My food memories as a child are filled with meals like tuna casserole studded with green-gray peas, and creamed chipped beef over white rice. Mom was from the Midwest, where “they didn’t have fancy foods like pizza or hummus,” as she will tell me. But despite her aversion to cooking or eating anything not common among Depression-era Missourians, Mom did make some wonderful dishes, and the best of them was her spaghetti sauce: it was no less than Fantastic.
Mom was meticulous in her onion chopping, and with each batch of sauce requiring four large ones, making it took a lot of time and tears, so it was reserved for special occasions. Oh, but when she made it…mmmm… thick, rick, deep scents would fill our house to the eaves, and beckon me enticingly to the kitchen where I would wait – until Mom wasn’t looking – to a sneak hot, bubbly spoonfuls onto Saltine crackers, nearly always burning my tongue my hurry. The burn was always worth it.
This recipe has been liberally adapted from Mom’s, and lightened up considerably (believe it or not!), but it still retains the richness and depth that I remember. As a bonus, it is super easy to adapt for vegetarians – just leave the meat out until you separate it (leave out the Worcester too if you don’t use the vegetarian variety). From there, you can leave it meatless, or add in your favorite veggie-meat option.
My best advice – if you have the time, make it a day ahead – and be sure to have some Saltines on hand for “tasting.”
- 2 Tbs chopped parsley
- 4 large sweet onion, chopped fine
- 4 good-size cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ cup butter
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 30 oz tomato sauce
- 24 oz tomato paste
- 1 can (15 oz) tomatoes (I use petite-cut Italian style)Italian style
- 2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
- ½ lb ground beef
- ½ lb Sweet Italian sausage (I sometimes use half mild and half hot)
- 2 Tbs brown sugar (The secret ingredient in everything!)
- 1 tsp dried basil (give or take)
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- ¼-1/2 tsp fennel seed
- Dash or two of nutmeg
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Brown sausage and ground beef together. Set aside.
- Saute onions in butter and olive oil over medium heat until onions begin to turn a light caramel color. Add garlic and cook an additional 2 minutes.
- Stir in the tomato sauce and paste, and the chopped tomatoes. Add herbs, spices and brown sugar. At this time, you may choose to use an immersion blender and lightly blend the mixture for a less "chunky" sauce. I sometimes do, sometimes not.
- Separate out the portion that you want to reserve as vegetarian. You can leave this meatless, or add in your favorite veggie-meat option at this time.
- To the "meat" portion, add the browned ground beef and sausage, and the Worcester Sauce. (You can add the Worcester Sauce earlier if you use a vegetarian variety.)
- Simmer sauce for at least an hour. I usually make this the day before to allow the flavors to fully blend, and reheat it in the slow cooker on low the day I plan to serve it.