Think Outside The Box Spaghetti

Spaghetti with 'Meat' Sauce

Spaghetti with ‘Meat’ Sauce

I’ve mentioned before that my mother was NOT the most adventurous cook. It wasn’t that she was a bad cook – she was just a nervous cook.  Afraid to try new things.  Plus, she was a product of the modern world of boxed, canned, and frozen foods. She bought into the idea of why take the time and trouble to make something yourself when a large corporation (whose only concern was to make a profit) could do the work for you.

We kids didn’t mind.  After all, we could pick out specifically what frozen dinner we each wanted – some of them even had a little dessert! The only fresh vegetable we ever had was corn on the cob – when it was in season. The rest of the time we had canned green beans or peas. I’d never even heard of broccoli or cauliflower before I left home.

Which brings me to my spaghetti story.

As probably most of you know, when you have to start paying your own bills you really take notice of how much things cost. Fortunately, I was born with a dominant frugal gene (yeah- cheap, okay?). I figured out pretty quickly I was going to have to learn how to cook.

One thing my mother made was spaghetti. She used Kraft Spaghetti, which came in a box, and she added ground beef. It was good, and all I knew. So I decided to make spaghetti and bought the box of Kraft, the ground beef, and made my spaghetti. It was good – again, it was all I knew.

Then one day in the supermarket I happened to notice plastic bags full of dried spaghetti noodles.  What the heck was this? Why are these spaghetti noodles all by themselves and not packaged in a box with a can of sauce?, I wondered.  (You’ll be happy to know this was only said in my head…THAT time, anyway.) It took awhile, but it eventually dawned on me:  I could make the sauce FROM SCRATCH and buy as many noodles as I wanted. (It took many more years to figure out I could actually make the pasta, too.) It honestly never occurred to me people made spaghetti sauce.

Once enlightened, I tried various spaghetti sauces through the years. When I became a vegetarian, the problem became that without the meat, it was really just a marinara sauce.  Having grown up with a nice hefty meaty sauce, plain old marinara sauce just seemed kind of empty. It was tough being a vegetarian in the early days.

Fast forward to my discovery of fake meats (‘faux’ to you posh people), which greatly expanded my vegetarian recipe repertoire.  I’d already started using Loma Linda’s Redi-Burger in my ‘Beef’ Salsa Burritos (remember, quote marks denotes FAKE) and my Navajo Tacos. But it didn’t seem like a good choice for my spaghetti sauce.

I guess good things come to those who wait because, low and behold, in the frozen food section I found Morningstar’s Griller’s Recipe Crumbles.  They come in a pouch and are like ground beef that’s already stir fried (minus the fat).  So it’s a snap to use – no frying, no wondering what to do with all the grease.  Just open the pouch and pour out the ‘ground beef’.

Thanks to these Crumbles, my family can now enjoy a delicious Spaghetti With ‘Meat’ Sauce. I’ve come up with a recipe in which I  simply throw everything in the stockpot and cook for an hour.  As always, when I make something that freezes well, I make a vat of it and freeze it in meal sized portions.  No point in cleaning the pot and utensils more than once.  Making a multiple batch is not that much more work.  Once I’m done, I have enough spaghetti sauce for months!

I’ll give you the recipe for both one batch and six batches (that’s what I make).  I would suggest you make the one batch version first, just to make sure you like the recipe.  If you’d like to see my video of me making this dish, click on: Spaghetti With ‘Meat’ Sauce.

NOTE:  If you want to save about 20 minutes, and are NOT obsessive and paranoid like I am, then buy the canned tomatoes diced instead of whole.  I buy the whole so I can inspect each one and cut off any imperfections and the stem end. Also, you can buy garlic already minced in a jar. It took me 35 minutes to put all the ingredients in the stockpot. You can see where most of the time was spent.

ADDITIONAL NOTE:  It doesn’t matter what kind of red wine you choose.  Just make sure it’s a wine you would actually drink because the flavor will come through.  I usually use Black Mountain cabernet sauvignon – it’s reasonably priced and has a nice taste.

WILL SHE EVER STOP TALKING ADDITIONAL NOTE:  You can either buy vegetable stock OR do what I do and make your own.  Click on: Back To Basics: Vegetable Stock for my recipe.


1 BATCH VERSION – makes 3 cups

  • 1 pouch (12 oz / 340 grams) Morningstar Griller’s Recipe Crumbles
  • 1/3 cup (80g) extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup (125 ml) vegetable stock
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 1 tsp each of dried oregano, dried basil, and salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ cup (122g) tomato paste
  • 2 cups (528 g) canned whole tomatoes
  • ½ cup (125 ml) red wine
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

6 BATCH VERSION – makes 18 cups

  • 6 pouches (each pouch is 12 oz / 340 grams) Morningstar Griller’s Recipe Crumbles
  • 2 cups (475 ml) extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cups (720 ml) vegetable stock
  • 2 T minced garlic
  • 2 T each of dried oregano, dried basil, and salt
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 4   6 oz (170g) cans tomato paste
  • 4   28 oz (793g) cans whole peeled tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 bottle red wine (YES – a whole bottle!)
  • 1 T red pepper flakes

Throw everything in a stockpot and bring to a boil. Lower flame enough so the sauce continues simmering. Cook for 1 hour, stirring often – you don’t want the bottom to burn. Done!!!

IMPORTANT NOTE (this is the last note, I promise):  Make sure you remove the bay leaves before serving the ‘Meat’ Sauce.  Actually, I kind of enjoy the fishing expedition I go on trying to find my 6 leaves. (Shows you how exciting my life is!)  The last leaf is always the hardest to find.


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