If you ask any cook, of any level, what they like most about cooking, I bet they’d say, “Cooking for those I love.”
For me, that’s the definitive answer. I love nothing more than spending the day in the kitchen–cooking and baking–for those who mean the most to me. What better way to show love than working in the kitchen– tasting, babying, coaxing flavors, and making sure a dish is just the way it should be. Putting a little (or a lot) of love on a plate goes a long way. It creates flavor memories, conversations, laughing, fun, togetherness. What could be better than that?
Like most weekends, this past weekend, I was able to cook for my number one, my husband. However, this was more special–it was for his birthday.
A couple weeks ago, I asked him what he’d like me to cook for his birthday, and without thought, without hesitation, he said, “Bubs’ Sauce.”
What’s Bubs’ Sauce? It’s my spaghetti sauce.
It’s the one thing I’ve cooked over the years that he, and friends, always ask me to cook.
Just like my Salmon Chowder recipe, my mom is the inspiration for my sauce. Mom’s spaghetti was AMAZING! She taught me how to make it at a very young age and it’s a recipe I cherish so very much.
There was a time when I made it for her, and she said, “Amy, I think this is better than mine.”
That wasn’t possible, but I took the compliment as high praise.
The biggest difference from my recipe and hers is I don’t put meat in mine.
WHAT? No meat? You ask.
That’s right. No meat.
When Chris and I became pescetarians (we eat fish, but no other meat), I took the meat out of the recipe and found a way to add depth and richness that meat would normally give.
Some people would turn their nose up at spaghetti sauce that doesn’t have ground beef, pork, and/or veal– my dad being one of them. He normally wouldn’t touch such a sauce. However, just a few months ago, I made it for the family, and he tasted it. To my surprise, he liked it! I doubt… no, I know… he won’t ever make it my way, but the fact he thought it tasted good is enough for me. He, and my brother, couldn’t believe it didn’t have meat it in it.
It comes down to layering flavors. Don’t worry, meat eaters, I give directions on adding meat if you want to.
Please pay attention to any little tips I give along the way. They make a difference in the end product. This is not a quick spaghetti sauce. It’s a process that results in a restaurant worthy bowl of spaghetti. Who doesn’t want that?
Okay, let’s get to it.
First, dice one large onion, six cloves of garlic, and two medium carrots.
In a large pot, sauté the carrots and onions in olive oil for five minutes. From this point, until the sauce is put together, cook at medium to medium high heat.
Add Worcestershire sauce. I know… it seems weird, but I got this tip from my Italian friend, Tony De Vito, who co-owns our favorite Italian restaurant in Stowe, Trattoria La Festa. Just add it. It does something good. Also add the chopped garlic and spices– Italian seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper.
Stir and cook for five minutes. Don’t worry if it gets “dry”. Deglazing with wine comes soon.
Now, add a whole tube of tomato paste. I use Cento brand. If you can’t find any that comes in a tube, use the canned version. I know it seems like a lot of tomato paste, but like the Worcestershire, it adds a depth of flavor. Stir it into the veggies and spices. It’s not going to look pretty, but it’s a part of the process. Go with it.
Cook for three minutes.
Time to add the good stuff… Wine! Add one cup of red wine… whatever you have open or any everyday table wine. If you don’t cook with wine, use vegetable broth.
Stir into the mixture. Again, it’s not going to look pretty. Continue to go with it.
Let that cook for another five minutes. You want to cook out the alcohol. Even if you use vegetable broth, let it cook down.
Now, add the tomatoes. I use two large cans of crushed tomatoes and one large can of diced tomatoes. You can mix and match whatever tomatoes you like best. After stirring them in, add one package of mushrooms– baby bellas or white mushrooms work great.
Stir, cover, and let simmer on low heat. This is where all the flavors come together and the veggies cook through.
After an hour, taste the sauce. What do you think it needs? I always end up adding a bit more of each seasoning. Plus, we like it a little spicy, so I add some red pepper flakes. Season however you wish, then cover and let it continue to simmer away… checking it every once in a while. It’s good to leave the lid off every so often to let extra moisture evaporate, which thickens the sauce.
I let it simmer for four to six hours, depending what our plans are. It can never simmer too long, but don’t let it simmer for too little. At the least, make sure the veggies are cooked through and then let it cook for another hour (or more).
