Kicking off the list of “Basic Recipes Everyone Should Know,” here’s my ultimate fallback recipe: Spaghetti. With infinite variations and a tiny ingredient list, spaghetti is super easy and super versatile.
All you really need to make spaghetti is long pasta noodles and some sauce. In fact, you can even make it without sauce (I like it with cheese and spices sometimes). You can buy jarred sauce, or make it from a few basic pantry ingredients.
For the purposes of this post, I made “spaghetti” with linguine noodles (like spaghetti but slightly flat), jarred sauce, kielbasa, and a few other things. You can toss just about anything you want into the basic spaghetti recipe.
First, let’s make the sauce. If you’re being classy, you can do this with some canned tomato sauce, tomato paste, and spices – or even with fresh tomatoes! But I was feeling lazy so that didn’t happen. I chopped up an onion, though, and let it soften in a bit of oil in my pan. Bell peppers are also a great addition to spaghetti sauce.
Now for the meat portion. You can skip this step if you prefer. Ground beef is the standard here, but people also use ground turkey or sausage. I’m using sausage. Some sausage crumbles like hamburger, but this kind (kielbasa) doesn’t, so I cut it up into wedges. Dump them into the pan and let them brown a little.
When the meat is looking nice and yummy, it’s time to add the sauce. We like thick sauce with lots of chunks of meat and vegetation, so I add very little sauce. Others like it thinner. Turn the heat down on your pan and add as much sauce as you like and stir it around.
While it’s simmering, you can add any additional flavors you’d like. Spices and herbs like garlic or oregano are common. I like to stir in a few blobs of cream cheese as well. This is completely optional, but I like the creamy texture. Leave that to simmer on low heat while you prepare the noodles.
Technically, you can prepare the noodles and sauce simultaneously. If your skill level isn’t there yet, do the sauce first – it won’t hurt it to simmer. Get out your biggest pot (mine isn’t technically big enough) and fill it (yes, fill) with water. Add a pinch of salt and get it going on the stove. A lid will help it boil faster, but mine is lost, haha.
When the water is beginning to boil, add your noodles. I’m using linguine here, but obviously spaghetti is standard. You can use just about any pasta you want – penne, elbows, rotini, whatever. I don’t recommend angel hair pasta unless you’re doing a light sauce with no meat.
The water will cool a bit and stop bubbling when you add the noodles, but it’ll soon be boiling again. If you lid it, stay close to keep an eye on it for boil-overs. It should only take around 10 minutes for the pasta to be done. To test for doneness, pull out a noodle (carefully!) and take a nibble. If it’s soft enough for your tastes, turn off the heat and bring that pot over to the sink to drain it. Dump it all in a colander and give the noodles a quick spray with water. This rinses extra starch off the noodles and cools them down so they stop cooking.
Put the noodles back in their pot and add some butter or margarine, if you want. Your sauce should be happily simmering on the stove. The only thing missing is your vegetable! Now, I know that corn isn’t the most nutritionally awesome vegetable, but I like to have some sweet yellow corn with my spaghetti. To make it quick and easy, let’s use the microwave. We’ll cook the veggie on the stove another time. This procedure will work for just about every vegetable.
Go to your freezer (you do buy frozen veggies, right? Canned ones are mushy and gross) and get out your vegetable, in this case corn. Pour some into a microwave-safe bowl and add a tiny bit of water (a couple teaspoons at most). Pop it in your microwave for about 3 minutes, stirring after a minute or so. Keep cooking and stirring, a minute at a time, until the kernels are all nice and hot. Take them out and add some butter if you want.
Pile it all on your plate and devour.
Now that you know this basic recipe for pasta-and-sauce, you can start swapping out ingredients (maybe try radiatore pasta with purchased alfredo sauce?) and adding in your own ideas (I tossed in the cream cheese on a whim once and now I add it every time). This recipe is also sortof a tutorial for more complex dishes like lasagna.
Coming up next week – something that sounds similar but is completely different: Chicken Spaghetti, guest-hosted by my good friend Kako!
Did you try this recipe and love it? Hate it? Have a suggestion or question? Leave a comment! And don’t forget to subscribe, so you don’t miss any exciting updates!