First some notes:
Everyone makes sauce differently. Some swear by fresh tomatoes, but I find them too acidic.
Some like a bright tasting sauce, I like sauce mellowed by low and slow cooking.
The brand of tomato sauce you use can greatly alter the taste of your sauce; I always use Del Monte.
When topping her spaghetti, Noni always used fresh grated Dry Monterey Jack cheese, which you usually have to get at an Italian deli. Fresh Parmesan comes in second. The stuff in a can has additives to keep it from clumping, which also keeps the cheese from melting, so it tastes fine but has a grainy texture.
If you’re vegan, just omit the meat and add more mushrooms, or you can also add veggies like peas, diced carrot & zucchini, and corn.
2 cups chopped white or yellow onions
1 bunch flat leaf parsley (not the curly stuff you use for garnish)
8 cloves garlic (about one bulb)
1/2 cup olive oil or more
2 pounds lean ground beef
2 small, 4 oz cans mushroom stems & pieces
16 cups Del Monte spaghetti sauce
6 cups water (approximately)
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon crushed, dried basil
1/8 teaspoon ground thyme
1/8 teaspoon ground oregano
1/16 teaspoon ground cloves
First, get out a large cutting board and chop 2 cups of onions. Pick the leaves and small stems off of the bunch of parsley, throwing away the large steams. Wash well and squeeze dry in a paper towel. Make a pile of parsley on your cutting board the same size as your pile of chopped onion. (Just wrap up any remaining parsley in the wet paper towel, bag it, and store it in the fridge for another use.) Peel and mash or lightly chop the garlic, or run it through a garlic press. Now you have the holy trinity of Italian cooking ready.
At this point, Noni would run this through a hand crank grinder. You can mince away with a knife if you have the patience, grind it in a food processor, or just have at it with a slap chop like I usually do. As long as you get your trinity finely chopped to minced, you’re good to go.
Next pour your olive oil into a large pot, using more if necessary to get a good coating on the bottom. Don’t worry about using too much, you’ll be skimming it off later. Cook your veggies over medium high heat for about 15 minutes, stirring often, until the onions are starting to caramelize. This will keep your sauce from being bitter, so you don’t have to add sugar like some people do. Just be very careful not to scorch them.
Then add the ground beef and continue cooking until it is cooked through.
Now grab two cans of sauce and dump them into your pot. Fill one of the cans 3/4 full of water, and holding both empty cans over the pot, pour the water back and forth between the cans a few time to get all of the sauce out of the cans, before dumping the water in the pot. This keeps you from having to scrape sauce out of the cans, and measures your water at the same time. You’re welcome.
Drain the mushrooms, chop finely and add to your pot, along with the spices.
Cook your sauce all day, low and slow. I usually have my electric cooktop set at 2 out of 10. Stir your sauce occasionally, more often as it gets thicker to keep it from scorching. I use a flat tipped wooden scraper thingamjig so I can really drag the bottom of the pot (see in photo above).
Your sauce starts out looking like this:
After it cooks for a few hours, you can start skimming off the puddles of oil that collect on the top.
Keep cooking it until it’s nice and gloppy, which should take at least 6 hours. You can see how the sauce has cooked down and darkened, and is no longer free flowing. Freezes well.