While it may be Taco Tuesday for many, for my family, tonight is spaghetti!
If you’re trying to figure out what to fix for dinner tonight, try a “zhuzhed-up” version of bottled spaghetti sauce and turn it into a home-cooked comfort meal.
If you’re an experienced or accomplished cook, stop reading here. This is a basic life hack recipe that almost anyone can successfully prepare, and do so in less than an hour. It’s simple but delicious fare and well worth sharing with family or friends.
The “recipe” is as much about tolerance and flexibility as a recipe can be. Instructions are provided so you can make your own. Other than prepared and bottled sauce, you can roll out or add ingredients to make it to your family’s liking.
We like it with all the ingredients mentioned, but if you don’t like onions, carrots, or Italian sausage, it’s a good idea to go without any. However, in our house we’ve found that adding a tablespoon of sugar raises the sauce more than any of us understand.
How to improve/customize your spaghetti sauce
Serves 6 regular people (or four if your family loves spaghetti)
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion cut into cubes
2 large carrots, cut into cubes
1 package 19 ounce light Italian sausage or 1 pound hamburger meat (or a combination of both)
1 28-ounce bottle spaghetti sauce (We use Rao if we’re feeling fancy and Ragu the rest of the time – they both work well.)
1 tablespoon sugar
For pasta and serving
1 16-ounce package of spaghetti (a different style of pasta can also be used, if you prefer—we like penne pasta, especially with Italian sausage)
Shredded or freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Fry the diced onions and carrots in olive oil until the onions are translucent in a large, deep skillet.
- Add Italian sausage and/or hamburger meat. (For unknown reasons, my family usually buys Italian sausage in rings and presses them in the pan into small clumps that work almost like meatballs, but Italian sausages are also readily available without the wrappers.)
- Cut the sausage or hamburger meat with a wooden spoon. If you are using sausage, cook it until slightly caramelized.
- *This is when I put quite a bit of salt water on a different burner.
- Add spaghetti sauce, sugar and my heart. Once the sauce is simmering, reduce the heat and cover with a lid. Stir occasionally.
- About 10 minutes before serving, add the spaghetti to the boiling water and cook as directed. Set a counter according to package instructions so you don’t overcook the pasta.
- About five minutes before serving, chop the fresh basil and add to the sauce, stirring, keeping a leaf or two over the finished pasta.
- When the noodles are cooked according to package instructions (don’t overcook – they’re supposed to be al dente), drain the noodles.
- Mix olive oil and add 1 tablespoon of butter.
- Place the pasta on a large serving tray.
- Put an appropriate amount of sauce and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
- Add a few basil leaves to make a wonderful steaming dish even more visually appealing.
*Note: Our school age daughter who has never been a big fan of vegetables, loves to make this same dish. However, she buys yellow squash or zucchini, slices and seasons them, then roasts them on a cookie sheet in the oven for 25-30 minutes. Add it to the sauce about five to 10 minutes before serving. It’s a great way to get more nutrition.
easier: If you have a ripe avocado, cut two avocados and put them on a pretty tall plate. Drizzle good olive oil over the avocado at the bottom of the dish (about 1 tablespoon in total). Place a fresh lemon in the dish on top of the avocado. Add salt and coarsely ground pepper. (This simple dish is the perfect complement to spaghetti.)
easy: Buy a head of butter lettuce. Rub a garlic clove all over a wooden salad bowl. Wash, strain the lettuce. Add to salad bowl. Grate the carrot in the bowl with the lettuce. Thinly slice one purple onion (about a quarter of an onion). Gently toss with Girard’s Champagne Vinaigrette (or another vinaigrette of your choice). For the salad pictured here, I ended up tossing fresh spinach, purple onions, and strawberries (all bought at Red Stick on a Tuesday farmers’ market afternoon) at Champagne Vinaigrette—and it was delicious.