When I was younger I was a noodles and butter kid. No red sauce, spaghetti sauce or marinara. But I loved the sauce my grandmother made special for stuffed peppers, and still love it. I’m pretty weird when it comes to tomatoes; I love them and eat them every day but they have to be raw. I love tomato sandwiches made with fresh slicing tomatoes from the garden, cherry tomatoes that are usually popped in my mouth from the vine before making it inside and of course caprese salad. Stewed tomatoes or even chunky tomato sauces are not my favorite.
Since moving from New England, it has come to my attention pretty quickly that I can’t just snag a few jars of homemade spaghetti sauce from my mom’s house. That means, I need to make my own sauce and can it successfully. The hubs is a very meat and potatoes guy, and as much as I try, he is not a vegetable guy. I’m constantly trying to integrate veggies into recipes very subtly, but he always sniffs them out. The one thing I can get away with putting tons of garlic, onions and peppers in is homemade red sauce, as long it is pureed so smooth he can’t tell what is in the sauce.
This past weekend, the temperatures dipped down below 50 degrees over night. This was a record low for southeast Wisconsin and was quite a change from the previous 2 weeks of 95 degrees plus. That weekend felt like autumn had blanketed us, so I got the itch to go to the farm for veggies and make some sauce. We pulled out the hoodies and jeans and headed to the farm in search of a canner's delight. We were in luck and found a huge box of tomatoes for super cheap.
Here is the trick to amazing homemade spaghetti sauce: it’s all in the tomatoes. Most tomatoes that you buy in the grocery store are grown quickly and are harvested at times that are best for travel and shelf life, which sacrifices taste. Tomatoes that are found at local farms and markets are harvested at the peak flavor and last minimal time on the shelf. They taste sweet and are so juicy you will never think of buying another tomato in a big supermarket again. For a good thick sauce you want to choose meaty tomatoes; Roma tomatoes are a popular choice.
Once you get your tomatoes picked out, make sure you pick up garlic, onions and peppers. For a box of tomatoes I usually pick up 3-4 peppers, 5-6 onions and 3 bulbs of garlic. The last time I made this sauce I left out something that I thought would be such a small difference and found out very different. It is very important to brown up the onions, garlic and peppers a bit before adding it to the stewing tomatoes. This is where you will get that nice savory taste in the sauce.
So start chopping! It’s wicked monotonous work, but I assure you it is worth it. Start cutting up those tomatoes; if they are medium size, I just quarter them. If I use Roma tomatoes I ten to just cut the ends off and then cut them in half. There really isn’t any science behind it; it’s just whether it cooks down more or if you want it chunkier.
Put the large pot full of tomatoes on the stove on low-medium heat and move on to the onions, garlic and peppers. Chop up the onions, garlic and peppers and put them in a skillet with about a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Throw some salt and pepper on them, mix it all up, cover and cook on low for about 10 minute. At this point the house is going to start smelling amazing, and I usually get the “are you making stuffing for dinner?” question. Oh the pain on his face when he finds out just the opposite.
Now, turn up the onions, garlic and peppers and continuously stir for about 5 minutes; just enough to get it a nice brown. Dump it into the tomatoes, stir it all up, cover the pot and continue cooking on low-medium for about…. 2 days. Yep, you read that right…. 2 days. Give it a good stir every hour or so and when you are ready to go to bed, just turn it off about an hour prior to cool a bit and then put it in the fridge. The next morning all you need to do is put it back on the burner. In the meantime add the spice that you enjoy in your spaghetti sauce. Our go-to spices are salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, cloves, tons of Italian herb seasoning and a tiny bit of nutmeg. Everything is to taste because we never start with the same amount of tomatoes. Keep tasting, stirring and adding spices throughout the 2 days.
Once it is about finished, start getting your blending tool out. My tool of choice is the Ninja Blender. I don’t even put this through a food mill because I can just grind everything up into a nice smooth sauce. Smooth enough that the hubs thinks I strained it. Put it back in the pot and cook for a few more hours just to make sure you get all of those spices and seasoning infused into the sauce.
Cook up some noodles and enjoy the fruits of your labor!