Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

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Homemade spaghetti sauce recipe

Homemade spaghetti sauce is really the only way to go if you want flavor, freshness and frugality. It’s so incredibly easy and makes a world of difference compared to the store-bought-jarred-or-canned-stuff.  I whipped up a batch of this homemade spaghetti sauce last night and I think it’s one of my best batches yet.

This homemade spaghetti sauce recipe could be made in the slow cooker, but you’ll still want to cook up the garlic, onions and beef before you toss it into the slow cooker. I used a Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast-Iron 5-Quart Oval French Oven, Cherry (Amazon) - but any large pan will do.

INGREDIENTS

Olive oil – 2 Tablespoons

Ground beef or turkey – about 2 pounds
I am an Alaskan girl, so I used moose meat :)

1 large onion – diced finely

Garlic cloves - 5 cloves, peeled and minced

Tomato sauce – 3 cans, 15 oz each

Diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano – 3 cans, 15 oz each

Tomato paste - 1 can, 12 oz

Brown sugar - 2 Tablespoons

Dried Oregano (or Italian seasoning mix) – 1 heaping Tablespoon

Dried Sweet Basil - 1 heaping Tablespoon

Bay leaves - two whole leaves (remove when done cooking)

Optional: Sliced fresh mushrooms (probably 12 – 16 oz), diced fresh red or yellow peppers, parmesan cheese

HOW TO PREPARE

1.) In a large dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat, add your olive oil. After it’s hot, toss in your diced onions and minced garlic. Cook until softened and slightly browned. Be careful, the garlic can burn if you’re not careful.

2.) Once your onions are cooked, toss in your ground beef (or turkey). Cook until it’s no longer pink. Drain any excess fat. (If the pan is hard to drain, use a turkey baster to remove grease.)

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3.) Once your meat is no longer pink and the grease drained – toss in all the tomatoes, brown sugar and spices!

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4.) Simmer on LOW for at least one hour, uncovered, on the stove top!  Stir occasionally. Simmering will reduce a lot of the extra water and enrich the flavor. I simmered mine for a few hours on LOW and think it only gets better with time.

5.) Serve over pasta with a shaving of parmesan cheese

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Frozen-Spaghetti-Sauce

Make a big batch of this sauce and you can freeze for future meals. When we want spaghetti we take the sauce out the night before and heat up on the stove top. I like to freeze mine laying flat so that I can stack them upright in my freezer (see how I organize my freezer here).

homemade-roasted-Marinara-sauce

If you are lucky enough to have FRESH tomatoes – I definitely recommend my Roasted Marinara Tomato sauce. It’s amazing and also easy. It’s great to whip up when you have a bumper crop of tomatoes in late summer!

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Roasted chicken pesto pasta salad

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Roasted Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad

We are still on a big budget challenge this month, so I’m trying to avoid the store as much as possible. Sunday I roasted two chickens I had in the freezer – with plans to eat leftovers the next day. I thought we would have roasted chicken salad, but I never made it to the store for fresh lettuce. So we had a roasted chicken pesto pasta salad.

The best thing about this meal is we had everything on hand. The pasta was in our stockpile, I made the pesto last fall and it was in the freezer, and I tossed it with pine nuts and parmesan.

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Here are instructions for making homemade pesto. I make it anytime I can find basil on markdown at the grocery store. It freezes so well – I like to freeze it in 1 Tablespoon dollops in my mini muffin pan.

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Here are instructions for roasting your whole chickens. I almost always roast two at once – the amount of work is nearly the same as if you roast one, but you have leftovers the next day. Or if you’re in a hurry pick up a rotisserie chicken at the store.

To make the pasta salad:

1.) Boil your pasta per the instructions on the box. We used a wheat penne pasta.

2.) If your pesto is frozen (mine was), add it to a sauce pan with a little water and melt it over low to medium heat.

3.) Slice up your roasted chicken into bite size pieces.

4.) Drain your pasta, save a little pasta water (a couple Tablespoons) and pour into pesto. Heat pesto and heat up until it’s a consistency you like.

4.) In a large bowl toss together pasta, chicken and pesto. Stir well so pesto coats everything. Then shave real parmesan cheese on top and toasted pine nuts.

I wish I would had some big bella mushrooms or cherry tomatoes to add, but that would have required a trip to the store and money, which I’m trying to save.

