I have my mother’s original secret spaghetti sauce recipe (which I will not be sharing here) and occasionally on a lazy Sunday I will whip up a big batch and let it simmer on the stove for hours…and that is all fine and good for a special occasion, but sometimes you crave spaghetti on a Tuesday night after a long day of work and hours of simmering ain’t gonna cut it. But being a bit of a foodie, jarred sauce ain’t gonna cut it for me either. I want something that looks and tastes completely homemade, but can be ready in 30-40 minutes. **A special shout out to my non-cooking friends, this sauce is super easy, it makes plenty of leftovers and it looks like you spent waaaay more time and effort than you actually did. Here, I used the sauce on spaghetti, but I have also kept the leftover sauce, poured it over penne pasta sprinkled cheese on top and baked it (yum!) OR, heated up some frozen turkey meatballs and used the leftover sauce to make meatball subs, OR I make a huge pot of spaghetti and sauce and the next day I make fried spaghetti. WHAT? You have never had fried spaghetti?!? It is the world’s greatest leftover dish EVER….you take the cold spaghetti and sauce out of the fridge, cut it so the spaghetti is a little shorter, heat some butter in a frying pan and dump it in. The spaghetti will get buttery and a little crispy and hot and gooey and OMG delicious! Do it. Just trust me on this. The Ben likes day two fried spaghetti better than the original spaghetti, but butter has a way of doing that to a guy.
Cheaters spaghetti sauce is all about throwing what you like (and what you have in your fridge) into a plain tomato/basil sauce to give it your own flair. This is how I usually make it, but you can add or delete ingredients to suit your taste. I add parsley, which has a strong flavor not everyone appreciates, but it can be easily left out or replaced with chopped basil if that’s more to your liking. Also, the amount of garlic you add depends on your flavor preference, I could easily go for a lot more on my own, but the Ben likes garlic in smaller does so I only added a few cloves. Have fun with it.
- 2 Jars of your basic Organic Tomato/Basil sauce (the less ingredients, the better)
- Olive oil
- One chopped onion
- One chopped bell pepper
- One chopped zucchini (or squash or whatever veg you want to throw in there, eggplant would be good too)
- Sliced mushrooms
- Garlic (as much as you like) I used three minced cloves
- Crushed red pepper (to taste)
- Dried oregano (to taste)
- Dried basil (to taste)
- Chopped fresh parsley
- Grated parmesan cheese (for serving)
- Spaghetti (or whatever pasta you want to serve it on)
If you want meat sauce (optional); frozen meatballs (thawed in microwave), or cooked ground beef or ground turkey (I used Trader Joe’s mini frozen party meatballs).
Add some olive oil to a large frying pan and heat. Throw in the onion and bell pepper, heat until beginning to turn translucent (about five minutes). Add the zucchini and mushrooms, if you want some heat in the dish, add some crushed red pepper, heat another five minutes, stirring occasionally. (I add a little bit of sauce also to keep everything from drying out, maybe ¼ cup.)
Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil and cook whatever pasta you are using according to the package directions. Drain the pasta, pour cold water over it and set it aside.
After ten minutes the vegetables should be soft. Add however much garlic you want and season to taste with oregano and basil. Then add in one jar of the tomato/basil sauce and stir. You need to see how thick the sauce is before adding in the next jar. For some pastas, you may want it really thick, for others maybe thinner….if you are adding meatballs or ground beef, throw the meat in now. I usually end up using about ½ of the second jar of sauce, depending on whether I add meat and how much. Stir it all up, put a lid on it and let it simmer as long as your hungry self can manage, but at least 15 minutes. The longer it simmers, the more the flavors blend. Taste the sauce as it is simmering to see if you need to add more crushed red pepper, oregano, basil, etc. You may also want to add salt and pepper at this time, but I find most jarred tomato sauces already have salt in them so I usually don’t add much. I also like to throw in some chopped parsley as the sauce simmers since I like that flavor.
Once the sauce is cooked to your liking (or you just can’t stand to wait any longer) put the cooked spaghetti in a bowl, spoon the sauce on top and add some grated parmesan and chopped parsley or basil. Serve immediately. (and keep the leftovers in the fridge for fried spaghetti the next day!)