This recipe for Slow-Cooked Oven-Baked Spaghetti Sauce results in a deeply flavored meat sauce that is perfect over any kind of "macaroni
The making of Slow Cooked Oven Spaghetti Sauce
Slow-cooked spaghetti sauce, just like Nonna used to make.
Wait, I don't have a Nonna.
"What I was going for here was a slow-cooked spaghetti sauce that was virtually hands-off AND didn’t stick to the pot."
But my German mother used to make a slow-cooked spaghetti sauce. And I'm pretty sure it was close to what Nonna would have made...onions, garlic, meat, tomatoes, herbs, mixed together and put on the "back of the stove" to simmer for a few hours, or more until it was rich, thick and full of flavor.
The only problem is, that sauce still needed attention as the "back of the stove" lost its slow cooking ability when we went from wood burning to gas or electric. Slow cooking on a wood-burning stove allowed the cook to find just the right place to position the pot of slow simmering sauce. The heat source, not being direct, allowed the cook to set it and pretty much forget it. Even at the lowest temperature of a modern-day stove, the heat is direct and the sauce needs to be stirred to keep it from burning to the bottom of the pot.
Not much hands-off there.
I don't know about yours, but every time I lift that lid to stir, the simmering sauce would pop and sputter out all over my stove-top. And no matter how much stirring was done, or how low the heat, even if a diffuser was used, some of the sauce ALWAYS stuck to the bottom of the pot and that was a PITA to clean. Trust me, my sister and I were the ones who had to wash it - and "to soak overnight" was not an option in my family home, Dad wouldn't hear of it. ALL dishes must be done before we went on to other tasks. Scrub and moan, scrub and moan.
I've made slow-cooked spaghetti sauce in my slow-cooker before, and it's good, but it still stuck to the bottom of the cooker.
I've made slow-cooked spaghetti sauce in non-stick pots, and while the clean-up was easier, I had to be very careful not to stir the stuck-on parts back into the sauce.
What I was going for here was a slow-cooked spaghetti sauce that was virtually hands-off AND didn't stick to the pot.
"Just like Nonna would make if I had a Nonna"
Tapping into my love of slow-braised meats, cook in the oven at low temperatures for hours to develop rich flavorful gravies, I thought...why not? Why not bake spaghetti sauce? Why not indeed. What I ended up with was perfectly cooked, perfectly flavored, deep rich tomatoey sauce that did not stick to the bottom of the pot and it was virtually hands-free, except for the beginning part, you know, browning the meat, adding the onions, all that part.
There are a couple of really cool parts to this recipe for Slow Cooked Oven Baked Spaghetti Sauce. First off, you can do all the beginnings the night before, stick it in the refrigerator and cook it the next day. Second, you could cook it faster at a slightly higher temperature or slower at a lower temperature. Like a crock-pot but without the crock-pot taste and sticking. Third and finally, it tastes friggin fantastic on whatever macaroni you put it on.
Any Pasta will be complemented with this Slow-Cooked Oven-Baked Spaghetti Sauce
Macaroni, as you know, is what true Italians call all pasta cuts. For us non-Italians, serve this sauce with any spaghetti, linguini, penne, shells, whatever your heart desires, Slow Cooked Oven Baked Spaghetti Sauce will make it yummy. Just remember, no matter what pasta you use, gluten-free, whole wheat, semolina, dried or fresh, use the sauce sparingly. You just want to coat the pasta with sauce, not drown it.
Can I freeze some of this sauce?
YES. This sauce also freezes beautifully, and what better than to have a batch of sauce in the freezer for those days you just want some slow-cooked spaghetti sauce without having to slow cook it? Not much.
Slow Cooked Oven Baked Spaghetti Sauce
- 2 pounds lean ground beef or turkey
- 1 - 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cups chopped onion about 1 large onion
- 4 cloves garlic thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon each dried oregano and thyme or 2 teaspoons Italian seasonings
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
- 6 ounces dry red wine measure with the tomato paste can
- 1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes in sauce (I like to use Italian tomatoes)
- 2 15-ounce cans tomato sauce
- 2 dried bay leaves torn in half
- 6 fresh basil leaves torn, or ½ teaspoon dried (although to be honest, I don't think dried adds much in flavor, so you could omit if you don't have fresh)
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley same as with the basil
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- A pinch of sugar if needed (I find most of the time I don't need to add sugar, but sometimes I do, so taste and add if it seems highly acidic or sour )
- Heat the oven to 300°F.
- Heat a little olive oil in a Dutch oven, or other pot with a lid, over medium heat, add the ground meat and cook, stirring to break it apart until it is no longer pink; drain into a sieve. Set - aside.
- In the same pot, heat about 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil over medium heat; add the onions and sauté for about 3 - 4 minutes or until translucent (do not brown, if they begin to brown, reduce the heat); add the garlic slices along with the oregano, thyme, and red pepper flakes; sauté for 1 - 2 minutes, then add the tomato paste. Stir and cook the tomato paste for about 3 minutes, then add the wine; mix well. Add the whole tomatoes breaking them apart with the spoon; then add the tomato sauce, reserved drained meat, dried bay leaf, basil leaves, parsley, and some salt and pepper. Stir well, bring to a simmer, cover then transfer to the oven and bake for 2 to 2 ½ hours. Remove the pot from the oven, taste and adjust seasonings; adding a pinch of sugar if needed. Serve over your favorite pasta.