Tuesday, November 17, 2015

It was all spaghetti - even when it wasn't

Let me make one thing abundantly clear. My mother wasn't Italian. She wasn't even the littlest bit close to Italian. She was so far from Italian that I knew what ravioli was before she did. I came home from grade school all excited about this magical new food served in the cafeteria - ravioli. And no matter how I tried to describe it, she just couldn't get it.

So, when it came to cooking anything resembling Italian food, it was all spaghetti. Even when it was mostaccioli or rotini. If it was served with a tomato-based sauce, it was spaghetti. And all tomato-based sauces were simply called spaghetti sauce. There was no such thing as Bolognese or marinara in our house.

Nope. We got spaghetti with spaghetti sauce, even if it was fettuccini with marinara.

Now I know better, but even so ... there are times when I think about making spaghetti, but end up making rigatoni instead. Because when I go see what noodles I have on hand, there are no long thin noodles. And I'm fine with that. I pretty much love noodles of all shapes and sizes.

I was feeling a little bit out-of-sorts the other day and the best cure for that is nostalgic comfort food, so I decided that recreating one of mom's non-spaghetti spaghetti recipes would make me happy. In other parts of the country, this might be called hot dish or goulash. In my house, this was just one of the things that might have been served when mom said we were having "spaghetti."

I used mini wagon wheels. They were one of my favorite past shapes when I was a kid.

Wheels and Sauce

1 pound ground beef
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
1 large bell pepper (any color you like), cored, seeded, and diced
1 tablespoon dry oregano
Salt, to taste
1 jar ready-made pasta sauce (Your own or store bought. I used Ragu.)
1/2 pound pasta, any shape (I used mini wagon wheels! wheeee!)
Grated cheese, for serving

Heat a large saute pan on medium heat and add the ground beef, onion, pepper, and oregano. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring as needed until the meat and vegetables are cooked through.

Add the sauce and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning, and add more salt, if desired. Lower the heat to a simmer and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, while you cook the pasta.

Cook your pasta as desired, then add it to the meaty sauce in the pan. Cook for another minute and give it one last taste. Serve with grated cheese, if desired.

Last week, I wrote a sponsored post for Ragu with a different recipe and I used a similar Ragu sauce here, because I bought more than one jar to work with. However, this post is not sponsored. It's just a recipe. Using a jar of sauce that I bought.