Friday, August 5, 2011

Basic Spaghetti Sauce

This recipe is versatile and pretty foolproof, as it was the product of much trial and error in the kitchen over the years.  You can make it with Italian sausage instead of ground beef if you like...or add green pepper, mushrooms, olives and other veggies.  This is a slightly sweet sauce...I really like the way the sweetness marries with the beef.  I think it is important to cook the spices with the meat because the spices release their flavor in the fat and season the meat as it cooks.  I cook with grass-fed beef which is gamier than standard beef and I prefer to mask the gaminess a bit.

1 lb ground beef (the leaner the better)
1 onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
1 14.5-oz can tomatoes
2 14.5 oz cans tomato sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2-3 tablespoons sugar, depending on how tart tomatoes are
Salt, if needed
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add ground beef and onions, followed by the minced garlic and spices.  Cook stirring occasionally until the beef is no longer pink and the onions are slightly translucent and beginning to caramelize.  If your beef is lean, don't bother draining it.  Add tomatoes and tomato sauce.  Bring to a simmer, cover, reduce heat, and cook for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  After 30 minutes, add the tomato paste.  Add sugar a tablespoon at a time, stirring well and tasting after each addition (you don't want to overdo the sugar).  Season with salt and pepper and adjust other seasonings, if necessary.

Note:  if you should have the misfortune of adding too much sugar, add more tomato paste.  The tartness of the tomato paste will help balance the sweetness out.

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