Easy homemade spaghetti sauce, using ingredients you probably already have in your pantry! This recipe is a family dinner staple!
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound lean ground beef
1 cup diced yellow onion
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon dry thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed, lightly crushed (see note)
1/2 teaspoon salt
fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
1 (28-ounce) can whole San Marzano tomatoes (see recipe note)
2 cups low sodium beef broth
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter, optional
Pasta of your choice, cooked according to package directions
Parmesan cheese for topping
Add olive oil to a non-reactive pot or Dutch oven (see recipe note) and place over MEDIUM heat. Add ground beef, onion and garlic and cook, stirring to break up the beef until crumbly and browned with no pink remaining. Drain off excess grease, if necessary. Stir tomato paste into the mixture and cook for a minute or two and then add basil, oregano, thyme, salt, pepper, fennel seed and crushed red pepper (if using). Cook, stirring, until well combined. Add whole tomatoes and all liquid from the can, breaking up the tomatoes with your hands as you add them. Add beef broth and sugar and stir to combine. Use the spoon to mash the tomato down to desired consistency.
Increase heat to MEDIUM-HIGH and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to LOW and allow to simmer, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes while you cook your pasta or for up to 2 hours to deepen the flavors.
Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, only if needed. If the sauce is too acidic for your taste, add optional butter and allow to melt into the sauce. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving for sauce to mellow. If you’ve used San Marzano tomatoes, it is unlikely you’ll feel the need to add the butter but it is an excellent way to balance the flavors even further if you’d like.
Serve over cooked pasta or your choice and top with Parmesan cheese.
Before adding fennel seed to sauce, place it on a cutting board and use the bottom of a spoon to lightly crush the seeds to release more fragrance and flavor.
Canned whole San Marzano tomatoes are an excellent choice for sauce making. The plum style tomato is highly flavorful, sweet, and naturally less acidic than many other varieties. Authentic San Marzanos are grown in Italy and the cans will be marked as such but the seeds are available and grown worldwide. I’ve had good luck with the less expensive US grown and canned “San Marzano Style” tomatoes and will generally use what I find at a good price at my local store.
It’s vital to use the correct pan when cooking with very acidic or alkaline foods like tomatoes as cooking in a reactive pan can cause the food to pick up a metallic flavor. Reactive (no-no) pans include aluminum, cast iron, and copper. Instead, opt for a non-reactive pan with a stainless steel or enameled cast iron cooking surface.