How to make Spaghetti Sauce
When I was a child, my mom discovered how to make spaghetti sauce and several dishes entered our family repertoire. There was a tradition in my family going back generations of using minimal spicing in foods, she never experimented much with tweaking her sauce. Learning to make spaghetti sauce just so was something I learned much later and serves as a perfect example of how my heritage of homesteaders embodies traditional knowledge as well as my own learning and experimentation. And so it is, the instructions I offer here are more a call to experiment than an actual recipe.
2 – 4 medium onions
2 – 4 cloves garlic
4 – 8 oz white mushrooms (optional)
In a 2 qt pot
Warm 3 or 4 tbsp olive oil in a skillet over medium to medium high heat,
until a piece of onion dropped in bubbles or sizzles a bit.
Add the onions and mushrooms and cook until transluscent. If the vegetables begin to turn dry and brown at the edges, turn the heat down and add a tablespoon or so of water.
Add the garlic and cook and stir for a few minutes.
Add 1 qt of your canned tomatoes (or a 28 oz can of purchased tomatoes)
1 tsp salt (if your tomatoes were salted when you canned them, you may want to omit the salt here and add to taste later)
1 tsp oregano
½ tsp Italian seasoning
1 or 2 bay leaves (optional)
Cook over medium heat for 15 – 20 minutes and taste. It may take your sauce 60 – 90 minutes to reduce to the thickness you want. It is better to wait until your sauce has reduced, nearing the thickness you want, because the flavors will concentrate as the water evaporates.
Here is where the artistry and your personal preferences begin. I suggest you make changes slowly and allow at least 5 – 10 minutes of cooking time between tastings/ additions. The goal is to balance the acidity-flavor-sweetness-spicing.
Metallic, bitter, acidic flavor: You can add a teaspoon of sugar, maple syrup, honey, brown sugar to reduce the acidity. Another option is a pinch of baking soda.
Increasing the amount of onions and mushrooms cooked in oil and butter are a great way to avoid this problem. I cannot recall a time when I felt I used too much of them.
Add a tbsp of butter or olive oil.
Bland flavor: add a tablespoon or two of tomato paste.
Cure all: A splash of vinegar (about 1 TBSP) is a great way to balance out the flavors in your sauce.
Add a little fire with a ¼ tsp (or more depending on your preference) crushed red pepper or hot sauce. I usually add a little diced dehydrated or pickled hot pepper from my garden stash – poblano, jalapeno, etc.
Fresh herbs: Basil is a favorite of mine. I preserve fresh basil by pureeing in the blender with a little olive oil and freezing it in ice cube trays. I have noticed that adding a lot of basil to a sauce can require balancing with a little sugar or vinegar.
More oregano (especially for pizza sauce), Italian seasoning or any others you wish to try or increase.
TIP: Proceed with caution to reduce the risk of spoiling your whole sauce. Add a very small amount of your experimental ingredient and proceed with small amounts. Or be even more cautious by ladling out a small amount of your sauce into small sauce pan and try your idea there.
I like to test my sauce with a cube of bread on a fork to give me an idea of what it will taste like with the mellowing influence of bread, pasta, crust, etc.
I hope you have a great time practicing your sauce making! Drop me a line with what you discover! Or ask a question.