or Muir Glen). Since the quality of the tomatoes will make or break your sauce, I suggest avoiding fresh ones.

I usually use some sausage in my sauce, but don't know about the sirloin.

If you can locate some dried porcini mushrooms, they give the sauce great flavor.

Simmering lidless will help the flavor and consistency. As the sauce cooks, water evaporates, thickening the sauce and concentrating its flavor.

Also, I make sauce and chili and stuff like that in the oven, and not on top of the stove. The oven provides even heating and avoids any burning, which will ruin the sauce.
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Old 03-27-2005, 11:59 PM   #8
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i'm back.
i've never tried making sauce in the oven. sounds like a good idea. i've always made it, splatter screen in place, on top of the stove. just be sure to keep it on low (so that the sauce is at low/slow bubble) and stir frequently. any burning on the bottom will also add bitterness. try not to scrape it up if that happens, and move the sauce to another pot.
you can use fresh tomatoes from the supermarket, but only if nicely vine ripened, and deep red throughout. taste them first. if mealy and tasteless, and there's lots of white inside don't bother. but if they're ripe and flavorful, buy enough to fill a large pot to the top, even overflowing a little. by the time the water cooks out and the tomatoes reduce to a thick sauce, you'll probably have only half a pot, or even less. remember to remove the skins first, or put the sauce thru a mill to remove the skins. if you don't, you end up with these little curled spikes of skin that are unpleasent to eat.
as far as any meat goes; pork sirloins, pork rib ends (my favorite), sausage, meatballs, skinless chicken parts, oxtails, lamb shoulder, lamb or pork shanks, etc., brown them well, but not cooked thru, in a little light olive oil (for the higher frying temp), then put them into the sauce to finish cooking. they are ready when the sauce reduces enough, and the meat is falling apart, and away from a bone. i brown the meat in large pieces, as the pieces will get smaller as it falls apart in the sauce. make sure not to puncture sausage too much when browning, then cut them in half or thirds in the sauce. the fatty juices that comes out adds so much flavor.
i use the same frying pan to brown everything, starting with the garlic on medium low, then onions and other veggies that can be caramelized on medium high, then any meats on high. then i deglaze the pan with some red wine in between each step, scraping up the brown bits. bring the wine to a boil, scrape, and add to the sauce.
if i can think of anyting else, i'll add it later...
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Old 03-28-2005, 12:46 AM   #9
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All of the above is my advice, but with more. I'm gonna say it again. Make the sauce yours. Some people like it sweeter, some more tangy. My Stepfather hated the flavors of oregano and basil. When I was old enough to move away from home, I tasted these herbs for the first time in a tomato sauce and was hooked.

The herbs I use in my own sauce create the sauce I like best. I use dried oregano, sweet basil, thyme, and rosemary. I have used fennel, but shy away from it as it's too bright for tomato sauce, IMO. I add a bit of Spenda, but not very much, to take away some of the acidity. I sweat my onions and add minced, fresh-garlic to the pan jsut before the onions start to soften. Do not let the minced garlic burn, so use moderate heat.

I like to use high-quality canned-whole tomatoes, and a can or two of tomato paste, depending on how much I'm preparing. Sometimes I'll add diced sweet pepper to the sauce as well.

I've even been known to add Tarragon and Black Pepper to my sauce (it was very different and tasty, but would have made a better pizza sauce). I don't anymore.

I slowly cook the sauce down until it is fairly thick, then place in the refrigerator overnight to allow the flavors to fully blend, without scorching from cooking too long. I haven't yet mastered the art of cooking a tomato sauce for hours without some portion of it scorching. So I adjusted to the fridge method. Just make sure that the container is air-tight.

Favorite spaghetti, lasagna, or any tomato-based pasta sauces are as numerous as there are cooks. They are all valid, if you enjoy there flavor.

In my neck of the woods, the favorite seems to be a very basic sauce, as discribed by the others. And there is certainly nothing wrong with that. But I like more flavors, brighter flavors, and lots of mushrooms. That's just me.

My advice, to sum it all up, is to experiment with different flavors. Get good technique advice from all of us, and then make your sauce your very own.

The only other advise I can give you will be echoed by everyone else here. That is, add the spices and herbs a little at a time. Let them cook in for at least 15 minutes, then taste. Add more if needed. Because you can always add more flavor to the sauce, but once its added, you can't take it out. And I have ruined my share of some pretty good sauces by adding too much of something in the final stages, and overpowering, and unballancing the sauce.

Seeeeeeya; Goodweed of the North
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Old 03-28-2005, 01:15 AM   #10
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Ok, trying to break this down to cover all the bases ...

Spaghetti sauce is a generic term ... for Americans it generally means a tomato based sauce you'll plop over pasta. It might include meat, or mushrooms, wine, cheese, shrimp, etc. Marinara refers to a recipe.

Canned tomatoes are generally better than what you find fresh in the store .. especially at this time of the year. Tomatoes are canned at their peak of freshness during their natural growing season. The roma tomatoes grown in San Marzano, Italy have a very distinctive flavor ... you're not going to get that in American grown "so called" San Marzano tomatoes. It's like Viadella onions ... you can take the plants and grow them anywhere else in the world and they don't taste the same.

If you want to use fresh romas ... figure on about 1.25 times as much as canned. For your recipe of 2 14.5 oz cans - figure on about 2.25 lbs. After you wash them, cut an "X" in the blossom (big) end about 1-inch long just deep enough to cut through the skin, blanch them (boiling water) in batches for 2-3 minutes, remove to an ice-water bath and peel. Then, slit in half, lenthwise, remove the seeds, and chop to the size you want.

For canned whole tomatoes - I cut the tomatoes in half length-wise, scoop out the seeds with my finger over a strainer, and strain the juice they were packed in ... again to remove the seeds, and then hand crush or chop them depending on the texture I'm going for.

Using your recipe, which I see nothing wrong with, this is what I do differently:

Brown the meat in 2-Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) - then remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl, and pour off the fat. Add another 2-Tablespoons EVOO, the onions and the salt, and saute the onions until translucent and tender (medium heat) ... then add the garlic for about 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and saute/simmer for about 1 minute. Now add the meat and everything else to the pot except add only about 1/2 the basil. Simmer uncovered for canned tomatoes, cover for 1/2 hour with fresh tomatoes and then uncover for the remainder of the cooking time, and add the rest of the basil the last 1-2 minutes of cooking.

You will need to give it a stir from time to time. You're pot, and the temperature and how often it gets a stir, will be factors in if it scourches or not. For example, my ex had a big 20-qt commercial aluminum pot and every week when she made "Italian Gravy" something stuck and scorched a little ... I've got a 20-qt Stainless Steel pot with thick aluminum disk on the bottom and I don't have that problem. I don't know about your stove ... but for a sauce like this I want a very low simmer ... probably about 2 on my stove for this recipe (probably about 160-F - just occasional bubbles).

Cooking is about starting with a theme (a basic recipe) and then making it taste like you want. Jennyema cooks her's in the oven - I cook mine on top of the stove. Neither one of us is right, neither is wrong. If you want to take your recipe and add a pinch of oregano ... do it!
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