My recipe for homemade meat sauce for spaghetti, all of the flavor, a fraction of the calories. Made in the slow cooker for convenience and a pantry's worth of spices for a low-fat and low-calorie healthy supper.
When I was a girl, my parents hosted a party for friends, fussing over the food and the table. The theme must have been ‘Italy’ because the menu was classic Italian, at least ‘Eye-talian’ as interpreted by Canadians and Midwesterners who’d no more seen Naples than New York. [Update: Thank you to my father for his gentle reminder that Canadian and Midwestern soldiers were in Italy by the thousands in World War II and that military cemeteries in Italy hold thousands of those thousands.]
The kitchen table sagged with big platters of spaghetti topped with meat sauce, baskets of garlic bread and a festive (plastic) bowl of (iceberg) lettuce and tomato salad with – no doubt – (bottled) Italian dressing.
To widened young eyes, this party was ‘grown-up entertaining’, somehow, not just the familiar ‘company for Sunday dinner’ or ‘having people over for supper’. Oh, it looked so worldly, so chic and oh-so-grown-up. What disappointment when the babysitter corralled all the kids and took us next door for the night.
Nowadays, ha, when just-add-hamburger spaghetti sauce comes cheap in jars, there’s nothing so exotic about spaghetti with a meaty tomato sauce. It’s everyday food, inexpensive to make, easy to serve.
So many recipes for homemade spaghetti sauce take their flavor from Italian sausage – it works, every time. But Italian sausage adds much fat and many calories, more than is healthful for an everyday meal.
So when I adapted this recipe from Taste of Home, I skipped the Italian sausage itself but kept its spices. Then I let the spaghetti sauce simmer at low temperature for a loooong time, concentrating the flavors. The result is assertive flavor that’s good for you and good to eat. Let’s have a party!
HOMEMADE SPAGHETTI MEAT SAUCE
Time to table: 9 hours
Makes 8 cups
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 large onions, chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
- 2 pounds lean ground beef (see TIPS)
- 28 ounces canned diced tomatoes
- 15 ounces tomato sauce
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons ground fennel (see TIPS)
- 2 teaspoons rosemary
- 2 teaspoons thyme
- 1 teaspoon basil
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon marjoram
- 1/2 teaspoon sage
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- Cooked spaghetti
- Chopped parsley, optional
In a large skillet, heat the oil on medium high until shimmery. Add the onions and garlic as prepped, stirring to coat with fat. Stir in the meat, breaking it apart but still leaving in chunks. Cook, stirring often, until the meat is well-browned, in fact, don't hesitate to let a little 'burn' collect on the edges, it's flavor!
While the meat cooks, collect the remaining ingredients in a slow cooker. Add the meat. Cover and set on low for 8 hours. If possible, remove the lid for the last hour or so, cooking down the liquid.
Remove the bay leaves. To serve, toss some of the tomato-y liquid with the cooked spaghetti. Arrange spaghetti on serving plates and top with spaghetti sauce. If using, sprinkle with chopped parsley.
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