Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fixing Martha's Spaghetti Sauce

Last week I decided to whip up this quick pasta dish for dinner. It's Martha's recipe so I figured it would be good, I'm usually satisfied with her meals. The pasta sauce had a nice flavor--but it wasn't really sauce in any way. It was just a jumble of meat and tomatoes. Joey likes his pasta to be saucy and this wasn't it.

Disappointed, I couldn't bring myself to throw the whole pot away (we ate it anyway but I also undercooked the pasta which did not help my cause). Joey and I decided that we could fix this sauce with a little of this and a little of that. So, I picked up some tortellini at the store (because it was on sale and it was just a little bit different than the pasta we'd just had) along with a small can of tomato paste and a 14.5 oz can of Hunts tomato sauce.

I heated the leftover sauce in the pan and added 2 T (roughly) of tomato paste and the entire can of tomato sauce. I simmered the sauce for about 20 minutes and served. It was much better! The flavors were still there from Martha's original recipe with the addition of a more saucy feel that really made the past better.

I also omitted the carrot from the original recipe because we forgot to get a carrot. Also, it calls for whole tomatoes. I hate using whole tomatoes from the can because no matter how much I "break up with back of spoon" while cooking or cut with scissors before putting them in the pan, I end up with gigantic chunks of tomatoes in there. I understand that whole tomatoes come in tomato juice, have more flavor, and no skin--but I still can't get behind it. Next time, I may consider pureeing the can of tomatoes in the food processor first and that might actually make the sauce saucier without the additional tomato sauce.

This recipe with the addition of the tomato sauce keeps going and going. If you make it and your family is two or smaller, I recommend freezing half of it. So far we have had this pasta sauce three times and there is still enough left over for another meal for me (and remember, Joey piles on the sauce so if you're a light saucer then it's going to be even more).

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 carrot, grated (about 1/2 cup) - see note above
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3/4 pound ground beef
  • 1 can (28 ounces) whole tomatoes - see note above
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • Pasta of your choice
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) tomato sauce
  • 2 T tomato paste


  1. Heat butter and oil in a large saucepan over medium. Stir in carrot, onion, and garlic. Add ground beef, and cook until it turns from pink to brown, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, and tomatoes and their liquid, crushing them with the back of a large spoon. Stir in milk, bay leaf, thyme, nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Simmer 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook fettuccine until al dente according to package instructions, about 12 minutes. Reserve about 1/2 cup of the cooking water; drain fettuccine, and return to the warm pot. Add meat sauce, and toss. Add pasta water as needed if the sauce seems dry.


Jenny said...

Why didn't you try the Splendid Table's tomato sauce that I forwarded to you? It was quite splendid, one of the best sauces I've had!

Nadine said...

Since I don't like big chunks of tomatoes, I frequently substitute pureed or diced tomatoes -- less tomato mess!