Friday, February 10, 2006

Spaghetti alla Bolognesa

...or just plain ole "spagbog", as we call it.

At this rate, I am never going to get that freezer cleaned out. Don't you know it, when you start something new, life always gets in the way. Finally ready to write that book? Your house floods. Wanna lose some weight? The store has an all-time sale on your favorite chocolate bar. Etc etc etc. Devilish distractions, I call them. So too with this freezer fun. Now that I have my mind set of getting this thing taken care of, I often get home late, or eat on the road (I'm getting better at ordering smaller portions and not taking anything home!). But if you can prepare a little ahead, this dish can be ready and on the table in 30 minutes. Hurray!!!

One of the ways to be ready for situations like this is to cook your hamburger meat beforehand. Having some browned beef in the freezer, appropriately marked and wrapped, will have you serve nachos in no time, or whip up this spaghetti dish in less than thirty minutes. Do make sure that, if you decide to cook and freeze the meat, you cook it thoroughly and let it cool down sufficiently before you do so!

I cook for two (one portion for dinner and one for lunch the next day), but you can easily double the portions. This is another great recipe that will make a dent in your freezer and your pantry!

Spaghetti alla Bolognesa
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
1 tsp olive oil
1 can of mushrooms (approx. 7 ounces), drained
2 cans of diced tomatoes, italian style
1 small can of tomato sauce
1 lb ground beef
1 tsp of dried thyme
1 tsp of italian herbs (or oregano, basil and rosemary)
1 bay leaf
1 can of medium pitted black olives, drained and chopped
1/4 cup of warm milk

2 servings of whole wheat spaghetti
parmesan cheese

Add the olive oil to a non-stick pan and cook the onion and garlic until clear and smelling yummy. Don't let the garlic burn! Add the hamburger meat and stir for several minutes, then add the mushrooms. Cook for a couple of minutes, until the meat is done, then add the cans of italian diced tomatoes. Stir and add the small can of tomato sauce. Bring to a boil, and turn down the heat. Add the herbs and the bay leaf and simmer for about twenty minutes on a low heat.

In the meantime, cook the spaghetti al dente (whole wheat pasta is great, a bit chewier and with more body than the plain old white pasta, try it sometime!) according to instructions. Drain.

Taste your spagbog sauce, salt and pepper to taste, or add more herbs. I love thyme so I am very generous with this, but not everybody likes it. Stir in the chopped black olives and heat for a couple of minutes more. Retire your pan from the heat, stir in the warm milk (this will tone down the acidity of your sauce and make for a wonderful, velvety flavor).

Put a big serving of spaghetti on a deep plate, top with the meaty sauce and sprinkle parmesan on top, if desired. Dried and grated parmesan will do, but if you can afford it, buy a little piece of parmesan at the store and grate it yourself, it's fabulous!

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