Country Living Series

Monday, December 23, 2013

Basic spaghetti

In an effort to post made-from-scratch recipes for those readers who are just learning basic cooking, here's the recipe for Basic Spaghetti I made for Older Daughter's birthday dinner the other day.

The nice thing about spaghetti is how flexible it is. You can add or subtract any number of ingredients to tweak it to your particular taste. It can be meaty or vegetarian; the pasta can be homemade, store-bought, whole-grain, spinach, or any combination; the sauce can have spices and additives (such as mushrooms, onions, etc.) adjusted to suit. It's a wonderfully versatile dish.

In our particular case (or maybe I should say, in Older Daughter's particular case, since this was her requested dinner) I started with a pound of ground turkey. She doesn't care for ground beef (which is a pity, since we have so much of it when we butcher a steer) so we substituted ground turkey.

The turkey was frozen, so I slowly browned it at low temperature as it defrosted in the pot.


Unlike ground beef, ground turkey doesn't need any fat drained off. After the meat was browned...


...I assembled the other ingredients, in this case: canned tomatoes (my tomatoes didn't grow in last summer's garden so I didn't have any canned up) which I chopped up in a blender; tomato paste for thickness; salt, pepper, oregano, basil, and garlic for spices. I don't have a measure for the spices -- I just add things to taste.


I started by adding the tomato products...


...and then the spices. I also added a splash of vinegar and a pinch (quarter teaspoon perhaps) of sugar to offset the bitterness from the vinegar.


The secret to any spaghetti sauce is to let it simmer for at least half an hour or longer. That way the ingredients blend for a better taste (many people say spaghetti sauce tastes better the next day). But while simmering, be sure to cover it. Spaghetti sauce is so thick that it won't "bubble" -- it will explode into miniature sauce-bombs that will splatter everything unless there's a lid on the pot.


While the sauce is simmering, time to cook the pasta. If you're ambitious, you can make your own pasta from your own eggs and wheat. If you're short on time (or don't have a farm), pasta is cheap at the grocery store.


I usually boil water first, then snap the spaghetti strands in half before dropping them in. A dollop of oil into the cook water will help keep the pasta from clumping, and it helps to stir it once in awhile.


How "done" should the pasta be? Again, it's a matter of taste. Some prefer "al dente" (half-cooked), others prefer it well cooked. I test it by sampling a piece. Other naughtier types will take a piece of pasta and throw it against a wall or ceiling. If it sticks, it's done. (Ahem -- I've discouraged the girls from employing this particular method of testing.)


Drain the pasta...


...and ladle some sauce over it. We also enjoy sprinkling some Parmesan cheese on it. VoilĂ ! A good hearty meal, especially on cold winter nights.


Feel free to add your favorite variations on this theme. I figure this is what I'll do for readers who are novice cooks -- whenever I make a basic dish (and let's face it, most of my cooking isn't fancy) then I'll post it as a tutorial.

17 comments:

  1. Looks yummy .. and is oh so easy and better than canned sauce. My first ever meal to make (at age seven) was homemade spaghetti sauce/pasta. Can remember putting on an apron I fashioned from scraps of cloth .. pulling up a chair to the kitchen stove and cooking.

    Good tutorial and pics.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Man! I have a chicken roasting, but now I want some spaghetti, haha!

    ReplyDelete
  3. After being married several years I learned my husband likes spaghetti with meatballs much better than beef crumbles in sauce. And at our house everything is served separate- some members prefer pasta with Parmesan cheese and a meatball or two on the side - no sauce. Others like sauce and no meatball, etc.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I always throw in ground sausage for the meat in my spaghetti, kicks it up just a little.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Did you know you can bring the pasta water to a boil, put in the pasta, and simply move it to the back burner? Saves energy and is just as quick.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Spaghetti is like comfort food in our house.
    Making your own sauce makes spaghetti even better.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I'm a huge fan of Good Eats from the Food Network. The host, Alton Brown, discusses the science and history behind common dishes and cooking techniques. Relevant to your post, check out the utube episode concerning spaghetti.

    ReplyDelete
  8. If you prefer long spaghetti to twirl round your fork on the edge of your plate (as in Italy), don't snap the pasta in half. Just wait a little until the strands in the water have softened, then push the next inch or two under the water and repeat the process.

    ReplyDelete
  9. For what it's worth I have taken to adding shredded carrots to just about everything (including spaghetti sauce) as I can purchase 25# bags of juice (read: big and ugly) carrots for about $11. The family doesn't even notice most times - adds bulk, nutrients and fiber but not much difference in taste. And nothing beats homemade pesto if you can grow your own basil. Since it's so low in acid and not a good canning candidate, I freeze mine in ice cube trays and then store in a ziploc. Just pop a few out to thaw or throw in a pot of simmering sauce. YUM!

    ReplyDelete
  10. when we butchered our steer, we had them trim it lean. our ground beef has no fat on it when we fry it. Good stuff!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Some canned Mississippi tomatoes would make that better. Maybe I'll ship you some canned ones next summer.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Your sauce is pretty much how I make mine except I like to use Italian sausage. I also recently found out about Japanese soba noodles so I've replaced the spaghetti noodles with those. They are so good! Make enough noodles for leftovers and the next night you can make some stir fry noodles with veggies and a little sauce (made from soy sauce, brown sugar, fresh garlic and fresh ginger). The reason I've been using soba noodles is because it's made from buckwheat and is supposedly healthier. Diabetes runs in my family and I'm trying my hardest to avoid it.

    ReplyDelete
  13. This is a good quick sauce. When I REALLY want the works, I will simmer pork neck bones, Italian sausage and ground meat (whatever I have on hand) and let it simmer all nite or leave it in the oven on low overnite. And DON'T let a real Italian know you put oil in your water, that's sacrilege to them! But DO salt your water, otherwise the pasta has no flavor whatsoever. Great post Patrice!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Every few months I make up a batch or two of spaghetti sauce and can it, then when we want spaghetti, lasagna, chicken parmesan, or something along those lines, we pull out a jar or two and it cuts dinner prep time so much. AND we know what ingredients are in it and it's not overly sweet like the store-bought jars. I have a friend who uses my recipe to can some for her family and they use it for chili (just add some beans) and sloppy joes too.

    I put a recipe up on my blog: http://smiles4u2have.blogspot.com/2012/01/spaghetti-sauce.html

    ReplyDelete
  15. Every few months I make up a batch or two of spaghetti sauce and can it, then when we want spaghetti, lasagna, chicken parmesan, or something along those lines, we pull out a jar or two and it cuts dinner prep time so much. AND we know what ingredients are in it and it's not overly sweet like the store-bought jars. I have a friend who uses my recipe to can some for her family and they use it for chili (just add some beans) and sloppy joes too.

    I put a recipe up on my blog: http://smiles4u2have.blogspot.com/2012/01/spaghetti-sauce.html

    ReplyDelete
  16. Sorry if this is a repeat comment, it looks like blogger ate my first one.

    Every few months I can up a batch or two of spaghetti sauce and then we have jars available for spaghetti, lasagna, chicken parmesan, etc. The jars cut down on dinner prep time significantly. AND we know what ingredients are in the sauce and it's not overly sweet like all the store-bought sauces out there. A friend has taken my recipe and cans for her family and they use the sauce in chili (just add beans) and sloppy joes as well.

    I posted the recipe on my blog: http://smiles4u2have.blogspot.com/2012/01/spaghetti-sauce.html

    ReplyDelete