Thursday, March 6, 2014

Spaghetti - Ahhh

Who doesn't love spaghetti? Spaghetti with Meat Sauce, I mean, and obviously, outside of vegetarians. Just the smell of the sauce cooking is evocative. Early in our relationship, I found my husband loves spaghetti....just not the way I made it. I pride myself on my cooking, so that was quite a blow. I thought it was pretty good. But, his preference was Ragu. His main beef (pardon the pun) about my spaghetti sauce is that it became watery on the plate. He does not like that watery residue. I cannot quite understand the problem, but problem it was, anyway. Why it would take so long for me to figure out how to remedy this difficulty is a question I cannot answer, except for sheer ennui. I hate trying to get specific enough answers about what, precisely, is right or wrong, as that usually ends in frustration. He likes things just a certain way; there is no rhyme nor reason. It has been far easier to buy a jar of Ragu periodically than to mess with the status quo.
Spaghetti Sauce over Linguine with Parmigiano-Reggiano

So here I am, over 20 years later, and it strikes me that I could probably approximate the Ragu sauce he loves! And, when I do something like this, as with my Sloppy Joes recently, and he cannot tell it is not the name-brand jar or can he loves so much, but my own concoction - I consider that a win. I have been writing a lot lately, it seems, about what my husband doesn't like. I am writing mainly to show that there is a way to appease even the pickiest eaters. Maybe not all the time, but it is possible. For me, this is a challenge; moreso lately since I have been focused on creating my own recipes. Everyone has likes and dislikes. Some people have more dislikes than others. This is life. When life hands you lemons - turn them into candy! (More on that subject in another blog. . .)

Spaghetti Sauce
Closeup of Spaghetti Sauce
Then there is the subject of pasta. Spaghetti pasta is great. However, it seemed that after a time I started noticing that hubby didn't seem to like the round noodles so much; too slippery. I switched to using linguine, and that seems to be working far better, so we use linguine when I make "Spaghetti."  Regardless, I did come up with a viable sauce that hubby liked a lot, so I post this here in the hopes that maybe others with similar difficulties will try this out. Obviously, you do not need a problem to make this an option. The sauce was, in my humble opinion, spectacular. The only thing better would be to use fresh herbs, but none were available when I made this sauce. Fresh basil, fresh oregano, and maybe some fresh marjoram would have made this even better. My husband loves green pepper, so green peppers are in this sauce, as well as mushrooms. These are personal preferences and can easily be left out. To counteract the "watery sauce" I added a little flour after browning the meat, so once the liquids were added, it would thicken. If you need a gluten free sauce, omit the flour. If you still want it thickened, use cornstarch mixed with a little of  the tomato sauce and add it in to cook.

Spaghetti Sauce

Spaghetti Sauce
Spaghetti Sauce

Serves 8

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds lean hamburger 
2 onions, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons (4 1/2 teaspoons) flour
4 - 6 cloves garlic
2 green bell peppers, stems and seeds removed, chopped
8 pitted green olives, minced
1 teaspoon capers, minced
1 (29-ounce) can tomato sauce +
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
2 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
1 (13.25 ounces) mushroom stems & pieces, drained
1 cup water
3 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar, optional (rounds out the flavor)
2 teaspoons fennel seeds, lightly crushed
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil (use 1/2 cup, fresh)
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano (1/3 - 1/2 cup, fresh)
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder (NOT  pre-mixed "Chili Powder")

In a large pot, heat the olive oil and add the meat. Brown the meat over medium high heat, breaking up any chunks well while stirring. Add in the onions and continue cooking for 2 - 3 minutes longer. Add the garlic, and cook 1 minute more. Stir in the flour, until it is no longer visible. Add all the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover the pot and cook slowly for at least an hour, to meld flavors. Serve over your favorite pasta and pass the Parmigiana-Reggiano! Garlic Bread on the side is great, and a nice Chianti would be lovely alongside.

NOTE: This recipe could me made up to the point of adding in the flour, then placed into a large crock pot. Add all the rest of the ingredients to the crock pot, cover and cook on low for 5 hours or so.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.