When I was younger my Brother and I participated in every sport and activity you could think of. The one that stuck for both of us was swimming, which led to grueling two a day practices during our teenage years. Mother Moors used to have to come up with large enough meals to feed us after practice, which led to some of the most impressive eating sessions in the history of the city of Northville, MI. The one that seemed to fill us up the easiest was a giant pot of spaghetti, Italian sausage and a jar of store bought sauce. To this day, spaghetti is one of my favorite meals to prepare when I want something fast and easy. My Mother made a lot of sacrifices and taught me many things while I was growing up. The wisdom she bestowed upon me has formed me into the person I am today. There was one piece of information she shared with me in my late teens that has made an impact on my entire life. I will never forget it.
Stop buying terrible pasta sauce.
Stop buying Prego. Stop buying Ragu. That off brand value sauce? Leave it on the shelf. Your pasta deserves better. That Italian sausage is judging you. I’m not trying to be some pasta sauce snob when I say that. I understand that it’s a really cost effective way of serving a large plate of food and some people don’t care. This entire post is dedicated to making you care the next time you want to make a large plate of spaghetti and need some sauce. This is dedicated to my Mother, who taught me to have higher expectations when eating spaghetti. Finally, this post is dedicated to spaghetti — The finest, cheapest way to cure hunger.
First of all, let’s look at the ingredients in a terrible pasta sauce. Take for example a can of Ragu Old World Style Traditional Sauce, which is advertised as their richest, thickest recipe:
Tomato Puree (Water, Tomato Paste), Soybean Oil, Salt, Sugar, Dehydrated Onions, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Spices, Romano Cheese Made From Cow’s Milk (Cultured Part-Skim Milk, Salt, Enzymes), Natural Flavors.’
Your first lesson in purchasing sauce at the store is if your jar lists tomato paste as the first ingredient drop the can so it shatters on the floor and pretend you did it on accident. You should then ask for a mop and clean it up yourself so someone doesn’t have to clean up after you. Seriously though. Tomato paste is created by cooking down tomatoes until the liquid is almost completely removed, leaving a thick tomato concentrate. It’s the first step in making ketchup. You’re basically stealing a tomato’s soul and selling it to the devil. Any integrity that tomato had is now gone. You may as well enjoy a large glass of juice from concentrate while eating tomato soul.
Instead, look for a very simple item listed first on the ingredients. Look for actual tomatoes. No puree, no paste. Just tomatoes. Going the complete opposite end of the spectrum, take a look at Rao’s Homemade Marinara’s ingredients.
Imported Italian tomatoes, imported olive oil, fresh onions, salt, fresh garlic, fresh basil, black pepper, oregano
See how it sounds like you just bought a jar of tomatoes with some seasonings? Doesn’t that sound more like what we want to dump on our pasta? I know, I know, Rao’s is $9 a jar which to most people just isn’t worth it. I happen to believe that it’s an absolutely ridiculous idea to pay that much for some tomatoes and seasoning. There are plenty of sauces in between that use actual tomatoes rather than the souls of thousands of poor tomatoes. If you pay an extra dollar or two, your pasta will be happy to not have to hang out with those asshole sauces.
Second, why not just make your own sauce? I understand not everyone has the know-how to make a sauce and it’s just so much easier to buy a bottle of Prego ketchup sauce and be done with it. Here’s my retort to that. You can purchase a two pound can of San Marzano tomatoes, widely known as tomatoes grown in the finest tomato growing region in the world, for about $4. From there you pour it in a pot with whatever ingredients you like, cook it on medium-low for an hour or two and you have a better sauce than any jar you could buy at any store. The beautiful part of this is it’s almost impossible to screw up. Like garlic? Throw it in. Like your sauce a little spicy? Add red pepper. Want to cook the Italian sausage directly in the sauce so you don’t have to wash two pans? IT MAKES IT EVEN BETTER. Seriously, the next time you are thinking about buying a jar of sauce buy a can of tomatoes instead and just throw a bunch of shit together. It will blow your mind how much better it is.
Just as a bonus, here’s the recipe for that $9 bottle of Rao’s Marinara. This makes double what sells at the store for a dollar less than one jar. Obviously the better the ingredients you use the closer it will taste to actual Rao’s.
- Olive oil
- Quarter onion, chopped up
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped up
- 2 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes.
- 6 leaves fresh basil, torn into small pieces. Don’t chop it, ask Meyhem Lauren.
- Little bit of dried oregano
- Salt and pepper
Do you have a crock pot/slow cooker? Of course you do. Dump all of those ingredients in before you leave for work and when you get home you’ll have a delicious sauce that tastes like it was cooked by an old Italian lady name Belaflore. If you’ve never cooked a couple of pieces of Italian sausage in your sauce, as mentioned before, here is your chance to be the hero you’ve never been able to be. Your family will probably even do the dishes for you after dinner instead of just leaving them in the sink like they always do.