When my husband challenged me to make my own meat sauce he only had a few requirements. That it is thick & meaty with peppers in it, & that the meat was ground up pretty well. Then I took it to another level & invited the parents over so if I failed then I failed big. I also had a backup by making the baked fettucine dish as well, just in case.
A few notes to share: I made the sauce the day before so that the flavors could really blend & to also give myself a chance to taste it & adjust any seasonings before hitting the table. I also decided to use ground sirloin & sausage as my meats, but to give it more flavor, I used a combination of hot & mild sausage. The hot sausage is really not very hot, just flavorful. I make a lasagna by Tyler Florence where I use beef & pork so I wanted to be a bit different here. Also, I read that the San Marzano canned tomatoes are among the best but could not find them so I went for Cento. I stayed away from any cans saying "Italian style." I wanted from Italy, not like Italy.
SPAGHETTI MEAT SAUCE
1 pkg ground sirloin, 1 pkg hot Italian Sausage, 1 pkg mild Italian sausage
Meat combined = roughly 2.5 lbs.
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 large onion, diced
1 large or 2 small green bell pepper, diced
7 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup red wine
(4) 28 oz cans of Cento peeled tomatoes
Oregano, thyme, basil, (2) bay leaves, rosemary, garlic powder (if needed), baking soda to cut acidity, sugar to make it sweeter, salt & pepper
**This makes enough to dress 2 lbs spaghetti, plus more for freezing**
In a larger skillet over medium heat brown all the meat, breaking it up as you go. Season with salt, pepper, thyme, oregano, basil, a little garlic powder. Cook for 8-10 minutes, then set aside.
In a large stockpot heat olive oil over medium heat. Add red pepper flakes stirring for 20 seconds. Add the onion & green pepper until soft & fragrant, about 10-12 minutes. Add tomato paste & stir for 1 minute. Add red wine & let alcohol burn off for a 1/2 minute. Add tomatoes with liquid, crushing each one with your hand. If there are any big pieces you'll get them later. Let simmer covered. Go back to your meat & grind up in a processor in batches (I pulsated on/off for a few seconds to give me the consistency I needed). Add meat to sauce. Let simmer for 1 hour. Take a nap, come back & adjust seasonings. I added some baking soda (1/2 tsp)on 2 occasions to cut down on the acidity from the tomatoes. You'll find in the beginning it tastes just like, well, tomatoes. Later I added 1 tsp sugar to sweeten it up. Simmer for another hour or so. If you have this kind of time, simmer for even longer. If not, then this is fine. The longer you simmer, the richer & more complex the sauce will be.
After it simmered a couple of hours, I took it off the heat & let it sit. As it cooled I let hubby taste it. I added some parmesan cheese, about 1/2 cup, as well as some more red pepper flakes. I then patiently transferred it to this big tupperware dish so it could sit in the fridge until Sunday. This is when I took a masher to break up any larger pieces of tomatoes I didn't get earlier.
About 1 1/2 hours before dinner the next day, I put it back on the stove to warm it up slowly. I had a few honest family members taste it before it hit the table and they said nothing needed to be added.
After doing this my first time, I realize a tomato sauce is so forgiving & it's easy to make it what you want to make it. My biggest challenge was making it the way my husband wanted it. Since I don't get excited over red sauce it was difficult for me to taste it & decide for myself.
The key is tasting it & adjusting the seasonings all along the way. I really enjoyed doing this!