I have a few tricks up my sleeve when it comes to making a really flavorful spaghetti sauce. But first I want to take a side trip into how I finally ended up getting this most basic of recipes written down.
Nine years ago when Tyler and I got married on the side of a snowy mountain in Fernie BC, he didn’t know much about cooking. And by not much, I mean that he could make tacos, and that was pretty much it. Not that it mattered to me in the least because I love to cook.
So the years went by, and I’ve continued to do the cooking, with him lending a hand occasionally to do things like wash lettuce or the dishes. However as we all know, even when you love cooking, doing it all the time can be difficult to manage – which leads us to this spaghetti sauce today.
At the beginning of this year, we sat down to write out our intentions for the new year. Of course we had a Cheese Board Date for 2 by our side, and the topic of cooking came up. I thought it might be a good idea for him to learn how to cook a few things this year as part of our yearly goals together. Luckily for me, he jumped on the idea, and readily agreed it would be a good idea if I wasn’t the only one who could put dinner on the table.
And so after 9 years together, (10 if you count dating) my husband made dinner for me for the very first time! It really was nothing short of amazing to have a plate of this spaghetti delivered to the table, sprinkled with freshly grated parmesan. Truly the best gift ever in the history of our marriage!
For his first time making this recipe, I walked him through step by step how dice up an onion, and other such valuable kitchen skills. Now that I have the recipe all written up properly on the blog, he’s going to give it another go following the recipe by himself. And over the course of this year, you’ll see a couple more of my basic staple recipes pop up. But since most of the ones he’s going to learn this year are already on the blog, I’ll leave a list of them below.
- Green smoothies of all varieties: Pineapple Orange Banana Green Smoothie, Ginger Pear Green Smoothie, Protein Packed Mandarin Green Smoothie, (coming soon), and Pina Colada Green Smoothie.
- The Best Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad – we often make this one together, but since it’s his favorite, he wants to learn how to make the whole recipe.
- Meal Prepping – this has been key for us to maintain healthy eating habits. This Sheet Pan Fajita Meal Prep coming soon is going to be the first recipe we tackle for meal prep.
- Sweet Potato Taco Bowls – these are a corn free and flour free alternative to traditional tacos. I make these often because he loves them, so he’s going to try upping his taco game!
- Our Favorite Pasta Salad – this one is a staple, especially in the summer, so he wants to learn how to make it for our weekend adventures when my schedule is too packed.
- Rosemary Potatoes and scrambled eggs for breakfasts. He’s already mastered some seriously good scrambled eggs, and now on to his favorite breakfast potatoes.
- And finally My Favorite Yellow Thai Curry because curry is something we both love, and it’s so easy to make even when you’re running low on fresh produce.
And finally… onto the recipe! Before I start cooking this sauce, I always chop up my onion and mince the garlic. You can save a bit of time by using a garlic press, and processing the onion in a food processor. But I’ve found the best texture is from hand diced onions. It’s also faster to do by hand, once you get the hang of it.
Next up is the first secret to a flavorful spaghetti sauce – use Italian sausage over ground beef. Sausage is richer in flavor, and makes a much better sauce than ground beef. Once you’ve browned the sausage, it’s removed from the pan. Then you sauté the onion and garlic along with a touch of Italian seasoning. (This is actually my second secret – a small amount of dried herbs provide enough flavor while still allowing the rest of the ingredients to have a voice too.)
And now on to secrets #3 and #4 – use fire roasted tomatoes for the sauce, and if you can have dairy, add a small piece – 2″x4″ of parmesan rind to simmer in the sauce.
Those 4 simple secrets are everything you’ll need to make a very easy, super flavorful spaghetti sauce! This recipe is also really great as freezer meals as part of meal prepping. You can make huge batches, (as big as you have a stock pot for) and then portion it all out to be frozen. There’s really nothing quicker than making a quick plate of spaghetti when the sauce is already done.
Paleo Tips: You can easily make this sauce without the parmesan rind, and it’s still going to be awesome. My favorite Paleo noodles with this sauce are zucchini noodles and butternut noodles made with a veggie spiralizer.
Gluten Free Pasta Tips: First up with gluten free pasta, you need a good brand if it’s going to be edible – trust me on this one, there’s lots of yucky gluten free pasta out there. I always use either Delallo 100% brown rice pasta or Jovial 100% brown rice pasta. Each brand has some different shapes, so between the 2 I’m all set. And secondly you want to cook gluten free pasta just past what al dente would be with regular wheat pasta. When gluten free pasta is truly al dente, it’s still a bit crunchy which obviously is undesirable.
And some final tips for an awesome plate of spaghetti:
- Simmer the pasta together with the sauce for 1-2 minutes so the sauce perfectly coats the pasta, and starts to impart it’s flavor.
- Always use freshly grated parmesan – not from a can or tub of pre-grated cheese, there is a massive difference in flavor.
- Heat you pasta bowls in the oven at a low heat, (less than 200ºF, or as low as your oven can go) so they’re warm when you place the spaghetti in them.
- And finally, if you happen to have fresh basil around, chop some up to sprinkle over the top – it’s really awesome this way!
- 1 pound bulk mild Italian sausage, see notes
- 3 cups 1/4″ diced yellow onion, from 1 large
- 2 cloves garlic, minced, 1 Tablespoon
- 1 Teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 2 – 28 ounce cans fire roasted whole tomatoes
- 1 – 2″x4″ piece of parmesan rind, omit for dairy free and paleo
- 1 Teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
- 1/2 Teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound package spaghetti, cooked al dente, or butternut noodles for paleo
- Fresh grated parmesan if desired
- Chopped fresh basil
- Prep all the ingredients before starting to cook the sauce.
- When all the ingredients are ready, place a large pot, (about 12″ wide x 6″ deep) over high heat. Add the sausage, and cook breaking it up into bite sized pieces with a wooden spoon. When the sausage is browned, remove it from the pan and set it aside. Keep the oil that remains from the sausage in the pan to cook the onions with.
- Return the pan to the stove and lower the heat to medium high. Add the diced onion and cook stirring every few minutes. Cook the onions until they start to soften and become translucent, 6-8 minutes.
- While the onions are cooking open the cans/jars of whole tomatoes, and add the tomatoes with their juices to a blender. Blend just until they become a chunky sauce, then set them aside.
- When the onions are done cooking, add the garlic and Italian seasoning. Stir to combine before adding the blended tomatoes, cooked sausage, and the piece of parmesan rind if you’re using it.
- Bring the sauce to a boil, then lower the heat to maintain a simmer. Stir occasionally as the sauce cooks to prevent sticking. Cook until the sauce thickens and takes on a full bodied flavor, about 20 minutes.
- While the sauce finishes, prepare any toppings you’re using, and cook either the spaghetti or butternut noodles.
- When the sauce is done, season to taste with sea salt and pepper. Then simmer the sauce together with your choice of noodles for 1-2 minutes. Serve the spaghetti immediately with your choice of toppings.
If you’re gluten free/dairy free/paleo be sure to read the labels on the sausage you choose to make sure it fits your dietary needs.
I love to mix up my spaghetti sauce flavors by switching up the types of sausage. Try using chorizo with fresh thyme instead of the Italian seasoning, or simply use hot Italian sausage for some spice.