Saturday, October 03, 2009

Spaghetti night

Today I made spaghetti with tomato-based meat sauce for dinner, and the pot was big enough for leftovers for days and days to come.  Roommate Cassie had a huge portion as well, yet I still have pasta and meat enough to feed a couple of teenage boys.

Holy crap lunches for days!

The funny thing is, I don't like spaghetti with tomato-based meat sauce.  When I was a kid, we had spaghetti night rather often.  My mom always made the sauce from scratch using chunky canned tomatoes, tomato paste, onions, and ground beef.  She'd add a bay leaf and oregano and let it simmer for about 20 minutes, then serve with Kraft parmesan cheese in a can.  (We did not know of real Parmigiano-Reggiano's powers until I was in my twenties.)  This was the recipe she grew up with, and it was called "spaghetti" all by itself--as if there were no other way to prepare the noodles known as such.  No doubt it was delicious--my mom is a great cook--but I hated it.  I picked out the onions and chunks of tomatoes entirely and scraped most of the meat bits and remaining sauce off of the noodles, adding as much cheese as I was allowed before eating as little as possible.  Yum-o!

One of the joys of adulthood is that I don't have to eat foods I don't like.  "Screw you, fresh tomatoes!  Die green beans!"  No one can make me sit at the table until I've eaten enough of a food I don't like and no one can force me to try something new.  (I can hear my mom now: "Just one bite! Try it--you don't have to eat it all, just try it."  She still can't believe the things my brother and I will eat now.  We were terrible children.)  I have spent my adult life actively avoiding spaghetti with tomato-based meat sauce.  I usually keep a single jar of tomato sauce (something on sale that has a lot of garlic or minimal chunks of tomatoes) and a box of spaghetti in the cupboard "in case of emergency"--though what emergency requires marinara I don't want to know.  I suspect the real reason I keep spaghetti fixings on hand is guilt over not liking my mom's spaghetti and making spaghetti night a battleground over the dinner table.

I acquired some inexpensive organic ground beef from Costco last week, I had a few veggies on hand that needed to be used, and I had a single can of plain tomato sauce in the cupboard.  So I thought I'd give "spaghetti" a whirl once again.  For tonight's sauce, I roasted an onion and a whole head of garlic, as well as a green bell pepper and a red bell pepper.

My sous-chef

I pureed all those together and mixed in a can each of organic tomato sauce from TJ's and tomato paste, a cup of leftover shiraz, salt and pepper.  I browned a pound of organic ground beef in my 4.5 quart Le Crueset pot, crumbling the meat as much as possible, then added in the sauce mixture, dried oregano and dried basil.  I forgot the bay leaf.  It simmered for an hour and a half.  I tossed the sauce with a whole box of cooked spaghetti, then served with fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Thar be dragons here--in my spaghetti.

And do you know what?  I didn't like it.  Maybe I should have skipped the ground beef entirely and just let the veggie flavors shine.  Maybe I should have added a few red pepper flakes like I do with all of my other pastas.  Maybe I should have remembered the bay leaf.

But I'm still happy with my spaghetti night, even if I have a giant pot of leftovers I don't want to eat.  Because the real reason I made spaghetti tonight?  I miss my mom.

Only 12 days to go on the Texas countdown...

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