I make this sauce on a regular basis because we often have pasta for a quick and easy lunch. I was feeling very guilty about this (though I often buy the protein/fiber enriched pasta) and although the sauce in a jar tasted okay I knew I needed to give myself and the kids more “good stuff”. I made this recipe Monday and we ate it for four days and the kids loved it every time! If you don’t want to eat it multiple times in a week it lasts for about 2 in the fridge and you can always easily freeze pasta sauce. This can also be used really well with baked chicken (like chicken parmesan).
I’m giving you the basic recipe with modifications/additions/suggestions at the end. This takes me about 15-20 minutes total (I can make it while the pasta is cooking and cooling) which makes it an easy lunch idea with kids crawling all over my feet (I try to fend them off with a “tidy” snack like apple slices).
Simple Spaghetti Sauce from Scratch
1 big can of crushed tomatoes
1 big can of diced tomatoes (It doesn’t actually matter the size of the can, I just happen to like using the giant cans because I like making a lot of sauce!)
1 medium onion chopped (finely if your crew doesn’t like “chunky” sauce)
2 Tbsp minced garlic (Or about 2-3 cloves, I like garlic, if your crew doesn’t you can easily cut it down to 1 Tbsp without sacrificing anything. The way I do it the garlic is not overpowering at all.)
1 Tbsp oil (to saute the onion and garlic in, you can substitute a splash of cooking wine–I prefer reds–if you’re trying to cut out fat)
1/4 tsp Italian seasoning (be careful, I find the oregano can be REALLY overwhelming if you use too much of this)
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
Saute onions and garlic then add cans of tomato (I do not drain the diced at all), add seasonings, cook for 5-10 minutes (it tastes richer the longer you leave it). Serve over noodles rinsed cold for little ones (it cools the sauce in moments!).
I can’t remember when I made that sauce so plain so here’s the fun stuff I like to add that make the sauce healthier, more flavorful and even help clean out your fridge!
Mushrooms–yum! Any kind really but I like white mushrooms in my sauces (although I’ll never say no to a baby bella). I’m sure other types would be fabulous but I haven’t really branched out in my mushroom consumption (I only decided I loved them a year or so ago after a childhood of adamantly hating them). I saute them with the onions and garlic. I’ve been chopping them into “cubes” instead of slicing lately and I like the consistency much better and my little ones don’t notice them as much (especially if I chop them pretty small).
Any beans I have lying around or a can of black, pinto or kidney. Doesn’t change the taste at all (even when I added a half cup of leftover beans from Enchilada night–lots of cumin I never tasted in the sauce!). I prefer this to meat as a good protein because it’s better for you and you don’t have to pre-cook the beans (just rinse from the can!) like you do for ground meats. Proteins help a high-carb meal like this stay more glycemically balanced and it helps you feel fuller. Bonus–it’s great for vegetarians!
Pureed pumpkin. I like to make pumpkin pancakes with cans of pureed pumpkin but usually use half a can. Whenever I make sauce I search the fridge for pumpkin because it makes anything with tomatoes (like chili) taste smoother and less acidic. It also adds sugar without having to add sugar. This would also work well with pureed butternut or acorn squash which I also occasionally have around.
Frozen or fresh I love adding chopped spinach to my recipes. It’s a power food and it doesn’t really change the flavor in recipes and barely changes the consistency! I always have a bag of frozen on hand (keeps a looooooooong time!)
Other veggie purees like cauliflower. Cauliflower is not a big hit at my house but I occasionally buy it and whatever we don’t eat the first time around I puree and keep for sneaking into things like sauces, soups, chilis and even meatballs! I do not ever do broccoli or peas because it has such a strong smell everything will just taste like broccoli, bummer because green veggies are so good for you! Squashes (as mentioned above) puree really well and are very easy to “hide” in foods and I often have leftovers when I use them in a recipe. Veggie purees also freeze really well (I usually do them in quart ziplock bags).
Red pepper. Yep, sometimes it’s good to have a spicy sauce!
Any leftovers. Seriously, almost anything can hide in a sauce like this. I’ve thrown in things like taco seasoned ground beef, any cooked veggies (or cut veggies that could be quickly sautéed with my onions and garlic), meatloaf, roasted chicken, etc. It doesn’t really matter what seasonings you’ve used on things before hand as long as your leftovers aren’t drenched in sauces. I usually don’t bother with meat in my quick sauces unless it’s a leftover that needs to be used up!
The big CHEAT. I often add a jar of premade for the pre-seasoning. I don’t need to taste test or anything, just throw in my ingredients and I know it’ll come out fine with the premade sauce to balance it out! Shhhh… let’s keep up the pretext I only ever make from scratch!