Saturday, June 13, 2009

Spaghetti Cheat Sheet

It seems like we had spaghetti every other day when I was growing up. I know that's not really the case, and I'm not really complaining because I love spaghetti. Also, we were a family of 7, so economical was our friend. Through the years of cooking on my own I have learned some tricks and "cheats" to keep my spaghetti repertoire lively. Yes. I said "spaghetti repertoire."
Let's do this in bullets, shall we?
  • Spaghetti sauce is one of the great make-ahead and freeze items. Cook a huge batch once, clean up once, many meals with smaller effort. Just make sure to use the freezer style zip lock bags (walmart brand works fine for me).
  • Cheat by taking a basic sauce and adding to it. I usually buy the cheap canned sauce (Hunts?) in a non-meat and non-cheese flavor (like Original or Garlic and Onion), and add whatever sounds good to it. A can of diced tomatoes, chopped peppers or mushrooms, fresh garlic, basil, a few shakes of crushed red pepper.
  • Spaghetti sauce is a good way to sneak veggies into your family's routine. Food process some carrots or other veggie, blend it right into the sauce. (I know, there's a celebrity cookbook out there, but I learned this from some woman at church long before Seinfeld's wife ever felt the need to grace us with her cook's I mean her knowledge). Even without food processing, you can add some veggies that are well hidden by the flavor of the sauce. Just don't try to sneak any peas into MY sauce please!
  • Switch it up a little. Try using different sized or shaped noodles. Don't just serve the sauce on top of the noodles and call it a day. Mix it together, throw it into a casserole dish, and top with cheese and pepperoni--Spaghetti Pizza--ta da! Make sure to use ample sauce if you bake it though.
  • Try different meats. I rarely use ground beef, ground turkey is my preference. What to do with chicken for the 4th time this week? Chicken, chunky peppers, and a can of spaghetti sauce with penne noodles, sprinkle some fresh or dried Parmesan on top.
  • Those pre-made, frozen bags of spaghetti sauce? Thaw one out and make a quick and easy homemade pizza. It already has meat in it, but you can add fresh veggies or other meats as toppings.
  • Same frozen sauce for other, fancier dishes that usually take more time. Stuffed shells or baked mostaccioli (which my sister in law has a rocking recipe for) or lasagna is less time consuming if you don't also have to brown meat, add sauce, etc. . .

That's about what I know. I still love spaghetti as much as I did growing up, I just enjoy being more creative with it now.

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