Growing up we had a wonderful family full of characters that lived across the street. In fact, my childhood best friend was one of them. Every year for Christmas, they would give my family a huge mason jar of homemade spaghetti sauce. Not the kind you just open a bottle and dump it over spaghetti….well, at least not all of the recipe. The kind that is thick and meaty and full of yumminess! And then one year, they just didn’t send it. They took a year off and sent something else. The horrors!! Store bought!!
So, we were devastated…obviously. And it had become our traditional Christmas Eve dinner. It was perfect! You go to Christmas Eve service at church, come home, pop some pasta on the stove, and 20 minutes later, you are sitting down to a delicious meal! Easy and absolutely delicious. Well, we had to fix our problem…immediately. And, of course, the recipe was a family secret for them. In the south, no matter how close you are to your family or friends, recipes are sacred!
What were we left with but to try to recreate it ourself? So…Prego or Ragu? That was our starting debate. To be perfectly honest…I don’t totally remember, and I really think we have used both throughout the years. The consistent thing we did was to always get the very basic. Truly just to use it as a base. If you make your own tomato sauce, I’m sure it would be an amazing place to start, as well.
Begin by browning your ground beef. For this crowd, I used about 3.5 lbs. I’m sure you could sub turkey or chicken or even sausage here. OR if you are a meatless person, tofu or meat substitute would be fine. I never pour off the fat. I think it adds amazing flavor! 🙂 Then on to the many veggies! I usually go ahead and add finely chopped onion at this point to brown with the meat.
The key here is to chop up the veggies very finely! This produces a very thick and yummy sauce. I use carrots, celery, canned mushrooms, and canned black olives. Chop, chop, chop and add to the pot! Does your house smell amazing yet??
Next, let’s get saucy!! Hah! I made a little joke! I digress. Okay, add the sauce. I bought a 45 ounce bottle. Seems like overkill, but it is actually just right for this amount of meat. For the final touch I add two bay leaves. Now, turn your heat down to low and let it simmer for about 30 minutes to an hour.
Cook your pasta when you have about 10 minutes left. I like to use Delallo gluten free spaghetti. It takes like spaghetti which, if you are a gluten free person, you crave the original thing sometimes. It’s nice to find good stuff!
I like to serve my spaghetti with Sister Schubert rolls (yes, I cheat from my gluten free world for special occasions, and these are soooo worth it! She’s my favorite sister!! Ha!…again, I make myself laugh!!), a spinach salad (see dressing recipe below!), and a great cab sav bottle of wine! Have you tried Prisoner???!! It is amaz-ing and about $35 so a great nice wine for a not overly huge price!!
So, after a long story, we may not have our neighbor’s recipe quite right, but wowza! It tastes great! AND….it can be made early and be frozen which is a win in my house! I love freezer to stove meals!
Happy Christmas Eve!
Our traditional spaghetti sauce:
3.5 lbs of ground beef
1 45oz bottle of Prego spaghetti sauce
1 small yellow onion
1 stalk of celery
2 large carrots or about 2 dozen baby carrots
1 8oz can of sliced or diced mushrooms
2 small cans of chopped black olives
In a large stockpot, brown your ground beef. on medium high heat. While it is cooking, chop your onion really finely, and add it to cook with the meat. Chop up two sticks of celery and carrots and add them to the pot to begin cooking. Then chop and add your mushrooms and olives. Pour in your sauce. Mix it up and then add in your two bay leaves. Turn your sauce down to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes to an hour.
My favorite go-to vinaigrette! I use this on my salads all the time. Most vinaigrettes are mostly oil based. This one is slightly healthier because it is mostly vinegar. It is so easy!!
This recipe depends on how much you want to make. For a large quantity (which you can store in the refrigerator for up to 10ish days) you will want 1/4 cup of olive oil, 3/4 cup of vinegar. I would add two garlic cloves for this amount and about 1/2 tsp of seasoned salt. Adjust accordingly for smaller amounts, but I think you get it. One part oil for three parts vinegar. The goal is to infuse the garlic into the dressing. Heat up the ingredients to a boil on the stove. When you see everything starting to make a river through the middle, you will know it is done. (basically when it really starts dancing!)
Voila! That is our Christmas eve tradition! Yum!!
Comment and tell me about yours! I love hearing what other families do and learning recipes….that is, if you are willing to share! Hah!