Purchasing jars of ready-made spaghetti sauce is convenient and some brands are pretty good, but nothing beats a long simmering batch that you make from scratch.
Deep flavors are developed when the pot is bubbling on the stove all afternoon and this is traditionally done by Italian families every Sunday.
For those of us who don’t have a recipe passed down through the generations, here’s a nice collection of over two dozen sauces that I’ve handpicked from around the ‘net. Some are pretty basic while others promise to match the flavor of an Italian grandmother’s secret homemade “gravy”.
I’ve separated them into three groups for easier browsing: Those that use fresh tomatoes, those that use canned as well as a selection of a few crockpot ideas that bubble low and slow all day.
Finally I have a few quick notes and tips listed at the bottom of the article (hint: save that Parmesan rind folks!).
Lots here to browse through and experiment with. PS: The ingredients listed in some of the descriptions are only a sampling, not a complete list.
From Scratch With Fresh Tomatoes:
- The Best Ever: A family recipes passed down through generations (from a Sicilian grandmother too!) This gives quantities for using either fresh or canned tomatoes. Crockpot friendly. Advises skipping the parmesan if you plan on canning it. Lauren Greutman.
- Homemade & Flavorful: For an extra special kick, add in a handful of Sun Dried Tomatoes. The longer you simmer this, the more flavor it will have. If you have time, let it cook a while longer. Little House Living.
- Freezer Version: (Yield 8 cups) Ingredients include diced basil leaves, pressed garlic cloves, EVOO, red wine vinegar, Kosher salt, powdered ascorbic acid preserver. Daily Herald.
- Garden Marinara: (Yields 2 quarts) Made with EVOO, basil leaves, chopped Italian leaf parsley, white sugar. Transfer to freezer jars then freeze for up to 6 months. Cats and Casseroles.
- For Canning: Made with finely chopped onions, olive oil, basil. Processed in a steam bath canner. The Farm Girl.
- With Italian Sausage: Features chunks of sausage (first fried lightly), bell peppers, spicy seasoning, cayenne (optional) and seasoned salt to taste. Creative Canning.
- Tangy: Features onions, green bell peppers, banana peppers, fresh sliced mushrooms, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, canning salt, seasoning, cumin. My Crazy Life As A Farmer’s Wife.
- Home Canned: Made with butter, minced garlic cloves, celery or green pepper, sliced mushrooms (optional), oregano flakes, minced parsley, brown sugar or unrefined cane sugar. Common Sense Homesteading.
Recipes Using Canned Tomatoes:
- Authentic Sunday Gravy: This is the real deal with slow afternoon simmer. Contains pork spareribs, stew meat, sausage and all the rest. By the end of cooking time, the meat is falling off the bone and super tender (a meal in itself!). Platings & Parings.
- The Best: Mamma Mia this makes a big batch! Ingredients include 3 lbs of meat (sausage/ground beef), carrots, garlic and more. Freezes beautifully. Ricardo Cuisine.
- Favorite With Mushrooms: When its fabulous aroma fills your kitchen you’ll experience warm feelings of happiness knowing you’re preparing a healthy wholesome meal for your family. Confetti & Bliss.
- From Scratch: Includes meat (either beef or sausage), tomato sauce & paste. Optional: basil leaves. Taste Better From Scratch.
- San Marzano: (Yields 12 cups) Made with olive oil, paste, parsley, bay leaves. ButterYum.
- Bolognese: Ingredients include ground beef/pork, olive oil, diced onion, diced carrot, diced celery, red wine, broth, bay leaves, thyme. Advises that the longer it simmers, the better it is (at least a couple of hours). The Italian Dish.
- Bolognese: Contains olive oil, celery, carrots, ground beef or turkey, thyme, parsley, rosemary, bay leaves, water, grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, extra dry vermouth, evaporated milk. Simmers uncovered for about 2 1/2 hours. The Yuca Diaries.
- Easy Marinara: (Yields 4 servings) Ingredients include minced garlic cloves, basil, EVOO. Keep It Simple Foods.
