I have been asked a few times of late (uh - like in the last 24 hours) what this is spaghetti sauce recipe is that I have searched the whole world looking for. Well, my friends let me tell you the tale.
It all started when I discovered Prego Mushroom with Extra spice. I loved this sauce - it was thick and had a bit of a bite.... in my youth (okay, my 20's) this was my sauce of choice. My favorite - prepared with ground beef and smothered over mashed potatoes (usually instant - ohhh... the horror!).
As I grew, and my need to cook expanded I went through a phase of "doctoring up" jarred sauces (never my beloved Prego because it was perfection). I would saute a onions, celery, carrots, and occasional zucchini to simmer with a bottle of jarred sauce. Add mushroom, black olives - it was a chunky sauce at its best. I'd usually brown ground beef and freeze up big batches . This continued for quite a number of years - and I liked my chunky doctored sauce, but jars of Prego still lurked in my pantry, nothing could match is smooth, thick, rich, tangy goodness for certain uses. At that time, a couple of things happened - the Prego with Extra Spice was becoming harder and harder to find. If I would see it on a supermarket shelf, I'd snatch up 3-5 jars of it and it got me to thinking - "I bet I could make a sauce this good."
Thus, began my search. I've tried a lot of sauce. At first my attention focused on sauces that were an "all-in-one" with meats added. I have quite a few in my recipe box at Allrecipes - here were some the contenders: Very Special Spaghetti Sauce I never rated it - so I don't remember if I made it... but it looks promising.
Spaghetti with Marinara Sauce got a 4-star rating from me and was in serious contention as "it" for awhile. But it still didn't have the the "it" quality I was searching for.
Pasta Sauce with Hot Sausage only garnered 3-stars from me. I noted it was greasy (because the instructions instruct not to drain the sausage) and too spicy for the chickies, even though they are used to a little spice in their food.
I tried random sauces I'd find in cookbooks, on the internet, but none of them were making it for me. I then decided that my problem was I was searching for sauces that always started with the meat simmered in. Prego was strictly sauce - maybe I wasn't searching down the right alley.
Then I ran into Not World Famous Spaghetti Sauce. It promises in the lead-in by the submitter "you've tried the rest - no try the best". I really liked this sauce, it had a lot of flavor with a long list of ingredients and interestingly, celery salt. I made this sauce for a long time - froze big batches of it, used it in lots of things. It was a right fine sauce.... but still - I longed for my prego.
But by this point, Prego had discontinued my favorite flavor. I couldn't find it on a supermarket shelf at all anymore. A quick look at the website confirmed my fears, it was not longer listed in the "products" at all.
It was time to get serious.
I happened across Kittencal's Marinara Sauce. While on the surface it my seem like every other sauce out there - for it me it hit the right notes. I use crushed tomatoes rather than whole because I like the thick richness provided by crushed. I urge you to use the best canned tomatoes you can afford, now isn't the time to go all store brand on me. (Trust me on this, I have plenty of store brand stuff in my cupboards, but canned tomatoes aren't one of them!) I'm heavy-handed with the spices, and I use good fresh quality spices - usually from Penzeys. I use a cabernet sauvignon for the red wine, as I do in most of my recipes calling for red wine. While still not my beloved Prego - this sauce has ended the search. I don't try new recipes anymore (gasp! shock! horror!). It has a permanent home in my recipe box and freezer.
I hope you've enjoyed this tale of spaghetti sauce and I urge you to stayed tuned as I continue my quest for perfect meatloaf and macaroni and cheese!
psssttt.... Try Kittencal's meatballs too... simmer in the sauce to cook instead of baking - it adds another dimension to both the meatballs and the sauce.