Friday Recipe Exchange: Pastas and Sauces

tamara pastas and sauces

From our Food Goddess, TaMara:

Last year I did a recipe exchange on meatballs (here) but was surprised to see I had never done one specifically on sauces. Now sauces can be risky and start a great debate, because every family has their version. So hit the comments with your favorite pasta sauce recipe, and for that matter, pastas, because there are so many choices. Like many things, I’m not all that concerned about the right pasta for the right sauce, I say, use what you enjoy and ignore the purists.

Food should be fun. For that matter, so should wine, beer and scotch.

So let’s start out with JeffreyW’s Awesome Sauce (here) because, well, it’s awesome.

Want something a little simpler and quicker? How about his San Marzano Sauce, here.

And his Shrimp & Pasta Formaggio (here) is quick and easy, also.

When everything is in season, I like to make my sauce with fresh ingredients, so I have a Garden Fresh Pasta Sauce (recipe here) that’s lighter and fresher than tonight’s featured recipe.

When it comes to pastas, I favor two options, a nice spiral (fusilli or rotini) or a quick cooking Angel Hair (capellini), but if I can get it fresh from the farmer’s market, I’ll take what I can get, which is usually a linguine. It’s all tasty.

For the featured recipe, I went with my traditional family sauce, the one I grew up with, but with a few tweaks. Now, even in my family, half of which are Italian, even the most basic sauce has as many different variations as there are cooks, so this is just a place to start, add your own touches to make it your family tradition. This is a hearty sauce and my go-to in the colder months when fresh ingredients are not readily available. I always double this and freeze half for a later dinner.

Spaghetti w/Meat Sauce

9 – 12 oz pasta of choice (I like angel hair for this recipe)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 green pepper, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
3 tsp. crushed garlic
1 lb lean ground beef (or 1/2 beef and 1/2 spicy Italian sausage)
6 oz tomato paste
3 tomatoes, diced (or 14 oz can diced tomatoes)
15 oz can tomato sauce
3 tsp dried basil, crushed*
2 tsp dried oregano, crushed
1 tsp rosemary, crushed
1 carrot, finely grated or 1/2 tsp sugar (these reduce the acidity of the sauce and bring out the spices – trust me on this one – I prefer the carrot, myself.)
Salt & pepper to taste
red pepper flakes (opt) to taste
grated Parmesan cheese
2 saucepans and large skillet

In skillet, heat oil, sauté pepper, onion, garlic. Add hamburger and cook thoroughly. Add tomato paste and 1 tsp ea of crushed basil, oregano and rosemary, mix well. In saucepan, add remaining ingredients and bring to a low boil, reduce heat, add meat mixture and let simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

Cook pasta according to directions, drain well and serve with sauce and Parmesan cheese.

*CRUSHING Spices – when using dry spices, to get the best flavor, you should crush them, either by rubbing them in your hand or using a mortar and pestle before adding them to a recipe.

That’s it for this week. I know I still owe you a recipe to go with this delicious looking Cream of Chicken Soup I made this week. And if you missed it, here is the Dinner Menu and Shopping list for the week, Pasticcio and Salata Meze. – TaMara

40 replies
  1. 1
    The Dangerman says:

    A lot of Red and Gold in that photo; sorry Yats (spoken as someone with much Seattle family that will NOT deal with a Seahawks loss well).

  2. 2
    chopper says:

    Since it’s shabbos I made sticky chicken, kale chips, matzoh ball soup and Brussels sprouts. BTW nice job, iPhone, autocorrecting ‘shabbos’ to ‘shannon’s’. anti-Semitic bastards.

  3. 3
    Big R says:

    Tonight is burgers with the honey. Tomorrow is a potluck for which I will make stuffed mushrooms.

  4. 4
    Aji says:

    Tonight was marinated chicken tenders tossed on the grill – yeah, it was warm enough here, which is a really, really bad thing. Nice and spicy, browned and just crispy around the edges. Grilled carrots and peppers.

    WRT sauces, our tomato plants have yielded zip the last few years, which appears to be a climate change issue as well. I admit to having gotten spoiled by Muir Glen, though; their fire-roasted crushed tomatoes are great fro sauces when I can’t get decent fresh ones.

  5. 5
    cyntax says:

    For a super-fast, super-easy pasta sauce using stuff that you most likely already have in the house, this can’t be beat: tomato sauce with onion and butter.

  6. 6
    Mike E says:

    Too much thyme on my hands, so I made a pot of red beans with onion, garlic, green pepper and celery…no andouille but I used smoked turkey sausage. Tis good.

  7. 7
    Cassidy says:

    Gonna try this carnitas recipe on Sunday.

  8. 8
    NotMax says:

    Favored pasta is perciatelli (I prefer thick sauces), but it has become rarer than hen’s teeth around here. Must be three years since I’ve seen it in any store.

