When I was a kid, I thought spaghetti sauce only came out of a jar. Mom would always buy pre-made spaghetti sauce with heavy Italian seasoning. She'd often chop up mushrooms and vegetables and add her own flair but it maintained an unyieldingly strong, savory scent of fresh basil and thyme. To me, spaghetti sauce was strictly that: spaghetti sauce. It went on spaghetti. We would never put it in a chili or spread it on a pizza or spice up our enchiladas with it. The first time I witnessed Oma making spaghetti was one of the first times I realized that you could adjust the flavor profile of any dish by adding seasonings to your liking. She likes her spaghetti sauce light on the spices, making it versatile and changing it up to her preference for whatever tomato-ey dish she's in the mood for that night. Since witnessing Oma make her spaghetti sauce, it's become an odd fascination of mine to see how different families make theirs. Whether they stick to a jar, season it themselves, add in a Creole zest…families around the world all have their own way of interpreting such a simple concoction.
Spaghetti sauce may seem like a simple concept to some, but I'm kind of a neurotic person. It took me a LONG time to break out of the recipe box. I had little labeled cards with ingredients that had to be cooked down to the letter. No exceptions. And then this idea of homemade spaghetti sauce came and was one of the first things to shake that all up. One base sauce, a thousand different things to do with it. I now make in great big batches, freeze a bunch and use it for weeks. This is how we do spaghetti sauce in MY family.
Saute garlic in olive oil for a minute or two.
Add tomato sauce and paste and remaining ingredients.
Simmer for 30 minutes.
My favorite ways to use this simple spaghetti sauce recipe are, in fact, not on spaghetti. Have I mentioned I'm gluten-free? No spaghetti for this spaghetti sauce lover.
I pour our spaghetti sauce over beans in the crockpot for a zesty chili. Add water, vegetables and beans for minestrone soup. Or ratatouille. Use it for dipping meatballs! Tomato polenta. Spoon spaghetti sauce over sausages and bell peppers. Simmer spaghetti sauce into a Greek sauce to serve over kidney beans.
Add some Mexican seasoning and layer with tortillas and cheese for enchilada casserole. Add some horseradish to your spaghetti sauce and serve it with shrimp. Stuffed mushrooms. Add a little hot sauce to it for hot wings. Add worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, onions and cider vinegar and pour spaghetti sauce over a brisket in the crock pot.
Mix spaghetti sauce into cauliflower rice. Top with chicken pieces. Chicken parmesan. Mussels marinara. Mix it up with some ground beef or ground up Italian sausage links, top with cheese and pop it in the oven for a gluten-free casserole. Saute potatoes in spaghetti sauce a la gnocchi. Eggplant parmesan. Sloppy joes.