This is mostly for gents who have a stove and wonder why.
Chances are you live in a community where meals are served. There is not much reason to stock your cupboard and you are already paying for the food that is available whether you eat it or not. But is that enough? (I may be speaking more to you gentlemen here.)
It is a human trait to harbor memories of what we call “home cooking.” These recall dishes your mother prepared or meals you enjoyed with your own family as the children were growing up. When a large group is being fed, a kitchen strives to provide food that offers good nutrition and suits the tastes of the greatest number. This is a laudable goal, but are some of your favorite dishes missing?
One of my favorite dinners is Italian spaghetti. I don’t mean the soft noodles with a thin red sauce like tomato soup sprinkled with sturdy, golf-ball sized meatballs ala Chef Boyardee. I mean the “real stuff” made easy by packagers who do a great job seasoning the “red” part, which I will explain.
The path to spaghetti Bolognese begins at the grocery. In the pasta aisle you will see a wide variety of prepared red sauces, from Newman’s Own to Ragu and dozens in between. Read the label and make your choice. You can’t go wrong.
In the same aisle, select a 16-ounce box of regular spaghetti. Nearby you should see grated parmesan cheese. Grab a box. If you like a little “zing,” pick up a jar of chili powder. Now, at the meat counter, select a one-pound package of ground beef, you decide which grade. I usually buy ground round at a modest price.
At home, in the kitchen, start by breaking up the beef in a frying pan. A half pound is enough. The rest can be used later for sloppy joes or a plain hamburger. Brown the meat with high heat. If you start with a 12-inch stick-free Wok frying pan you can use this for the sauce. After five minutes of stirring the meat, add the sauce and turn the heat to low. Add three teaspoons of chili powder if you like your sauce spicy. Also add salt and pepper to taste and stir frequently.
Now fill an 8-quart pan half full, starting with hot tap water. Add a teaspoon of salt. Bring the water to a rolling boil. This is a must!! Add one half of the package of spaghetti. Consult the package for suggested time of cooking. This will usually be around 9 minutes for al dente (crunchy) or 12 minutes for a softer noodle. At 9 minutes, pull out one noodle and chew it. This will tell you to stop cooking now or cook a bit longer for a softer noodle. When you are satisfied with the texture, pour the spaghetti noodles into a colander in the sink to drain.
Dish up the spaghetti on a plate and top it with sauce and grated cheese. You could add garlic bread or Texas toast, salad, and a glass of Chianti. But to keep it simple, I like it with just the spaghetti. Avoiding fuss is especially important when you are cooking for yourself.
There are many ways this simple recipe can be modified, customized, and made even better, but the trade-off is time, expense, and plain bother. In no more than 20 minutes, and using a well-spiced, pre-made sauce, you can have this delicious Italian dinner and it is easy. I do it about once a month. This is plenty for two and if you are alone it keeps well in the fridge for a second dinner or lunch.
There are other simple things to prepare from scratch for yourself that offer a pleasant change of taste, especially in the time of COVID-19 when we can’t get out to a restaurant. Some are: cheese omelet, eggs any other way, sloppy Joes, hot dogs, grilled cheese, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, frozen soup, and more. These may be jokes for you real cooks. I offer this for the “non-cooks” who wonder if the stove still works.
By Savvy Senior
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