- With Ground Beef & Veggies: (may be frozen) Made with mushrooms, oregano and parsley. Recommends letting sit for a day before serving so the flavors develop. Carole Knits.
- Top Secret: Features ground beef or turkey, olive oil, green bell pepper, chopped garlic, large white onion, mushrooms, rosemary, oregano, bay leaves, red wine, Parmesan cheese and sugar (to taste). Carolina Charm.
- The Best You’ll Ever Have: A quick and easy version, all you need is garlic cloves, sprinkle of salt and a bit of good quality olive oil. Basil is added at the end and a dollop of ricotta when served with the pasta. A Cup of Jo.
- Ultimate: Contains roasted red bell peppers (jar), carrots, red wine, unsalted butter, EVOO, water. bell’alimento.
- Three Meats: Yield: 18 cups. Features beef chuck roast (trimmed and cut into 1″ cubes), boneless pork shoulder butt roast (cubed), mild Italian sausage links (cut into slices), olive oil, water, minced parsley (or dried parsley flakes), oregano. Simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. May be frozen for up to 3 months. Taste of Home.
- Spicy Tuna: Ingredients include tuna, cayenne, EVOO and parsley (optional). Chow.
- Vodka Cream: Olive oil, finely chopped onion or shallots, crushed red pepper or dried red chili (minced), vodka, vegetable or chicken broth, whipping cream, thinly sliced basil. 6 Bittersweets.
Slow Cooker Spaghetti Sauces:
- Tastiest: Features the perfect combination of ingredients for a mouthwatering treat that’s perfect for all kinds of pasta, or as filling for your favorite lasagna. There are so many ways to use this, and it makes a lot and freezes well, so you can always keep some handy for those busy nights when you won’t have time to cook. Let’s Dish.
- Stamp-of-Approval: Yields 3 quarts. Contains Worcestershire, canola oil, minced parsley, minced basil (or dried), oregano, bay leaves, rubbed sage, marjoram. Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours. Taste of Home.
- Meaty Italian: Bulk Italian pork sausage or beef, sliced mushrooms, finely chopped garlic, dried oregano, sugar, crushed red pepper flakes. Simmer on low heat for about 8 to 9 hours. Betty Crocker.
- Slow Cooker: Contains EVOO, sliced fresh mushrooms, organic sauce and paste, diced tomatoes (undrained), sugar, dried basil, oregano and crushed red pepper flakes. Cooks on low for about 6 to 8 hours. Betty Crocker.
- Italiano Crockpot: Bulk sausage or ground beef, mushroom stems and pieces (optional), bay leaf, snipped fresh oregano (or dried seasoning), chopped sweet pepper. Simmers on low-heat for 8 to 10 hours or on high heat for 4 to 5 hours. Better Homes And Gardens.
Quick Notes & Tips:
- These sauces are ideal for spaghetti, but they’re also lovely on other pastas such as: Fettuccine, Pappardelle and Tagliatelle.
- If you haven’t already, try making your homemade sauce with San Marzano tomatoes instead of any old kind. They are right from Italy (check label to be sure) and they are sweeter, less acidic, more intense in flavor and have a firm pulp with less seeds. You can buy them whole (peeled) or cut in half. Yes, they are more expensive, but try at least one batch and you’ll see the difference ;). More reading: Are San Marzano Really Worth It? (Epicurious). If you have access to top quality varieties from California, those are supposed to be excellent too though they’re not easy to find locally.
- Save your Parmesan rinds! Toss one in with your bubbling batch and it will infuse a flavor that can’t be beat. I learned this trick from watching Lidia Bastianich on her TLN cooking shows.
- Because tomatoes are acidic, make sure to use non-reactive cookware (stainless steel or enameled cast iron). This will prevent the nasty metallic taste that aluminum or uncoated cast iron will trigger.
- Sprinkle parsley and Parmesan cheese over the finished dish to enhance the flavor.