Every mother desperate to feed her child has a fallback. A secret weapon. A dish that the child will not be able to resist. This dish is the holy grail; it’s complaint-proof, idiot-proof, and above all, it’s easy.
One of my mother’s fallbacks was spaghetti. To be precise, it was spaghetti noodles, a pot of Ragu, and veal. Yum! When veal became scarce (thanks, PETA) it was replaced with hot dogs. All four kids in my family grew up on this stuff. When I got older, I asked my mom once why she didn’t add anything else to it, as my mother liked to add [unnecessary] vegetables and things all the time. She answered that she was cooking for too many children to experiment successfully – she didn’t dare deviate from the winning formula.
And so I progressed through life with my perception of spaghetti being that – Ragu sauce, spaghetti noodles, and some hot dogs.
My world has changed.
While I will look fondly on those Fridays, my wife has made some major modifications to my spaghetti palate. First of all, the stuff is still easy to make; how a “spaghetti factory” drums up any business is beyond me. Secondly, the availability – or lack thereof – of some ingredients has triggered the need for some invention. (Necessity is the mother of that cutie, after all.) Invention that has now become a hallmark of the dish.
Spaghetti is only as good as its sauce. With marriage came the introduction to a meaty, chunky spaghetti sauce filled with things like onions and beef and peppers. While this was eventually toned down to the heating of a simple jar, as before, I’ve found that Prego is now the proper weapon of choice. Add some zucchini for a surprisingly effective flavor booster!
This is the first real hack of the dish. Ever have problems choosing which brand of spaghetti noodles to go with? It’s because you’re asking yourself the wrong question! This is the part where I earn your trust.
Fettuccine noodles. That’s right. It’s like flat shoelaces – they catch easier on the fork, they work with multiple utensils, and they settle on lumps of meat a lot easier with every forkful. Gone are the slip-and-slide days of yore as you struggle to catch the whiplashing ends of a runaway noodle.
My wife’s answer for this is twofold; she usually prepares a larger meat portion – here called the “main meat” – and then she also cuts up a smaller “secondary meat” into the sauce itself. For example, slices of sausage get cooked with the sauce, but some parmesan meatballs or country-fried steaks are the large, main meats. I’m not as much a fan of just a meaty sauce as the main meat; you need some lumps to wrap the noodles around your fork.
Do you like spaghetti a specific way? I know someone who eats it with rhubarb!