About twenty or thirty minutes before you’re ready to eat, add grated Parmesan (or Romano… my favorite) to the sauce. Again, it adds a depth of flavor. I never measure this… just grate away until your heart is happy. I’m guessing 1/4 to 1/3 of a cup is a good amount. If you can, get the kind you need to grate; it has more flavor.
At this point, I also like to add another package of mushrooms. The mushrooms that were put in at the beginning are cooked down, so adding more will give a “meatiness” to the sauce, especially if you’re not adding meat.
Turn the heat up to medium and leave the lid off while the second round of mushrooms cook in the sauce. This will allow any water they let off to evaporate and the sauce won’t become watery. Let them cook for around twenty minutes.
During this time, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Be sure to add a good amount of salt to the water. Any pasta will work. This weekend, we chose our favorite, Pappardelle. It can handle a hefty sauce. This is the brand we use. It may be hard to find, but Amazon carries it:
Swirl your pasta around in the water; this helps it to not stick together. Also, adding a little olive oil in the water helps. Don’t over cook your pasta. You’ve spent all this time making a delicious sauce and nothing will hurt it more than mushy, over-done pasta. Once you get to the seven minute mark, taste a piece of pasta every minute thereafter. (Unless you’re using angel hair. Those don’t take much time to cook– maybe five to seven minutes total). As soon as you eat the perfect one (al dente is best), take the pasta off the stove, and drain. Do not wash your pasta! However, drizzle a little olive over the pasta, and toss gently. This keeps the pasta from sticking together. Let it sit in the colander for at least 3-5 minutes, shaking it around a few times to get all the water off.
Okay, FINALLY, it’s time to eat!
I like to top mine with fresh basil and grated Romano (or Parmesan) cheese.
Chris ended up having three bowls, which made me smile. I have to say, it was the perfect bowl of pasta. We reheated it on Sunday and Chris had another three bowls.
I also made him a Vanilla Cake with Strawberry Whipped Cream Icing, which was the best cake I’ve ever put in my mouth (if I say so myself). Chris had two pieces on Saturday and two pieces on Sunday. Birthday boy had a very happy tummy.
What you’ll need:
1 large onion– diced
2 medium carrots– diced
6 cloves of garlic– finely chopped
4 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
1 Tablespoon onion powder
1/4 cup Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon of salt
1 tablespoon of pepper
Red Pepper flakes– if you like adding heat
1 Tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
1 tube or 1 small can of tomato paste
1 cup of red wine or vegetable broth
3 large cans of tomatoes (2 crushed and 1 diced– or any combination you like)
2 packages of mushrooms– Baby Bellas or White Button
1/4 – 1/3 cup, grated Parmesan or Romano, plus more for adding on top– get the kind you need to grate yourself
First, dice one large onion, six cloves of garlic, and two medium carrots. Sauté the carrots and onions in the olive oil for five minutes. (From this point, until the sauce is put together, cook at medium to medium high heat.)
Add Worcestershire sauce, garlic, and spices– Italian seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper. Stir and cook for five minutes. Then, add a whole tube or can of tomato paste. Cook for three minutes and then add the wine (or vegetable broth). Cook for five more minutes and then add tomatoes and one package of mushrooms, stir to combine.
Let it simmer on low heat. Taste after one hour, adding more seasonings if you need to. Let it simmer for 4-6 hours on low. When you’re 30 minutes away from eating, add approx. 1/4-1/3 cup (or how ever much you want) of grated Parmesan (or Romano) cheese and another package of mushrooms. Leave uncovered and cook on medium heat. During this time, cook pasta. *Be sure to make note of the tips I gave above about cooking pasta.
Plate and enjoy!
Alternatives and more tips:
You can do this in the crock pot, but make sure to do all the steps up to adding the tomatoes and mushrooms on the stove top. Transfer the veggie mixture into the crock pot, then add the tomatoes and mushrooms. Set on high for the first few hours and then turn to low for rest of the time. Be sure to leave the lid off every once in a while to let moisture evaporate, which will thicken the sauce. Follow the rest of the instructions just the same.
Once you begin tasting the sauce, and you feel there’s too much acidity, add a tablespoon of sugar. It will cut the acid in the tomatoes.
If you want to add meat, brown your meat mixture (whatever you choose) and add it after adding the tomatoes.
Having someone be a taste tester is always a good idea. Sometimes I feel my taste buds aren’t catching everything they should, especially after the third or fourth time tasting the sauce.
If there’s a particular ingredient you don’t like, leave it out. For example, I know people who don’t like mushrooms. That’s cool, just don’t add them.