Friday, December 25, 2009

The Spaghetti Sauce Saga

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 even tried Bryan's Sweet and Hot Tomato Sauce - but let's just say it wasn't any Prego with Extra spice!

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.

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Anonymous said...

I hate when a product you rely on and love gets discontinued!! Thanks for the results of your search.

I read about you in the Los Angeles Times. Good luck with the Pillsbury contest. Loved the picture in the article.

HoneyB said...

Susie, you have convinced me I must try this spaghetti sauce....and the meatballs! I'm anxious to see what your perfect meatloaf and mac & cheese will be!!! :-)

Linda said...

I've loved every Kittencal recipe I've tried, so there's no reason not to add this to my list. As usual, I enjoy the story behind your quest. ;)

Katy ~ said...

I have a favorite spaghetti sauce as well, and cannot be swayed, no matter what. Our tastes are different, but I absolutely understand the search for what we deem to be "the best"

Tell me again, what's your favorite cornbread?

And won't I be interested in your mac & cheese results. I can't seem to find one that is "it." But then I can't decide what "it" is. Think I need to narrow my thinking....

Susie said...

Katy - here is the cornbread. It's thick and fluffy and buttery. It isn't a "crusty" cornbread at all. :)

LOL About the mac & cheese!

Sarah said...

Just found your blog via the Seattle Times and thought I'd have a read! Mac and cheese is a serious weakness of mine so I'm curious what characteristics your dream mac and cheese would have?

Congrats on the Pillsbury contest and good luck!

percette said...

So I guess I am missing it, but I was trying to find what your actual recipe was for your spaghetti sauce... ??

Susie said...

Hi Percette,

I don't have a recipe that I made of my own, I just tweak the one from Kittencal on Recipezaar, the one I refer to at the end. Just click the link and it'll take ya right over there.

Thanks for stopping by! :)

Debbie said...

Hi, Susie! Read the article about you in this morning's Yakima Herald, and had to take a look at your blog ASAP. Wow! What fun to's like talking recipes with a friend. Looking forward to further installments of your meatloaf search--and your adventures at the Bake-Off!