There's a time and a place for jarred pasta sauce, but this is not it.
I always keep a jar of pasta sauce in the pantry, for those nights I need something fast. BUT, I love having this sauce on hand - I know what went into it, and it's quite tasty (the kids even like it!). It's adapted from the friend who got me started with freezer meal swaps. Give it a try, and adjust it as you go along - depends on the veggies you have on hand, etc. You could use ground turkey too, if you want to go that route.
Hearty Meat Sauce
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Add the following to a roasting pan:
5 lb. ground beef, broken up
2 medium onions, diced
4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 - 1 c. celery, diced
1/2 - 1 c. carrots, diced (adds some sweetness)
1-2 green bell peppers, diced (add red or yellow, too if you like - whatever you have on hand)
4-8 oz. fresh mushrooms, diced (just add ‘em – cut up small enough, and the kids won't know)
Cover with a lid and put it in the over for about 45-60 minutes. Mix it up and break up any large chunks about half way through. When finished, drain off all fat (you can rinse it, but it might lose a little flavor). Then add the following to the drained beef & veggie mix:
2 28-oz. cans diced tomatoes
2 28-oz. cans tomato sauce
¼-1/2 c. chopped fresh basil
¼-1/2 c. chopped fresh parsley (Italian flat-leaf)
2 tbsp. dried oregano
1-1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp. sugar (evens out acidity of tomatoes) - I like brown sugar - sometimes I just start with 1 tbsp. and then add more if needed)
*I leave out the salt – people can add their own, and the tomatoes have some already
Put back in the oven for about 30 minutes and let simmer. Remove from oven, and let cool. Portion into freezer bags (let them freeze flat, so they’re easy to stack!). To prepare, thaw in the fridge (put it in a bowl or pan so it doesn't leak) or thaw on the stove. Boil some noodles, and you're ready to rock. You could also use this for lasagna, or to serve over ricotta-stuffed shells or manicotti, etc.