While it may be Taco Tuesday for many, for my family tonight is spaghetti!
If you’re trying to figure out what to make for dinner tonight, try a “zhuzh-up” version of a bottled spaghetti sauce and turn it into a home-cooked comfort meal.
If you are an experienced or accomplished cook, stop reading here. This is a basic recipe that almost anyone can successfully whip up and do in under an hour. It is a simple but tasty dish, and worth sharing with family or friends.
The “recipe” is about as forgiving and flexible as a recipe can get. Instructions are offered so that you can customize it. Besides the prepared and bottled sauce, you can subtract or add ingredients to make it to your family’s taste.
We prefer it with all the ingredients mentioned, but if you don’t like onions, carrots or Italian sausages, you can skip it. At home, however, we’ve found that adding a tablespoon of sugar elevates the sauce more than we think.
How to Improve/Customize Prepared Spaghetti Sauce
For 6 normal people (or four if your family loves spaghetti)
For the sauce*
1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 large carrots, diced
1 19-ounce package mild Italian sausage or 1 pound hamburger meat (or a combination of both)
1 bottle 28 oz spaghetti sauce (We use Rao’s if we feel trendy and Ragu the rest of the time – both work well.)
1 tablespoon of sugar
For the pasta and serving
1 package 16-ounce spaghetti (can also use a different noodle style, if you prefer – we love penne pasta, especially with the Italian sausage)
Freshly grated or grated parmesan cheese
- Sauté the diced onion and carrots in olive oil until the onion is translucent in a large deep skillet.
- Add Italian sausage and/or ground meat. (For some unknown reason, my family usually buys Italian sausage in links and presses them into the pan into little clumps that act almost like meatballs, but Italian sausage is also readily available without casings).
- Break up sausage or hamburger meat with a wooden spoon. If using sausages, cook them until they caramelize a little.
- * This is when I put a large pot of salted water on another burner.
- Add spaghetti sauce and sugar, and stir. Once the sauce has reached a simmer, lower the heat and cover with a lid. Stir occasionally.
- About 10 minutes before serving, add spaghetti to boiling water and cook as directed. Set a timer according to package directions so you don’t overcook the pasta.
- About five minutes before serving, chop the fresh basil and add it to the sauce, stirring, saving a leaf or two to garnish the finished pasta.
- When the pasta is cooked according to package directions (do not overcook – it’s supposed to be al dente), drain the noodles.
- Brown the olive oil and add a tablespoon of butter.
- Place the noodles on a large serving platter.
- Top with an appropriate amount of sauce and sprinkle with Parmesan.
- Add the little basil leaf to make the steaming plate of goodness even more visually appealing.
*Note: Our graduate daughter, who has never been the biggest vegetable fan, loves making this same dish. However, she buys some yellow squash or zucchini, slices it and seasons it, then roasts it on a cookie sheet in the oven for about 25-30 minutes. She adds it to the sauce about five to 10 minutes before serving. It’s a great way to get more nutrition.
The easiest : If you have ripe avocados, slice two avocados and place them on a nice long platter. Drizzle a good amount of olive oil over the avocados in the dish (about a tablespoon in total). Squeeze a fresh lemon into the dish over the avocados. Add salt and coarsely ground pepper. (This simple dish is a perfect complement to spaghetti.)
Easy: Buy a head of head lettuce. Rub a clove of garlic all around the inside of a wooden bowl. Wash, drain the lettuce. Add to salad bowl. Grate a carrot into the bowl with the lettuce. Thinly slice a purple onion (about a quarter of the onion). Toss lightly with Girard Champagne Vinaigrette (or another vinaigrette of your choice).