    And no, not about to pay shipping for internet-bought pasta.

  9. 9
    p.a. says:

    My family version of the Italian-American slow cooked sauce never used peppers or oregano (flavors thought to be too overwhelming) or ground meat- that’s what meatballs are for. In a large heavy pot add oil or salt pork and render, then brown a 7 bone chuck roast (if that’s a regional term all I can say is it’s a bone-in steak as big as a platter and approx. 3/4 inch thick.) Remove it and drain excess fat. Saute onions and garlic (quantities to taste; you can add garlic whole and remove if you wish) until soft. Add dry basil. Add approx 1/3 can tomato paste. Stir. Add roast back. Add 2 large cans tomatoes, approx 1 can water. My family preferred a fairly loose sauce, not the kind on TV commercials; it should coat, not stand on its own. Diced or crushed tomatoes but not whole- Giada says chemicals are added to help those keep their shape. But America’s Test Kitchen uses them, so there. If you don’t put the roast in before the tomato it’ll be a pain, but make sure to get tomato under the roast. Salt conservatively, the long cooking-sauces reduce some. Add your choice of sausage and/or meatballs, and a couple chicken wings. Bring to a good boil and skim fat if necessary. (Try this- par boil a couple chunks of pepperoni (the dry sausage) for 1 min. to get out the oil then add to the sauce.)
    Reduce to simmer, cover loosely, stir occasionally. After 45 min or so taste and add sugar if necessary. If you think it’s too thin mix remaining paste with water and add. Simmer 2 hours, stirring, adding water if it reduces too much. Salt to taste last 10 mins.
    Remove and discard the wings they’re just for flavor. The roast is a pain because of the bones but once you taste it…
    A word on meatballs. We went strictly beef, but whatevs. Seems many people now put them in the sauce raw. We always cooked them about 2/3 through, either pan-fried or in the oven.
    We used ‘sauce’ and ‘gravy’ interchangeably.
    Ladies what do you think of this: any of my family’s brides-to-be who weren’t Italian were brought over before the wedding for a weekend session with the aunts of ‘how to cook Italian’ for my son/nephew. I’m talking into the 1980’s, not the 1930’s and ’40’s.
    Some of those marriages never recovered.

  10. 10
    mikefromArlington says:

    I know this is a pasta thread and my mom being from Naples god knows I live pasta but holy crap I just nailed crispy fried chicken for the first time. Buttermilk soaked, beer batter dipped then rolled in hand crunched corn flakes. F’in phenomenal. I still can’t believe how close to Popeyes style crust it was.

  11. 11
    p.a. says:

    @mikefromArlington: deep fried or pan? Cast iron skillet works great for that, and buttermilk is a must.

  12. 12
    Comrade Mary says:

    @cyntax: Yes. Yes. Yes. I actually use about half that much butter, but it still tastes marvellous. Also, too, I don’t throw away the onion, but eat it once the sauce is ready. Cook’s reward, you know.

  13. 13
    mikefromArlington says:

    @p.a.: cast iron skillet w/ peanut oil

  14. 14
    raven says:

    I had a friend from South Philly that played defensive tackle for Illinois in the mid-70’s His family would drive from Philly to Champaign for games and Mrs D would cook these huge sauces, gravy, with chicken,bracciola and meatballs. She’d serve the meat on platters and mix the gravy with the “macaroni”. No fancy names but it was heaven. Tasty Cakes and Brioski for dessert! Mangia!

  15. 15
  16. 16
    raven says:

    @jeffreyw: Dang brah!

  17. 17
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @jeffreyw: Doesn’t look like a happy dog.

  18. 18
    mikefromArlington says:

    Another great sauce idea is to take a few cheap steaks, some pork chops and a couple Italian sausages, brown em up then throw em I plain tomato sauce on a very low simmer for 3 hours. Check periodically and if the meat starts to fall apart shut it off and cook your pasta. Take the meat out and serve on a platter on the side then dish out your pasta, and cover who te meat flavored sauce. The meat can be eaten with a spoon it’ll be so tender

  19. 19
    debbie says:

    For easiness, I like using Glen Muir fire-roasted tomatoes.

  20. 20
    cyntax says:

    @Comrade Mary: You’re right. Absolutely do not throw away the onion–its delicious. And less butter works just fine in my experience.

  21. 21
    WereBear says:

    I like making Alfredo sauce with sour cream instead of heavy cream, Pecorino Romano instead of Parmesan. Serve it piping hot over fresh spinach and toss.

    They melt together like a marriage made in heaven.

  22. 22
    fleeting expletive says:

    OT Mary Matalin on Bill Maher’s show is really high/drunk or something or other.

  23. 23
    Joseph Nobles says:

    Having just started the DASH Diet for the New Year’s, I’m looking at all these salt mine recipes with utter contempt. Utter, I tell you. Harumph.

