Time: 45 minutes
Serves 3 (or 2 with enough leftovers for 2 lunches)
I can’t cook, so my recipes cannot fail. This one has lots of flexibility. If you like something, put it in; if you don’t, leave it out. You’ll need:
- 15 oz. can tomato sauce, no salt
- 6 oz. can tomato paste
- 0.5 lb. ground meat
- About 10 white or brown mushrooms
- 4 tsp. basil
- 1 tsp. fennel seeds
- 1/2 tsp. oregano
- 1 tbsp. sherry
- 2 cloves of fresh garlic
- Brown the meat in a frying pan. If it’s ground turkey, use a little oil.
- Clean the mushrooms; I peel their caps under running water, rub or trim away other dirty parts, and cut off the tips of their stems. Slice them 1/8 inch thick; if the mushrooms are very big, cross slice them in half.
- Put the tomato sauce and paste in a saucepan and keep it on low. Add water to get the consistency of sauce you like; I add about 3/4 cup a little at a time. You can always add more water but you can’t take it out again.
- Put the browned meat in the sauce.
- Fry the mushrooms in the same frying pan, in a little oil. As a bonus, they’ll clean up your pan and taste better too. If water oozes out of them, pour it into the sauce. Fry them until they’re brown colored and about half their original size. Put them in the sauce.
- Add the spices to the sauce. Grinding them up with mortar and pestle will make them more effective. It’s hard to use too much basil. Don’t worry about the fennel seed cases, they just add texture. Careful with the oregano, it’s potent.
- Add the sherry, or any cheap wine you have around that you’re trying to get rid of. Don’t add it to the cook; he deserves better.
- Peel the garlic cloves; I do this by cutting off their tips, making a lengthwise cut on a flattish side and slipping the knife blade under the papery skin to tease it off. Trim off any brown spots. Squeeze them in a garlic press into the sauce. Wash out the garlic press right away or it gets hard to clean.
- When your spaghetti or other pasta is almost ready, bring the sauce to a brief boil with a lid so it won’t spatter, stir it and make sure it’s hot all the way thru. Time to eat!
If you’re having spaghetti, half a 17.6 oz. package is enough for two people. We use whole wheat spaghetti, because the regular kind seems a bit bland. Break it in half as you drop it into a big pot of boiling water. Use a fork to gently shake it here and there so the noodles don’t stick. Do this again in a minute, then it should be fine. Boil it for 9 minutes total, then drain it. Pour a little olive oil into the serving bowl, add the spaghetti and toss it to coat the noddles so they won’t stick together. When you’ve finished a package, cut off the top two inches of the wrapper. After you’re into your next package of spaghetti, use the end you saved to cap the open end and secure it with a rubber band.
If you’re having asparagus too, rinse it a few stalks at a time. Snap off the root ends by holding them about one-third of their length from the root end with one hand, and bending that end sideways with your other hand. People who cut off the root ends are either wasting asparagus or serving tough, inedible asparagus; the stalks will break at just the right place if you do it with your hands. Steam it covered at the same time you cook the spaghetti, starting it afterward because it will cook faster. Check it often by poking a fork into it; the slight resistance of a fork going into perfect asparagus is hard to describe, but think of how you’d like it to be when you eat it. Or a sure method is to fish out a piece now and then, cool it off and eat it. When it’s ready, get that steamer out of there and rinse it in cold water to make it stop cooking. Cut a lemon in half, flip out the seeds with the tip of a knife and squeeze it over the asparagus. Yum!