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Friday, May 1, 2015

Cooking From Scratch: Crockpot Spaghetti Sauce

Growing up my mom always made homemade spaghetti sauce.  Somewhere along the way she quit and we ate sauce out of a jar.  It's not bad, but I knew there had to be a better way.  Over the last few years I've tried to reduce the number of chemicals and preservatives we've been eating, and I've found no better way to do this than to start making things from scratch.

I started poking around the internet and found a recipe that I thought sounded really good.  I made it, and while we thought it was good, both my husband and I thought it could be better.  After a bit of tweaking each time I made it, this was the resulting recipe that I now use every single time.  I did laugh, one time I ran out of sauce and wanted a quick meal, so made pasta with jarred sauce and my husband was not impressed.  I haven't bought a jar of it since!

My favorite part of this particular recipe is that there isn't a ton of prep work, you toss all of the ingredients in the crock pot and walk away.  It cooks all day while you are off doing other things, then all you have to do is boil your preferred pasta, make a tossed salad and dinner is served. 

Are you ready?  This will require a 5-6 quart crock pot.  If you have an older one, it will cook for 8 - 10 hours without burning, if you have a new one, 6 - 8, both on the low setting.  One thing I'm not real pleased with is that the manufacturers of the newer slow cookers have upped the temperatures on them, which requires adjustments on some of the cooking times.  For this one it's fine, but some of the others, it's not practical. Grrrr...enough about that, I'll get in to that rant another time.

Spaghetti sauce over gluten free rotini noodles
Crock Pot Spaghetti Sauce

Makes 6 - 8 servings

Ingredients:

1 pound ground beef
1 medium onion, finely chopped
8 cloves garlic, minced (or 2 tablespoons of garlic powder)
1(14 oz) can chopped/diced tomatoes
2 (14 oz) cans crushed tomatoes
3 (8 oz) cans tomato sauce
2 (6 oz) cans tomato paste
1/6 cup sugar
2 tablespoons dried oregano*
1 tablespoon dried basil*
2 teaspoons dried marjoram*
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup Extra Virgin olive oil

*see notes below for a substituion

Brown the beef in a skillet and drain off the excess grease.  Put all of the ingredients in the crock pot and stir thoroughly.  Cover and cook on low for 6 - 10 hours (see above note about crock pot cooking times). I usually stir it again about halfway through the cooking process.  Serve over your choice of pasta and enjoy!

A couple of variations and changes can be made with this recipe.  If you want it to be more of a Bolognese type sauce, double the beef.  You can make this sauce meatless as well.  Or, make meatless and about 2 hours before serving, add meatballs.  I've tried all of these with good results.  This also makes an excellent sauce for lasagna or baked penne.  (I'll share that recipe another time, yum!)

You can substitute a couple of things too--as you can see I've noted using garlic powder instead of fresh garlic.  I never have very good luck with mincing garlic and most of the time I use the powder instead.  It's also easier to adjust the recipe if you like more or less garlic flavor with more consistent results.  If you like a chunkier sauce, substitute the crushed tomatoes with diced tomatoes.  Canned diced tomatoes don't cook down as much because of the way they are processed prior to canning.  *Lastly, I don't have containers of oregano, basil and marjoram around all the time, but I almost always have an Italian seasoning blend around, and usually use that. 

This recipe can be doubled, tripled, quadrupled--as long as you have a big enough cooker.  A friend of mine used fresh tomatoes out of her garden and made it in her electric oven roaster with great results, she then canned it all for use later.  With just two of us, this makes way more than what we would need for a single meal.  It freezes very well, I put it up in oven safe/freezer safe containers and then I just pop it in the oven to reheat. 

A big 'ole pot of steamy, yummy goodness!

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