Everyone needs a few easy spaghetti recipes under their belts. Spaghetti noodles are cheap and fast to cook. If you have a few different sauce recipes memorized you can always easily whip something up. This is a slightly spicy spaghetti recipe, a meaty red sauce packed with vegetables. I make it in bulk and freeze it in portions so I can make a last minute dinner whenever the need arises.When Eric and I were first dating I cooked for him all the time. I was on medical leave from work because of breaking my arm on our first date (crazy bike ride, that’s another story!), so was struggling to find a sense of purpose. For a time I decided that my purpose was to keep Eric well fed and happy. (Don’t worry, he eventually figured it out and told me he loved me for so much more than my cooking, and I got over that area of codependency!).
One day Eric came over to my apartment after getting off work and said, “Oooh what smells so good?”
“It’s my famous spaghetti sauce!”
His face fell, “You mean like a red sauce?”
The butterflies in my stomach began, “Yes? Is that bad?”
“I don’t like red sauce.”
“What do you mean? Everybody loves spaghetti! There’s whole books about it! Haven’t you ever read Daddy Makes the Best Spaghetti? How can you not like spaghetti?”
The verbal backpedaling began. “It’s not you, I just don’t really like it. But I’ll try it, I promise, I’ll eat it, I won’t hate it.”
I won’t hate it was not the vote of approval I was looking for, but I dished up a bowl of my spaghetti and meat sauce while listening to his story. It turned out that when Eric was in High School he was in a choir that traveled the country performing at various locations. Churches would host them in different cities and they were warned at the beginning of the tour that it was quite possible that every single church would serve them spaghetti for their group meal.
Sure enough, city after city, the friendly hosts would say, “Guess what’s for dinner? Spaghetti!!!!!!” The students would all cheer and show exceptional graciousness, but Eric came to associate spaghetti in red sauce with the dish that you eat when there’s no other option and you don’t want to hurt people’s feelings.
Fortunately, he genuinely loved my homemade spaghetti sauce. Apparently a lot of the spaghetti he had on tour (I love saying my husband went on tour!) was made with sauce from a jar and maybe some ground beef. But once he tasted my expertly seasoned sauce with browned organic beef, chunky tomatoes and finely chopped peppers, carrots and onions, he declared it the best spaghetti recipe ever!
I perfected this recipe over a few years of learning to feed my single friends in Hawaii on very little money. It was the perfect recipe to ask everyone to contribute to. Someone would bring carrots and onions, another person bell peppers, I’d provide the meat because I would store up when I found an amazing sale. It would end up costing each of us just a couple dollars and make enough food for 25 people, which meant everyone could take home leftovers!
I use a giant can of diced tomatoes, almost as big as my kitty Cappucino. You can find these at a bulk store like Sam’s Club or a restaurant supply store like Cash & Carry. I can usually get this whole giant can for $3 or less. It’s a great way to save some money and I always have one sitting in my pantry in case I unexpectedly need to feed a crowd.
Even if you don’t have 25 people to feed, this sauce freezes so well. I freeze it in 8 cup portions. When we want spaghetti I thaw one out and use about half a cup per person. If I don’t use it all, I’ll use up the leftovers in the next week making calzones, lasagna or other baked pastas.
Do you have a favorite way to use up leftover pasta sauce?
Giant Batch of Healthy Spaghetti Sauceserves 20-25
Approximate cost/serving: I not only saved money through the giant can of tomatoes, but I also got my organic grass fed ground beef for only $3/lb by buying a share of a cow. I get my dried parsley and Italian seasoning in bulk because I go through them so quickly, as well as sugar. Tomato sauce and tomato paste I buy by the box at Sam’s Club. The whole pot of sauce cost about $9 so just 36 cents per serving.
Vegetarian/Gluten Free: You can leave out the beef to make a really good vegetarian/vegan sauce. That saves you money as well! Just use a little olive oil to cook your vegetables before adding the tomatoes. The sauce is naturally gluten free, just make sure you use gluten free pasta to serve it with.