    Oh, I’m not mandated to be on this diet for hypertension. I’ve always wanted to get my sodium house in order so I wouldn’t ever HAVE to be. But I do have a bit of weight to shed and this diet is working just fine.

    So here’s my Low Sodium Spaghetti Sauce to which you guys are free to add all the pink Himalayan your hearts might desire.

    Please let me know if that link works or not. They haven’t approved the recipe yet at FatSecret, so I don’t know if anyone else but me can see it.

  24. 24
    Stella B. says:

    The spouse likes Japanese food, so I cook a lot of interesting recipes from

  25. 25
    danielx says:

    To go with the tomato-based sauce of your choice: meatball recipe of my choice. Originally based on something from, but dialed back a little bit on spices – five tablespoons of oregano tends to be a little overpowering. Easy way is to use a stand mixer. I don’t have a handy web-based stash location for recipes, so the whole is included. Keyed into a word document for my sis-in-law.

    Italian Meatballs

    Recipe will produce 16-20 meatballs, depending on how large you make them. I usually get 16 or 17 good sized meatballs.


    2 ½ lbs lean ground beef (ground round or ground chuck)
    ½ lb bulk Italian sausage OR ½ lb ground pork
    3 cloves garlic, chopped as fine as you can get them, be careful with your fingers!
    3 tablespoons oregano
    3 tablespoons parsley
    1 (1 oz) package dry onion soup mix (Knorr, Wyler, etc, usually comes two 1 oz pkgs to a box)
    2 cups Italian-style dry bread crumbs


    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    2. Grease (w/Crisco shortening or equivalent) two 9 x 13 glass baking dishes; can also use Corningware, etc – but you will need more than one.
    3. In large (that’s LARGE) mixing bowl, combine ground beef, Italian sausage or ground pork, garlic, oregano and parsley.
    4. Mix in onion soup mix and bread crumbs.
    5. Mix thoroughly; it will take a few minutes.
    6. Form mixture into balls maybe 2 (two) to 2.5 inches in diameter, say half again the size of a golf ball, size of a pool ball – you’ll figure it out. These will shrink during baking as fat cooks out.
    7. Place in prepared baking dishes 1” to 2” apart and put in preheated oven for 45 minutes or so. They may be somewhat crunchy where they touch the baking dish, which is okay, but don’t let them get black in that spot! If you’re concerned about cooking time, get one out and cut it in half. If it looks completely done, it’s done.
    8. Remove from oven, place on paper towels to drain.
    9. Place in sauce to simmer for at least an hour, longer if possible.

    Edit: yes, the leftover meatballs can be frozen. Thaw in microwave for 15 minutes at 70% power, then put in sauce to simmer for an hour.

  26. 26
    mai naem(mobile) says:

    @fleeting expletive: Mary not only looked crazy but she was acting crazy too. Bill said something about her taking a fall so maybe she’s on pain meds. It seemed like she was pulling at a brace or binder under her top. I was listening to an xm show and they were talking about her book. Apparently she has twelve cats! And birds and rats.

  27. 27
    Sandia Blanca says:

    @Joseph Nobles: I could not see the recipe at your link.

    However, I will share our family’s no-salt sauce recipe, which we’ve been enjoying for many years.

    Saute in good olive oil:
    * 1/2 large onion, chopped
    * 1 or 2 carrots, sliced
    * 1 celery stalk, sliced
    * 1/2 bell pepper (green, red, or other, or mixed), chopped

    After the vegetables have started to wilt a bit, add the following to taste:
    * basil (fresh or dried)
    * oregano (fresh or dried)
    * garlic (fresh or powdered)
    * 1 bay leaf
    * crushed red pepper (optional)
    * pinch of ground cloves (optional)

    After a couple of minutes, stir in:
    * 12 oz. (half a jar) Bionaturae organic strained tomatoes (salt-free)

    Cook over low heat for another 10 minutes or so. You can add a little water if it’s too thick.
    (A dash of red wine adds a nice touch, if you so desire.)

    This makes enough for one pound of the pasta of your choice.

  28. 28
    Joseph Nobles says:

    @Sandia Blanca: Thanks, Sandia!

    Here’s the recipe for Low Sodium Spaghetti Sauce:

    2 cans diced or whole tomatoes (no salt added)
    2 T minced garlic
    1/8 t salt
    1 T dried thyme
    2 T olive oil
    1 medium onion
    1 cup water

    1. Mince onion. Place tomatoes in blender and blend until smooth.
    2. In large saucepan, sauté garlic and onion in oil over medium-low heat until light brown.
    3. Add blended tomatoes, water, thyme, and salt. Bring to a simmer and cook for at least 30 minutes.

    It makes 4 cups of sauce after the water is simmered off. I use 1/2 cup on 4 oz of pasta (50 mg of sodium at that amount). Of course, you can thicken it more by simmering longer.

