Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Make-a-Meal-Out-of-It Spaghetti

I don't know about you, but I really like spaghetti. For instance, I used to ask for it on my birthday. And when we did "spotlight books" in Primary, they glued dried strands of spaghetti in mine on the "favorite foods" page. In fact, I like spaghetti so much that I secretly ate all the dried pieces of spaghetti after carefully peeling them off the glue.

Now, you don't have to be a spaghetti fiend like I am to like this recipe, but my gripe with spaghetti is that it seems to be a last-minute "I'm really tired and it's late...let's just have spaghetti" kind of dish. So you get out your canned sauce (which if you're cheap like I am probably isn't anything too special, and it's full of preservatives, which I personally have no problem with but I'll complain about to strengthen my case, even though I like my food to last until I want to eat it) and you dump some spaghetti in some water and in ten minutes you have dinner. It sort of fills you up, but hey, at least you ate something.

Those noodles deserve something more. They deserve a real sauce that requires a bit of chewing. And they also deserve a bit more healthiness themselves, so give whole wheat spaghetti a try. I think you'll be surprised at how yummy it is.
This isn't a dish that I typically buy special ingredients for--I just use what I have on hand. Of course, it also depends what you typically have kicking around. I'm fortunate enough to have most of what I need growing in my garden, so you may need to add a few items to your shopping list.
Here's the lineup:

Whole wheat spaghetti noodles, mushrooms, green pepper, carrots, celery, onions, garlic (I buy the pre-minced kind), fresh roma tomatoes (you could probably use canned diced tomatoes without losing much flavor), sun-dried tomatoes, a can of tomato sauce or tomato paste (depending on how thick you like your sauce) extra virgin olive oil, salt and freshly ground pepper, red pepper flakes, parsley, oregano, and rosemary. I'm not giving measurements because this is really a to-taste thing and also depends on ingredient quantities and the number of people you're cooking for. Sorry, you'll just have to eyeball it!
Start off with everything chopped--it'll take a bit, but this cooks pretty quickly once you get going.
Before you begin chopping, you'll need to reconstitute your sun-dried tomatoes if they're fully dried (if they're oil-packed, you can just go ahead and chop them up).
Put your tomatoes in a small bowl, just barely cover them with very hot water, put a lid on the bowl, and let them sit for about twenty minutes. Save the water afterwards to add to your sauce later.

When you're about five minutes from the end of your chopping, start a pot of salted water boiling (the salt will help it to boil faster). As soon as it reaches its boiling pot, drop in your spaghetti (make sure you stir it so the noodles don't stick together. Adding a few drops of olive oil will also prevent sticking). Set a timer on your pasta.

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium high heat and add some olive oil. As soon as the skillet's hot enough that the olive oil glides easily over the pan when you pick it up and turn it, throw in your garlic and a couple of pinches of red pepper flakes. Neil likes lots of garlic, so I put in four or five teaspoons.
Let that cook for about thirty seconds, stirring frequently to prevent scorching, then add about a teaspoon each of rosemary and oregano (and parsley if you want it). Give it another fifteen seconds, then throw in your salt and pepper.

After another fifteen seconds, add your onions. Cook them for about three minutes until they're starting to turn a bit translucent, then add the mushrooms and cook for two minutes, then add the peppers and cook those for a couple of minutes. Typically you'd cook all of these for much longer to reach a fullness of flavor, but I'm kind of still in the spaghetti-hurry mode, so it's your call.

Add the carrots and celery and let the whole pile cook for another minute or two, then add in your sun-dried tomato soaking liquid. If you didn't do sun-dried tomatoes, just move ahead. In any case, let everything boil for a bit to get some of the water out with the flavor left behind, then add in the chopped tomatoes and chopped sun-dried tomatoes. Give it a minute or two, then add in your tomato sauce or paste, plus water to get it to your desired sauce consistency.

And voila! You have a nice hearty sauce. Now drain your pasta and mix the two up together and eat your dinner, feeling virtuous about your whole-wheat pasta and all those yummy veggies you're consuming.


Katrina said...

Looks yummy! I'm impressed.

Crapos said...

Hey, looks just like my spaghetti! Well, actually it's Neil's spaghetti, since he's the better cook. But we don't use pepper flakes or sun-dried tomatoes. And it's a little different everytime depending upon what we have. My in-laws thought we were crazy last Christmas when we put carrots in the sauce and then they all raved!

Meghan said...

There was an article I read in the paper this week comparing all the different brands of whole wheat pasta. They tried a number of different local brands; I remember Al Dente was one they liked, but I don't recall the rest. The point seemed to be that there was a wide range of quality. I'm impressed that you're all eating ww pasta; I've tried it here and it never caught on.

charlotte and clarke said...

Rachael I LOVE your blog, it's definitely going on my favorites list. I love to cook too, so I will share my favs with you.