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What’s your favorite pasta salad? What’s your favorite pesto meal?

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Crockpot Lasagna Soup recipe

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Oh my goodness. If you like lasagna – you must try this recipe for Slow Cooker Lasagna Soup. It is creamy, rich, cheesy and just like a homemade lasagna – without all the layering and work that comes with making a lasagna. Not that I’ve ever made a lasagna before, I should confess to that. But now that I’ve made lasagna soup – in my slow cooker of all things – I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to make a labor intensive lasagna! Why bother! I think this would be a perfect meal to make on a Sunday and invite all your family over for dinner. They’ll be super impressed and you’ll be happy because you spent so little time in the kitchen.

Okay, I’ll stop raving about it now and just get right into the recipe.

INGREDIENTS

19 ounces italian sausage links, cut into bite-size pieces
This is the typical size for the Johnsonville italian sausage packages. If you have more, or less, it won’t matter much. Just add what you have or however much you want.

1 onion diced finely
My husband could live without this all together. They still have a bit of crunch even after 8 hours in the crockpot. You’re call.

5 garlic cloves minced

1 Tablespoon dried Oregano

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

One (1) 6 oz can of tomato paste

Two (2) 14 oz cans diced tomatoes
I used oregano, basil flavored tomatoes. Most recipes call for a 28-oz can of fire-roasted tomatoes, but I didn’t have this on hand. So I added a 4-oz can of fire-roasted chilies for that smokey flavor. If you use the fire-roasted tomatoes, you could probably leave out the 4 ounces of chilies.

One (1) 4 oz can of fire-roasted green chilies

2 bay leaves

6 Cups chicken broth

Salt and pepper to taste

10-12 ounces uncooked pasta
I used shells, but you could use whatever kind you have on hand!

Ricotta and shredded mozzarella cheese for topping

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HOW TO PREPARE

1.) In a large slow cooker (6 quart or larger probably) combine all the ingredients except pasta and cheeses. Cook on high for 8-9 hours or high for 4-6 hours.

2.) For the last 30 minutes of cooking, add in your uncooked pasta.

3.) When ready to serve, ladle into bowls and add a dollop of ricotta and sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese. If you want to get fancy you can put it under the broiler for 3-5 minutes until the cheese has melted and started to brown. I admit – I tried this and nearly burned my cheese and the bowl was so hot, it was difficult to manage. I recommend just adding the cheese and stirring it in to melt. It won’t look as pretty, but it’s a lot less work.

You can also serve with garlic bread. I burned mine, so the chickens are eating it now. :)

Thanks to Back to Her Roots for the inspiration for this recipe!

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Come back and tell me what you think about it! I hope you like it as much as we did!

Crock-Pot-Slow-Cooker-Program

If you’re looking for a Crock Pot, Amazon has a great selection! Like this Crock-Pot SCCPVL605-S 6-Quart Programmable Cook & Carry Oval Slow Cooker, Stainless Steel.

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Slow Cooker Crockpot Macaroni and Cheese (with Tillamook cheese!)

This slow cooker macaroni and cheese recipe is so easy!  It’s not fancy but it is flavorful. And I love that you know exactly what’s in it – as opposed to the boxed stuff. And I used my absolute favorite cheese, Tillamook!

This recipe is from Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook (Amazon) - a cookbook I bought in preparation for this Crock-tober series and I have really enjoyed the book!

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2  cups skim or low-fat milk

One 15-ounce can evaporated skim milk

1 large egg, beaten

1/4 teaspoon salt

Large pinch of black pepper

1 1/2 cups shredded medium or sharp cheddar cheese (I used my favorite, Tillamook cheese!)

8 ounces uncooked elbow macaroni (about 2 cups) – this is HALF the box

2 tablespoons shredded parmesan cheese 

HOW TO PREPARE

1.) Coat your slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. In a separate bowl combine low-fat and evaporated milks, egg, salt and papper in the cooker and whisk until smooth. Add the cheese and uncooked macaroni – stir it in softly.

2.) Pour mixture into slow cooker and cook on low for 3.5 to 4 hours. Mine was done in only about 2.5 hours! Watch it, you don’t want it to overcook. If you overcook it the sides will burn and dry out.

3.) Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook - $11.41

Here are other Slow Cooker Crockpot recipes we’ve recently posted:

See Amazon’s best selling slow cookers and Crockpots here

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