    I think I’m going to add carrot in the future per the OP, though. More vegis couldn’t hurt, and knocking the acidity back would be good, too.

  29. 29
    Mnemosyne says:

    I did my own little version of “Chopped” for dinner tonight by using stuff I already had in the fridge. (I cheated slightly and stopped off to buy some shredded cheddar cheese.) I was going to make twice-baked potatoes to use up leftover baked potato, but I accidentally punched a hole in the bottom of one of them, so it turned into a baked potato casserole thingy with Greek yogurt, cheddar cheese, and a little light butter.

    The pork chops I pan-fried in olive oil and then used the pan juices, hard cider, onions and garlic to make a pan sauce. Carrots and green beans on the side. Yum!

  30. 30
    seaboogie says:

    You have the skunk remedy ingredients on hand, yes? They do work well:

  31. 31
    Steeplejack says:

    @Joseph Nobles:

    I got an error message.

  32. 32
    Soffrito says:

    My favorite meat sauce recipe is from Benedetta Vitali’s “Soffritto” cookbook – Ragu alla bolognese:

    red onion, stalk celery, carrot – saute in olive oil until dark brown – toss in the meat just before it burns
    meat – 1.25 lb beef, 1 pork sausage, 2 chicken livers, chicken neck, – brown – “the meat should suffer”
    then 1/2 cup red wine to take the meat crust off the bottom
    add tomatos, water, pepper, salt, lemon zest & cook for 2 hours
    take out the chicken neck & remove the meat, discard the bones

  33. 33
    HRA says:

    Having been married to an Italian for 20 years back in my youth, I get a snapshot of his mother and her 3 sisters giving me hints on making pasta sauce. One of their explicit lessons was do not make the sauce a tomato stew. My take is add whatever you enjoy in your sauce.
    I do not have a recipe to offer. My ingredients for meatballs are ground beef, lesser ground pork, fresh grated bread crumbs from unsliced hardened Italian bread, fresh chopped parsley and basil from my garden, minced garlic, a few shakes of crushed red pepper, grated romano cheese, salt and pepper.
    My sauce is started with sauteing either country style spareribs or pork neck bones and chunks of Italian sausage with fresh garlic. The sausage was added in later years as a request from a granddaughter. Then I add tomato puree with fresh parsley and basil to the pot along with salt and pepper. When it begins to simmer, I add the meatballs. After a while I determine how much paste I need to add for the thickness of the sauce and will taste to see if I have to add more spices and garlic to the pot.
    One of my favorite pasta dishes is adding ricotta to still hot cooked shells with sauce and mix well.
    I was told it was the Napolitano grandma’s favorite, too.

  34. 34
    Emily68 says:

    @cyntax: The best quick pasta sauce ever:
    saute 1-2 cloves minced garlic in ~2tbls olive oil
    add 15 oz can tomato sauce
    2 tsp dried basil
    2 tsp dried oregano
    2 tsp red wine vinegar

    cook it for 3-4 minutes

    pour it over your cooked pasta

    serves 2

  35. 35
    tybee says:

    @Stella B.:

    thanks for the link. i’ll wander through that for a while….

  36. 36
    jeffreyw says:

    @seaboogie: Yeah, that stuff works well. We keep all that stuff readily to hand as we get plenty of skunks snooping around.

  37. 37
    Sandia Blanca says:

    @Joseph Nobles: Thanks, Joseph Nobles. We low-salt folks have to stick together!

  38. 38
    TomParmenter says:

    All pasta is not the same. The shape of the pasta and the thinness/thickness of the sauce have quite an effect on each other. Basically, complicated shapes hold a lot of thick sauce compared to thin sauce and simple shapes.

  39. 39
    Tehanu says:

    Hmmm. Your family recipe for meat sauce is similar to my Romanian grandma’s recipe, but mine has a large onion, not a small one, 3 stalks of celery (chopped) and 4 large mushrooms instead of carrot, no tomatoes except in the tom. sauce & tom. paste, no rosemary or (ugh) oregano, and — the kickers — 1/8 tsp. curry powder and a teaspoon of chili powder. I find that if I feed it to people saying, here’s some “spaghetti sauce,” they don’t care much for it, but if I tell them it’s “spicy Bolognese” they can’t get enough!

  40. 40
    Evan says:

    An astonishing relevant fact I became aware of this weekend: It’s actually not hard at all to make pasta from scratch. You start with flour and eggs and half an hour later it’s noodles: this blows my freakin’ mind. I’ve made three batches in two days because the first one was so easy.

    Used pasta makers turn up at thrift shops all the time for $5. Mine came from a friend who was getting rid of it; I took it off his hands figuring I’d try it once for a lark and then donate it. Instead I’ve decided I’m keeping it.

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