A meaty red sauce is really quite versatile—it can be simply served over pasta or included in your favorite baked pasta dish such as lasagna. This basic spaghetti sauce recipe is made with lean ground beef, oregano, basil, garlic, onion, and tomato paste, but you could also add some ground Italian sausage to the beef, or add extra ground beef for meat lovers. Vegetables can be added as well—try diced zucchini or yellow summer squash along with the tomatoes, and shredded carrots can add natural sweetness. (Saute about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of shredded carrots along with the onion and garlic.)
- Brown the ground beef in a large skillet or sauté pan; pour off excess fat.
- Add the onion and garlic and cook over medium-low heat until onion is tender. Stir in tomato paste, water, sugar, and seasonings; blend well. Simmer, uncovered, over very low heat for 1 hour.
- Serve over hot spaghetti or linguini and serve grated Parmesan cheese on the side.
Tips and Variations
- The sauce may be frozen in freezer containers for 3 to 4 months. Thaw the sauce overnight in the refrigerator or cook in a covered saucepan over low heat.
- For a vegetarian sauce, replace the ground beef with 2 cups of sliced zucchini, 1 thinly sliced or julienne-sliced carrot, and 1 cup of sliced fresh mushrooms. Simmer until the vegetables are tender.
- Add about 1/2 cup of sliced mushrooms to the skillet along with the onions, or add 1 small jar or can of drained sliced mushrooms along with the tomato paste.
- Saute 1/2 pound of Italian sausage with the ground beef.
- Saute 2 to 4 strips of bacon, diced, with the ground beef, or a few tablespoons of pancetta.
- Add 1/2 cup of diced green bell pepper along with the onions.
- Add one 14 1/2-ounce can of diced tomatoes to the sauce along with the water.
- Replace the dried basil with about 2 tablespoons of fresh thinly sliced basil leaves (chiffonade).
- Replace 1/4 cup of the water with dry red wine.
- Add about 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes along with the tomato paste.
- For a creamy sauce, stir about 1/4 cup of heavy cream or cream cheese into the sauce just before it's done. You can also add ricotta cheese and mascarpone. (If you plan to freeze the sauce, don't add cheese or cream until you reheat it.)
- Add about 1/2 cup of fresh grated Parmesan cheese to the sauce about 10 minutes before it's done.