Friday, February 29, 2008

Spaghetti Dinner

We haven't had a sit-down family dinner since before we went to New York, so despite protests from the kids that they would rather eat downstairs in their rooms, this was the order of the evening: Spaghetti, salad, broccoli, and crusty multi-grain rolls, with grape juice for the kids and a locally produced Malbec for me, from Wallace Winery in West Branch, Iowa. It was a nice dinner, full of laughter, especially when Ben absent-mindedly started to pour vinaigrette into his wine glass, then panicked when he realized what he was doing. That laughter continued until the end of the meal. And that's what family dinners are all about.

Spaghetti Bolognese

spaghetti (lots of it)
1 pound vegetarian crumbles or local organic ground beef from a small farm
1 yellow onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 medium carrot, peeled and grated
1 tablespoon each: oregano, basil, and thyme (all dried)
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon (optional, but gives it a Greek taste)
1 teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 28-ounce can tomatoes (diced or do it yourself)
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 4-ounce can tomato paste

1. Cook a large amount of spaghetti, according to package directions (in my house, we like to have leftovers noodles for late-night hunger attacks). Rinse, drain, drizzle with a little olive oil, cover, and keep it in a big shallow bowl in a warm oven until ready to serve.

2. In a large saute pan over medium heat, cook the crumbles or beef with the onion until the onion is soft. Add the garlic and carrot, and saute for two minutes. Add the spices, salt, and pepper, and saute for another two minutes.

3. Add the tomatoes, sauce, and paste. Stir until combined, then keep stirring until the sauce bubbles. Cover, lower the heat, and allow to simmer for about 30 minutes.

4. When the sauce is finished, taste and add more salt and pepper if you think it's required. Serve in a big bowl separately from the spaghetti so people can create their own preferred pasta-to-sauce ration. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, if that's what you like. (My kids do.)

I also served this, as you can see, with crusty bread (I broke mine open and drizzled with olive oil, then sprinkled with a little bit of Himalayan pink salt), salad with your favorite vinaigrette, broccoli with a little butter, and a robust red wine.

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