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Moveable Feast: Spaghetti and Salad...Not So Boring

Taking your time and keeping things simple makes a spaghetti meal spectacular.

There are a few meals that I could eat almost every day, literally, and a good, homemade spaghetti falls into that category. I know many people consider spaghetti fairly boring, but I’ve also found that many people make spaghetti by boiling boxed noodles and pouring a can of Ragu over the top.

I like to make spaghetti leisurely because like chili and most stews, I believe the sauce tastes so much better if given time to simmer. Also like chili and soup, I make spaghetti by taste, just like my mother always did. Here’s the general process.

Dice one sweet onion, half of a seeded, green bell pepper and two cloves of garlic – roasted ideally. Add these ingredients to one pound of lean ground beef in a sauté pan and cook on medium low until the meat is browned and the veggies have softened. If there is too much excess grease, I drain a bit of it off. Next, pour two jars of canned, stewed tomatoes – it works out to around 36 ounces. If you don’t have this ingredient, there are several things you can substitute. Canned tomato sauce, fresh tomatoes if in season or pre-made spaghetti sauce. Hunts makes a basic garlic and onion sauce that serves as a good foundation, and you can easily season it to your taste.

Add pinches of salt, pepper, onion powder, oregano and thyme to your sauce, cover and let simmer. I like to leave my sauce on super low for about three hours.

Cook your pasta right before you serve your meal. If you’re using fresh pasta, drop it in boiling water for only about two minutes. If you’re using boxed pasta, boil until al dente. My best spaghetti trick is to remove the pasta before fully cooked, drain well and add to the sauce to finish cooking. It helps the noodles soak up the flavors of the long-simmered sauce and makes the dish more cohesive.

A thoughtful spaghetti is great alone, but served with a simple salad and toasted focaccia, it nears perfection.

I hand wash all my greens to ensure they are treated delicately and don’t bruise. Combine artisanal lettuce; a drizzle of rosemary infused olive oil; the juice from one lemon; a sprinkle of sea salt; and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar in a bowl. Toss gently and serve. I recommend sprinkling a bit of freshly grated parmesan over the entire plate and enjoying with friends and a glass or red wine. 

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