One of the first dishes prepared by all red-blooded American cooks is spaghetti sauce! Whether you are a new bride, a college student or the host of your first dinner party, spaghetti with sauce is universally welcomed!

Over the years, ahem… Ur Mom has powered through numerous versions of spaghetti sauce, a dish which Mario Batali has taught her to label Red Sauce. It feels so very Italian to say it, so very competent to make it…

The beauty of the evolution is that once one arrives at a sauce, it becomes a valid base for all dishes utilizing tomato sauce! Left a little thicker it is a dreamy companion for béchamel in lasagna… Made a little spicier it bakes into a lovely vodka penne… A little chunkier it blankets a weeknight spaghetti pie…  But the favorite incantation at my house includes sausage and shows up on a big cheesy swirl of parmed-out pasta! (More on that later…)

And my family eats it! Eyes-rolled-back-in-the-head big heaping piles of it! We have served it to celebrate and we have served it to comfort. We have served it when there just wasn’t time to figure anything else out! It is a recipe overwhelmingly worth making Urself! It will forever ruin you for the stuff in a jar… I apologize… It is my calling…

Gather Up:
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups diced onions
3/4 cup diced celery
3/4 cup diced carrot
2 1/2 tablespoons crushed garlic
2 28-ounce cans organic crushed tomatoes with basil
1 6-ounce can organic tomato paste
3-4 cups water
1 teaspoon thyme
2-3 bay leaves, depending on size
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon basil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 pound mild Italian turkey or pork sausage
1 pound hot Italian turkey or pork sausage
1 pound spaghetti noodles
2 tablespoons butter
1 – 1 1/2 cups freshly grated parmesan cheese

Heat a large pot over medium to medium high heat. Add 4 tablespoons of oil and heat for a minute or so. If you are using sausage, remove the sausage from the casing, if necessary, and add to the pot. Break apart and season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cook until browned and no pink remains.

Prepare the onions, celery, carrot and garlic. (If you are not adding meat, heat 3 tablespoons of oil and proceed from here.)

Add the onions, celery and carrot. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook about 5 minutes until vegetables are tender.

Add the garlic and sauté just until its fragrance is released, about 1 minute. Then add tomatoes, tomato paste and 3 cups of water. Blend well.

Add the thyme, bay leaves, oregano, basil and crushed red pepper. Mix well.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover loosely with lid and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Stir occasionally, adding more water if needed to maintain desired consistency. When close to finish, heat a large deep pot of water for the noodles.

Stir in 1/2 cup of the cheese. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Remove from heat, discard bay leaves and let sit while you finish preparing the noodles.

Return to your large deep pot of boiling water. Carefully add a few generous shakes of salt and a splash of olive oil. Stir gently – mixture will bubble and sputter a little.

Add pasta and cook to desired doneness, remembering to begin tasting 2 minutes before stated done time.

Drain well and return noodles to pasta pot placed off the heat. Add a few pats of butter. Toss well with tongs. Work in 1/2 to 1 cup Parmesan cheese to taste. Use tongs to swirl mounds of Parm-laced pasta on plates or in large bowls.

Ladle on several scoops of red sauce. Add additional Parmesan if desired. Enjoy the ridiculousness…

Adapted from and inspired by recipes from Mario Batali, Emeril Lagasse, Cook’s Illustrated, Southern Living and others I no longer remember but am still extremely grateful to…