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“Real” I-talian Spaghetti Sauce

picture of Spaghetti Sauce

Have you ever seen the Andy Griffith episode where Andy ends up eating spaghetti in three different homes one evening due to a scheduling mishap and he is told that the secret ingredient to good spaghetti is an Italian herb called oregano? Well, I can remember when our family first began eating "Italian" food.

When I was in fourth grade I spent the night with a friend, Laura B., and she and I made pizza using a Chef Boyardee pizza mix. All the ingredients came in a box--the crust mix, a can of sauce, and a little can of parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top. You were encouraged to add more toppings if you desired. We ate this pizza (and enjoyed it!) for several years.

A few years later my sister's boyfriend's mother, Mrs. H., gave my mother a recipe called "Italian Spaghetti Sauce." My mom made it frequently after that and it became a family favorite. I've been trying to use up some of my pantry and freezer staples recently, so I made it and we enjoyed it over some spaghetti squash. It does make a good sauce, so here's the recipe in case you want to try it:

Italian Spaghetti Sauce

1 1/2 lbs. hamburger
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped or minced
chopped green pepper if desired
2 cans tomato paste (rinse half full of water and add to kettle)
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 large pinch oregano and basil
1 bay leaf
dash each marjoram and thyme
salt and pepper to taste

Brown ground beef. Drain grease if any accumulates. Add onion and garlic and cook until translucent. Add remaining ingredients and simmer slowly, stirring occasionally for 2-3 hours. If sauce seems too thick add water. This should serve about six hungry people.


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15 Comments on ““Real” I-talian Spaghetti Sauce”

  1. #1 Ann
    on Sep 22nd, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    “We ate this pizza (and enjoyed it!) for several years.”

    The thought that went through my head when I read the above was to wonder how you managed to keep one pizza fresh for all those years.

  2. #2 Becka
    on Sep 22nd, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    Ann, what I meant to say was that this was the only pizza we knew how to make back then. Our pizza universe has greatly expanded since then!

  3. #3 Ann
    on Sep 22nd, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    You must have two Anns who are commenting! This is Ann B.

    Does that picture show the sauce over spaghetti squash?

    Spaghetti sauce is one thing that I’ve never been able to tell a lot of difference between home cooked and canned. Maybe there’s a lot of difference but I’m just not a “connosieur.” (sp)

  4. #4 Ann
    on Sep 23rd, 2010 at 12:35 am

    I figured that that was what you meant, but I just couldn’t resist….

  5. #5 Deb
    on Sep 23rd, 2010 at 8:02 am

    Hi Becka ~ this is the spaghetti sauce recipe we have followed for years and the only one we’ve known. The only exception is “dash each marjoram and thyme.” Next batch of sauce I’ll have to try adding those spices to see if it increases the flavor.

    Many years ago when we lived at Afton Mountain, we had one neighbor across the road from us who would often walk over to chat. One day we were talking about having our two families get together for a spaghetti night, and she made the comment, “You seem like one of those people who would make your sauce from scratch.”

    To be honest, at that time I had no clue that anyone made it any other way than the recipe you just posted. I guess I looked at her dumbfounded and just nodded. But I was thinking, “Isn’t that the way you do it?” As it turns out, she had never served spaghetti any way other than opening a jar from the store!

  6. #6 Vikki
    on Sep 23rd, 2010 at 8:31 am

    Wow, that recipe is almost identical to my mother’s except for the tomatoes. We use the tomato paste can and added a full can of water instead of half. I’ve never heard of anyone else using tomato paste for their sauce before. It seems like all recipes call for tomato sauce instead. As the years went on, I also added some diced carrots to the recipe.

  7. #7 Becka
    on Sep 23rd, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    Ann B, I do have two Anns who comment! That is spaghetti squash in the picture. Rob and I both really like it and it is a good choice for those who are watching their carb intake. 🙂

  8. #8 Bet
    on Sep 25th, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    After reading your post and recipe, I thought “that’s OUR recipe for spaghetti sauce!” So I popped over to comment, and I see my sister has beat me to it. Glad to know I was right–the recipe sounds very familiar. 🙂

  9. #9 Becka
    on Sep 28th, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    Betty, I think this was a pretty popular recipe for spaghetti sauce several decades ago! It was one of the first “foreign” food recipes served in my family when I was a young girl and we thought it was pretty special. 🙂

  10. #10 Marilyn
    on Oct 4th, 2010 at 8:12 am

    This discussion reminded me of the reaction of some ‘down home’ family the first time they were served foreign food: pizza and spaghetti (not at the same meal!)

  11. #11 Mary
    on Oct 12th, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    How do you cook spaghetti squash? I’ve been afraid to try it.

  12. #12 Becka
    on Oct 12th, 2010 at 10:17 pm

    Mary, I did a blog post a while back on how to cook spaghetti squash. Don’t be afraid – it’s easy to do and quite good. Here’s a link to the post:

  13. #13 Melissa
    on Oct 13th, 2010 at 3:22 am

    I have seen very few Andy Griffith episodes, but I was able to find that episode on youtube, and it was very funny.

    I have always wanted to make my own spaghetti sauce, so I would like to try this recipe, but I don’t know what size the cans of tomato paste are supposed to be. Is there a standard size for them in the US? Here in Romania there are all different sizes (and I suspect all different consistencies, too.)

  14. #14 Becka
    on Oct 13th, 2010 at 11:19 am

    Melissa, The tomato paste cans here are 6 oz. cans. I did some investigating and found that that is about 2/3 of a cup. The consistency shouldn’t be too critical–you can always cook it a bit longer to thicken the sauce or add a bit of water if it seems a little too thick. 🙂

  15. #15 Melissa
    on Oct 13th, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    Thank you, so much, Mrs. Loach. I’ll add those measurements to my list of equivalents!

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