Welcome to the second installment of Lessons from the Kitchen. I personally love Italian food, and of course the most basic Italian dish (in America, at least), is spaghetti. There are so many ways to eat spaghetti, and so many different ways to make it, that it is a great basic dish. Once you understand the basic formula, you have access to countless variations, only limited by your own imagination.
For the recipe card with basic instructions and fewer photographs, click the button below.
One of the best things about spaghetti is you can tailor it to the level of effort you want to put in. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with jarred or canned spaghetti sauce, but sometimes I want a more homemade version. The basic sauce recipe below is great for days when you want to put in slightly more effort, but you don’t want to start with fresh tomatoes.
I want to point out that the sauce in this recipe is vegetarian, but I frequently make it with some type of meat. If you want to make a meat sauce, just saute whatever you want to use (ground beef, ground sausage, etc), then start at step one in the recipe below. I frequently use ground italian sausage, but you can use whatever you like. Just make sure you use less oil when you start to saute the vegetables.
For this particular meal, I made a side of breaded chicken. It was simple to make, and I go into a brief overview below the spaghetti sauce recipe. It isn’t a formal recipe, but perhaps one day it will be.
I also toasted some bread, which I dipped into olive oil mixed with an Italian herb mix. I sliced mozzarella and manchego cheese that I had found on sale at the grocery store, prepared a basic caesar salad with store-brand dressing, and added a glass of wine to complete the meal. It was a little more extravagant than I would normally prepare, but I felt like treating myself and I must say, it was a delicious meal. Of course you can substitute whatever cheeses, bread, or wine you like, or any other side dish you might fancy.
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
1 medium onion, diced
1 small bell pepper, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
Heat the olive oil in a sauce pan, then saute the onions and bell pepper until the onions start to go translucent around the edges.
Add the garlic and saute until the garlic is fragrant and has just a little bit of golden brown color.
Add the cans of tomato, bring to a boil, then turn onto low and simmer for as long as you can. Be careful, as tomato sauce pops and splatters a lot if it boils too rapidly, so only let it come to a gentle boil, then cover with a lid as it simmers. The longer you are able to let it simmer, the more flavorful it will be.
Boil pasta according to box directions. Do not rinse. A lot of people wonder how to know how much pasta to make. I typically either do a full or a half box, but a quart box would be easy to visually estimate. Just use the back of the box and the “servings per container” number to estimate how much you need. Of course, I typically round up at least one serving, but I really love pasta.
For the chicken, I butterflied two chicken breasts, then coated them in an Italian herb blend bread crumbs with salt, pepper, and grated parmesan cheese. I then pan-fried them in a little canola oil, and when they were done I topped with two slices of mozzarella cheese and broiled for a few minutes. For a simpler, less labor-intensive version, the chicken can be baked on some aluminum foil at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 to 30 minutes.
Until next time, have fun, be safe, and eat good food!