Recipe: Shockingly Simple Spaghetti Sauce

Other than opening a can of prepared stuff with unpronounceable ingredients, it doesn’t get much easier than this. Photo courtesy Steve Henderson Fine Art.

When I was a child, my dad was in charge of spaghetti. He began the process mid-morning Saturday and stayed in the kitchen, stirring and tasting and finessing, for hours, until the coup de grace at precisely 5 p.m., because that’s when all people of my generation (the Baby Boomers) ate dinner. If it was good enough for Beaver, it was good enough for us.

Years later, when I was a new bride, I asked Dad for his spaghetti sauce recipe, because just boiling the pasta was a challenge for me at that point. I wanted something of the family tradition to pass on, and I figured that since most of Dad’s recipe involved standing and stirring, even I could do that.

“Oh, it’s a couple cans of tomato sauce and some hamburger,” he said.

“That’s it? You spent HOURS in the kitchen.”

“I know,” he said with a smile. “It was peaceful and quiet. Everyone left me alone because they were afraid I would make them taste the sauce.”

Wisdom from a man with five children.

Today’s recipe, while it’s simple and doesn’t use many ingredients, is a step beyond two cans of tomato sauce and some hamburger, with the added bonus that you don’t have to spend from mid-morning until 5 p.m. in the kitchen, stirring (unless, of course, you want to). When I make it, I think of Dad, may you rest in peace, and I’ll see you again, someday. We’ll make something together in the kitchen.

Shockingly Simple Spaghetti Sauce — serves four, over pasta

My father was a world traveler, and while he didn’t deliver toys, he researched tropical diseases throughout the world. So, in his own way, he gave the world good gifts. The World Traveler by Steve Henderson — original painting, signed limited edition print, poster.


3 Tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 head garlic, minced

1 15-ounce can tomato sauce (I buy Kirkland tomato sauce at Costco, but you can get it through

Scant 1 cup water — fill the can that the tomato sauce was in half full, and stir to loosen the sauce from the sides of the can

2 Tablespoons sugar (I highly recommend Wholesome Sweeteners, organic and fair trade certified, from Costco, or

1 Teaspoon salt

1 handful fresh herbs, minced, or 2 teaspoons dried herbs (I used a blend of sage, rosemary, and thyme from the kitchen garden)

Spaghetti, cooked, enough for 4 people

Saute the onions and garlic in the olive oil, over medium heat, for 10-15 minutes, or until the onions are limp. You may cook them to the point of being brown, or not, just stir now and then to keep everything from burning. This is a great time to wash the dishes, pause a moment to stir the onions, wash some more dishes, stir some more onions, and so on. If you’re not a clean as you go type person, this is a great way to become one and make friends out of the family members who are responsible for doing the dinner dishes.

Pour in the tomato sauce and water; add the sugar and salt; stir, and let cook for 3-5 minutes until hot. Stir in the herbs and let cook one minute more.

In a blender, or using an immersion blender, puree the sauce until smooth. Serve over spaghetti; sprinkle with cheese if desired. If you wish you can add cooked hamburger — my father’s secret ingredient — but the sauce tastes great without it. By the way, don’t leave out the sugar to make the sauce “healthier.” A small amount of sweetener balances out the acidity of the tomatoes and provides a pleasing taste.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes, where I write about good Recipes in my Tuesday column.

Good recipes, to me, use fresh or wholesome ingredients, don’t cost a lot, don’t take a lot of time, do not require a culinary degree to make, and taste delicious. I have always said, one of the first and easiest way to save money is to learn to cook, because this is 1) something pretty much anybody can do and 2) provides the most savings for the least amount of work.

If you’re interested in saving money, I encourage you to look at my book, Live Happily on Less, which is a series of easygoing essays about easygoing changes you can make, in order to do more with less. Paperback and digital at

About This Woman Writes

Carolyn Henderson is the marketing manager of Steve Henderson Fine Art. She writes about life, art, and the art of life.
This entry was posted in Art, blogging, Christmas, cooking, Culture, Current Events, Daily Life, dinner idea, diy, Encouragement, Family, Food, frugal living, home, instruction, Life, Lifestyle, News, Parenting, recipe, santa, saving money, travel, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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