I used to make a “simpler” (read: plain) version of this sauce and the boys loved it. Then I decided to get crazy and add other vegetables. My boys cried. Then they ate it. They forgave me.
I decided to change things up because I’d had a bounty of fresh summer vegetables sitting on the counter beginning to protest that they hadn’t been used, yet. I hadn’t made spaghetti sauce in a while, so I thought “what the heck” and started to chop things up. Then I got more ambitious and started scouring for veggies in the refrigerator and freezer. Why not? In the end I wound up with nearly a dozen different types of produce, not including the tomatoes. By the way, it was the sight of the eggplant that made my kids cry foul and proclaim I had ruined the sauce. Silly kids.
There are times when I still whip together my “simpler” sauce, because it is simple. But this is only when I’m pressed for time. It’s okay, but it’s not this sauce. This sauce, with its great variety of vegetables, has so much depth of flavor. When I bust out the BIG pot that I have (this baby holds 5 gallons!) my boys start doing their happy dance. My oldest told his girlfriend that she had to learn how to make this sauce. Easy son, don’t get yourself into trouble!
Each time I make this spaghetti sauce, it’s a little different. It will depend on what vegetables I had at the time and how much. The core is the same, which is pretty much the “simpler” sauce. I make it in monster batches and divide it up into containers for freezing. What you see in the pictures is 2x the recipe listed below, so yeah, monster batches. If even a single recipe is a bit much it is easy to pare it down to what suits your needs!
Some quick notes before you begin:
There are two components to the sauce: the “core”, and the “add ins”. The core is my basic sauce that I always start with, and the add-ins are the additional vegetables that I use depending on what I happen to have on hand. You can customize to suit your tastes, and the amounts I listed are guidelines. Feel free to tinker!
The quantities of ingredients in the full recipe (both core and add-ins) make a VERY large batch. You will need a stock pot that can hold 2 to 3 gallons, depending on how much of the vegetables listed you use. You can cut down the amounts based on what suits your needs/wants.
I freeze or pressure can the sauce in smaller quantities to make individual meals for my family. For pressure canning, follow your manufacturers instructions for times. Be sure to process for meat times for safe results.
You may use dried herbs if fresh are not available. I’m a huge fan of McCormick’s Italian Seasoning Blend. I will usually use 1/4 cup or more for this size of recipe. Adjust to your tastes.
Ultimate Summer Garden Spaghetti Sauce Recipe
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lb. onion, cut into 1/8s and sliced
- 3-4 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh garlic (about 6-7 cloves)
- 1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
- 1 lb. Italian sausage, hot or mild
- 1 1/2 cups burgundy wine (get the cheap jug-o-wine)
- 1 #10 can of diced tomatoes in juice (roughly 6 lbs., equivalent to 7 standard cans at 14 oz each), or 6 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes, diced
- 1 #10 can of tomato sauce or puree (same equivalent as above); if using puree you may want more salt and seasonings added
- fresh sprigs of oregano, basil, marjoram, thyme, rosemary, winter savory, sage, parsley, and a couple of bay leaves (or 3-4 Tbsp. of a mixed dried herb blend like McCormick’s Perfect Pinch Italian Seasoning)
- 1 standard can of black olives, drained and sliced, about 1 cup-ish
- salt and/or pepper to taste (probably won’t need it)
The Add-Ins (use all or some, but don’t cheat yourself, use at least three of the following):
- 1 lb. eggplant, finely minced
- 1 lb. shredded carrots
- 1 lb. shredded any variety or combination of summer squash (zucchini, patty-pan, crookneck, etc.)
- 2 leeks, thinly sliced, white and green parts
- 1/2 lb. broccoli, finely minced
- 1/2 lb. cauliflower, finely minced
- 1/2 lb. sweet pepper, finely chopped (I’m no fan of green bells, use other colors for best flavor!)
- 1 cup pitted and sliced Kalamata olives
In a very large stock pot add the oil and onions and set the stove to high. Once the onions start to sizzle, bring the heat down to medium. Sauté the onions until they are translucent and getting golden in color. Add the meat and the garlic. Break the meat up as it browns and stir to mix the contents.
Once the meat is mostly cooked, add the remaining core ingredients. As for the herbs, I usually am cutting whatever is ready from the garden and adding it in. The picture shows what I added for a double recipe. For a single recipe I would add two six inch sprigs each of rosemary, savory, sage, and thyme; two to three six-inch sprigs of oregano and marjoram; and a small bundle each of basil and parsley. You can use more or less to your liking. Herbs with soft stems like parsley, basil, and sage will be roughly chopped. Herbs with hard stems and/or small leaves will be dunked in whole. You can fish out the stems later, no biggie.
Add in your remaining ingredients of your choice. Really, go big or go hungry because it is so worth the time and effort to make this sauce with as many of the add-ins as possible. Your pot is going to get pretty full so just be aware of that. At this point, turn the heat to medium-low and stir all your ingredients together. A paddle type of spatula is great for this as it allows you to move the material on the bottom of the pot around more efficiently and reduces the risk that it will burn (and it will if you don’t stir regularly). Your goal is to cook the sauce down and evaporate off a lot of the water, so don’t cover the pot. Things will get a bit splattery, so if you have a splash guard, use it, or cover your pan with the lid halfway to minimize the mess.
It is up to you how much you want to cook it down. The more you do, the less watery the sauce is and the more concentrated the flavors are. Once the sauce is cooked down to your liking, allow it to remain in the covered pot for a while, even overnight. Really, trust me. Time makes it sooo much better. I know, I’m impatient, too. You will now have a lot of sauce that you can package up into smaller portions for freezing, or you can just eat and eat and eat and eat and eat spaghetti until you don’t want to anymore. You do you.