I’ve mentioned before that we have a fairly repetitive rotation of meals we eat throughout the week. Some things get retired or get put on the back burner, so to speak, when we get tired of it. The beloved Taco Tuesday has seen this fate once or twice. But there is one meal in particular that is so popular in this house I don’t think it will ever be skipped or taken out of the rotation…
Yes, the last few posts of bread after garlic after bread after garlic, have been setting you up for this one recipe. Getting you ready the way the too-old-to-fight mentor gets the young and brave hero ready to battle evil. But the only evil coming from this battle will be that first bite burning the crap out of your mouth.
And maybe the heartburn.
Spaghetti is the meal that has always brought the family together. And I’m not just talking about mine, I’m talking about families everywhere. If you’re having a get together, odds are, the best, most homey meal you can dish up is spaghetti. Get a nice, toasty loaf of garlic bread, maybe some extra virgin olive oil to drizzle and dip; some freshly grated cheese and a nice big bowl of spaghetti on the table and fuhgettaboudit, you’ll be everyone’s favorite person in the world. They’ll all be following you around like stray cats just hoping you’d invite them over again.
Making good spaghetti is a gift that’s a curse, but ey, whaddya gunna do, uh?
- I say “basic” because there are about a thousand ways to make spaghetti. And well, this one is pretty basic. But if you know anything about Italian cooking or cooking in general for that matter, it’s that the best tasting things are the simplest to make.
- Traditionally speaking, you wouldn’t really use a Bolognese sauce with a thin pasta like spaghetti. It’s usually made with a pasta that can hold the meaty sauce a lot better.
- But who cares? This is a food blog, not a menu of an Italian restaurant in Bologna, Italy.
- If you like more heat, add more red pepper flakes.
- For this recipe, I’m using lean ground beef. To get another level of flavor, you can substitute for ground Italian sausage or you can go 50/50 ground beef/sausage.
- This recipe is enough yield for 2 hearty plates of spaghetti with a bit left over. Adjust accordingly for however many people you’re cooking for.
- Don’t know where to get Roasted Garlic Paste from? It’s ok, I got your back.
- I used crushed tomatoes and tomato paste. This can give you a fairly robust sauce. But if you don’t have it on hand or don’t feel like buying it all the time, you can easily and guilt free buy a jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce. When I do, I buy the traditional style Target brand and it works like a charm. If I’m feeling feisty, I’ll get a roasted garlic and herb style. So it’s up to you.
- If you do go the from scratch route, keep in mind you may have to adjust seasoning before adding the spaghetti. More than likely, more salt and oregano. Maybe even some garlic powder and a pinch of sugar. I have faith that you’ll be able to taste it and know what is missing. If in doubt, use the Force.
Ok, first things first:
- Get a big pot.
The more people you’re cooking for, the bigger. The more water there is, the more the pasta can circulate and move around. If you use a little bit a water and a lot of pasta, you’ll wind up with a lot of stuck together, uncooked noodles.
- Fill up your big pot with water. Not to the tippy top, psycho. Leave about 3 – 3 1/2 inches at the top. Put it on the burner and turn the heat on high. I usually salt my water after it comes to a boil because salted water takes longer to boil and I don’t have the…
Wait, what? You didn’t know that? Well then…*Cracks knuckles*Let’s drop some science…When you add salt to water, the boiling temperature increases. Why? Because the salt dissolves in the water creating a solution of sodium and chloride ions. These ions are attracted to the water molecules and cause a bond which needs more energy to break down in order for the water to enter the boiling phase. More energy needed equals more time needed.Anyways, spaghetti…You can salt your water whenever you want. Just don’t forget to. And when you do, add a lot. Italian chefs will tell you they like their pasta water to taste like the sea, and for good reason. You want your pasta to have flavor, you want it to stand out and compliment, not just be there. So don’t be shy. I’m not talking half a box of salt, but don’t just put a pinch in it either.And don’t put oil in your water. Matter of fact, don’t let oil touch your pasta. The oil will coat your noodles and will cause the sauce to slip right off it, and you don’t want that. The only time oil should touch your pasta is when you’re cooking it in advance. You can cook your pasta, put it in an ice bath to stop the cooking process, and then toss it in oil so it does not stick to itself and cause a huge clump of a mess. Then put it in the fridge covered for a few days and drop it in boiling water to bring it back to life. That’s how they do it in the restaurants, so it’ll work just the same at home for a busy dinner cooker.Now, I know what you’re saying. Oil in the water helps eliminate the foam that boils over when cooking pasta. If you’re having trouble with that mess since you’re not using oil, just put a wooden spoon on top of the pot. This will stop the foam caused by the starches in the pasta before it reaches the top and boils over.
Boom, magic! Anyways, SPAGHETTI…
- After you get your water going, get yourself your favorite big pan or pot and put it on med-high heat with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. After you use whatever garlic oil you’re going to use for your garlic bread, feel free to use that oil here for some extra love. Put the chopped garlic, onions and red pepper flakes in and cook until the onions and garlic are sweet and caramelized. This is going to give that hint of sweetness that every red sauce needs.
- When done, add the ground meat, salt, pepper, and herbs and spices. Then cook until brown, draining if you have to.
I like to add all my seasonings here instead of later. That way, you know the meat is going to have some flavor and it’s going to share it with the sauce.
This is a 15 minute meal. If you have time to simmer a spaghetti sauce for hours, you can not only let me know what I’m doing wrong in my life, but you can have the time to let everything harmonize and be all buddy-buddy in your pot. But in 15 minutes, a sauce can’t do to bland meat what flavorful meat can do to a bland sauce.
- Speaking of which, incorporate the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and roasted garlic paste. Here is when you want to add your pasta to the salted boiling water.
I put my pasta in the water and I set the timer for 10 minutes and it comes out perfect every time. Why do I put it in for 10 minutes? Because that’s what the box of pasta says to do, duh. This is also the time that I put my garlic bread in the oven. I know, I know… You’re still recovering from all the garlic bread posts, my bad.
- Let the sauce simmer on low for like 6 or 7 minutes then take it off the heat until you’re about to add the pasta. When you take it off the heat, add the parsley and give the sauce a taste and adjust the seasonings accordingly.
- Taste it and make sure it’s what you want. Once the pasta is done, strain it out… Here’s where it’s your call: A lot of people serve their spaghetti with a bowl of noodles and then the sauce plopped on top. Me? I just dump the noodles in the sauce and toss till it’s all happy-happy.
The choice is yours. I told you how to make it, you can eat it out of a tortilla for all I care.
A little technique I picked up for presentation – instead of just plopping the pasta on a plate and calling it spaghetti, give it a twirl with a pair of tongs.
Twirling it onto the plate is great for presentation and makes it look like you actually care. You want people to think you care, right?!
And there you have it. Plate it up, get some parmesan cheese on there, garnish with some parsley if you have it, and then stick a fork in it.
Me? I’m an absolute sucker for Parmesan cheese. I usually dump a bunch on, and then halfway through, dump some more. The wife loves it afterwards! (Not really)
I hope over the last few weeks I’ve helped you craft a great family meal. I know that’s hoping for a lot, but I like to think I’m doing some good in this world.One plate of spaghetti at a time.`