Marinara sauce is easy to make if you have time, but if you rather use a jar of pasta sauce, I’ve got some ideas (backed up by years of research) for taking it to the next level.
In our house Wednesday is not Prince spaghetti day, Friday is. That makes no sense to you unless you’re around my age, grew up in Massachusetts and remember this commercial of a mother leaning out her North End window calling her son home for a Wednesday meal of Prince spaghetti. Anthony!
Friday is actually anything goes for dinner day. Jim and I trade off the week nights but we don’t normally make dinner plans for Friday. We either attack our leftovers, have pizza or, if I get a hankering, we might have an impromptu pasta meal using whatever’s in the refrigerator or cupboard.
I always have a few jars of prepared tomato, or spaghetti, sauce in the cupboard, just in case. However, I don’t think I’ve ever just dumped a jar of sauce in a pot and called it done. I always doctor it up. You could do the same with a can of pureed or crushed tomatoes.
Friday Night Spaghetti Sauce
You’ll need a large pasta pot with lid, large skillet and colander. I don’t give ingredient amounts because there are no rules. You might want a chunky sauce with lots of ingredients or a lighter sauce with scant ingredients. It’s Friday, wing it! You can’t go wrong with this dish.
- Pasta – I prefer linguine or fettuccine, but of course spaghetti is fine.
- Optional meat base: ground beef, turkey, Italian sausage (crumbled or sliced), bacon (chopped) or pancetta (chopped). If you have meatballs, lucky you.
- Vegetable base: onion, mushrooms and green bell pepper, chopped or sliced. If all you have is onion, that’s fine.
- 2-4 cloves garlic, minced
- Dried herbs and spices – basil (or pesto), oregano, thyme, crushed red pepper flakes and freshly ground black pepper
- Red wine – you can leave it out if you don’t have any.
- Prepared tomato or spaghetti sauce (or substitute canned pureed or crushed tomatoes)
- Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- Grated cheese
Put your water on to boil in a covered large pot. When the water comes to a boil, add pasta and salt, and stir it all up. Let water come back to boil, give it another good stir and then let it cook according to package instructions.
If your meat isn’t yet cooked, cook it in a large skillet over medium heat until it’s browned or done, breaking up ground meat into large or fine crumbles, depending on your preference. When finished, transfer the meat to a plate, draining the fat. Leave behind at least 1 tablespoon of fat in the pan.
Add olive oil to the pan if necessary. Add onion, mushroom and green bell pepper, sprinkle with salt and sauté until the vegetables are just starting to soften. Then add garlic and any dried herbs and sauté 1 minute or until just turning golden. If you’re using pesto, add it with the tomato sauce. If you’re using fresh herbs, add them with the parsley at the end.
Add a big splash or two of red wine to the pan and let it reduce. Then add the tomato sauce (and pesto).
When sauce is heated through, taste it for seasoning, make any adjustments and finish with Italian flat-leaf parsley (and fresh herbs).
Drain the cooked pasta and add it to the sauce. Stir well to combine.
Serve the pasta with lots of grated cheese, garlic bread, green salad and lots of red wine. Buon appetito!