I’ve learned a lot about myself over the past year. One of the things that surprised me the most was how much I like to cook and how much better of a home cook I am now than I ever was. I used to think of cooking as a chore, but when I had a bit more time to put into what I was cooking and how I was cooking it, I really started to enjoy the process.
We’re all eating out less and staying home more, and that trend will continue this fall and winter. Whether you enjoy cooking the way I do or you just want to become a better home cook and serve a few quick and easy dishes, now is a great time to catalog a few dinner recipes or learn to cook something you love in a whole new way.
This week I’ll be talking about pasta with a focus on spaghetti, and that includes the different ways to cook it, a few tips, and what sauce you can serve over it. I’ll share my best pasta sauce recipe too, because everyone needs a good sauce recipe.
What do you need to make pasta?
This week I’ll be focusing on making spaghetti, but in general, to make pasta and pasta sauce you’ll need the following.
- Stock pot or large stainless steel pot
- Dutch oven or large saucepan
- If you’d like to make handmade pasta, you can pick up a pasta roller
- Immersion blender
Are pasta and spaghetti the same thing?
Pasta is made from flour, water, eggs, and other ingredients. Spaghetti is a form of pasta, and it’s one of the family favourites along with fettucini, bow tie, and macaroni.
You can make your own pasta with a pasta maker, and I’ve done so a few times. It’s not a quick process because you need to make the dough, roll it through a pasta maker, and let it dry. The bonus to spending the time is that handmade pasta is absolutely amazing, but I’ve also had great pasta made from a package.
Cooking spaghetti on the stove
Spaghetti and other types of pasta are best cooked on the stove. That way you can keep an eye on your pasta as its cooking, and you won’t have to worry about it being mushy or overcooked.
Tips for the best spaghetti and sauce
Over the years I’ve made some pretty terrible spaghetti dinners. I’ve overcooked the pasta to the point it was really sticky, I’ve made pasta sauce from nothing more than a jar of marinara sauce and some ground beef, and I’ve skipped the spices for years because of picky kids.
The good thing about all of those spaghetti disasters is that I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t. I have three tips I feel are really important for making the best spaghetti and sauce.
Tip One: Make your sauce ahead of time
For the fastest week night dinners, you should pre-cook your pasta sauce on a weekend or when you have some time and store it in the fridge or freezer. I like to make a big batch and store it in dinner-sized containers so I can pull it out when I need it.
Tip Two: Use an immersion blender in your pasta sauce
I’ve made pasta sauce with and without an immersion blender, and I swear by using one. You give it a few pulses in different locations in the pot and it tears up any large pieces of meat, grinds up your chunky tomatoes, and blends everything together. The result is a perfect blend of meat, veggies, and spices.
Tip Three: Add olive oil to the water when cooking spaghetti
Is there such a thing as too much olive oil? I really don’t think so. Adding olive oil to the pot of boiling water and after its cooked prevents your spaghetti from sticking together.
Can you cook spaghetti in the microwave?
Microwaves make cooking dinner quick and easy, and you can definitely cook spaghetti in the microwave. To do so you need to put the spaghetti in a microwave-safe dish, cover it with plastic wrap, and cook on high for around 8 minutes. You’ll need to stop the microwave to stir it mid-way, and once it’s done you can test a strand. If it’s Al Dente, you’re ready to eat. If it’s still tough to bite into, put it back in the microwave for another minute.
Easy weeknight spaghetti dinner
Now that I’ve walked you through what you need to make pasta and my best tips for making pasta, here is my favourite easy weeknight spaghetti and sauce. This is a modification of my Grandma’s recipe and it’s the best I’ve made.
For the sauce
- 1 lb extra lean ground beef
- 1 lb chorizo sausage casing removed
- 1/4 extra virgin olive oil
- 2 onions
- 2 carrots
- 1 stalk of celery
- 1 head of garlic
- 2 large cans of stewed whole or diced seasoned tomatoes
- 2 jars of pasta sauce
- 2 cups of beef stock
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1 tsp basil
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tbsp red pepper flakes
- 1 pinch baking soda
For the pasta
- 1 package spaghetti or angel hair pasta
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Sea salt
Instructions for pasta sauce
I make this sauce in a dutch oven on weekends and pull it out when I need it during the week. You’ll have dinner on the table in 10 minutes when you have pre-made sauce and it’s also great as a dip for pizza bread.
- Add a few tablespoons of olive oil to a dutch oven. Turn heat on medium.
- In a food processor or chopper, put onions, peeled garlic, carrots, and celery. Use the low feature to chop into pieces. Set aside.
- Add sausage and ground beef to the dutch oven. Cook until brown, around 7 minutes. Drain oil if any. Remove and set aside.
- Add butter to the dutch oven and melt. Add chopped vegetables. Saute for a few minutes until lightly brown.
- Add canned tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and beef stock.
- Add browned meat to the mixture.
- Mix in brown sugar and spices.
- Bring to a boil. Stir frequently.
- Turn down heat to low and add lid. Let simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally.
- After sauce has cooked for an hour, use immersion blender in pot to blend up any large chunks or bits.
- Keep on low and cook for another hour or two. It can simmer on low all day if you’d like as long as you stir it occasionally.
- Serve over hot pasta.
Instructions for pasta
- Add water to the stock pot. I usually fill it up half way.
- Add sea salt and a dash of olive oil.
- Bring to a rolling boil.
- Once you’ve acheived rolling boil, add pasta.
- Cook according to directions on the pasta package. If cooking fresh pasta, cook for less time. Fresh pasta usually only needs 1 to 3 minutes depending on the type you made.
- Test pasta by removing a strand and biting into it. Al Dente pasta should be slightly firm.
- Strain into collander. In collander add a dash of olive oil, a dash of salt, and a dash of pepper. This will prevent it from sticking. Toss with fork or tongs.
- Serve with pasta sauce.
If you love this recipe be sure to bookmark it so you can come back and make it again and again. Watch next week for another great home-cooked meal idea, and check out Kitchen & Dining section for everything you need to become a better home cook.