Preparing spaghetti can be a distinctly personal affair because everyone has their own special way of cooking this classic meal. Many of us can recall memories of our mothers making spaghetti on a homely autumn evening during childhood, or a late evening snack when the cupboards were barren in our first apartment. It's always better than fast-food. For my personal recipe, I like to prepare the ground beef, sauce, and noodles in separate pans, while boiling water for the noodles before turning my attention to what will become the “meat” in my meat sauce.
Start with a teaspoon of vegetable oil on medium to high heat before adding the ground beef for browning. Begin browning the meat while adding a dash of salt and garlic powder to the burgeoning beef milieu. As it begins to brown, add the noodles to the now boiling water, breaking the uncooked pasta in half with your hands. This part reminds me of the way I used to snap twigs in the schoolyard. Drop three handfuls about an inch in diameter (six “twigs” after breaking), and drop them into the boiling water. The crack of the pasta is somewhat muffled by the now permeating smell of the seasoned beef simmering on the stovetop. It’s a sweet smell, but it’s about to become something else entirely, as I add Frank’s Red Hot Sauce to the meat, launching the sweet smell into one with an aggressive bite that snips at your nostrils with the heat building underneath. Make sure to carefully stir the meat at regular intervals.
The sauce can be whatever brand you prefer, and at this point, I unscrew the lid on the glass jar and add it to a pan at low to medium heat. The sauce always has a faint garlic smell amidst an overwhelming tomato smell, and I always like to stay away from the genetically engineered tomatoes as they're not only bad for my health but don't give off that same tantalizing aroma. As it heats, the smell actually improves, and once it is at temperature pour it over the beef still simmering at low heat. Next, drain the noodles and then arrange them on the plate, to provide a steamy, slippery foundation for our meal. I like to add a pinch or two of minced garlic and butter to the noodles at this point. The garlic and butter add another distinct flavor that complements that of the sweeter tomato sauce and spicy ground beef.
Add meat sauce, the red and white combining like the stripes on the American flag. The next part is crucial…the cheese! I love grated parmesan cheese, so I spread it liberally over the steaming plate of spaghetti. Each strand of cheese begins to melt and then congeal on the still hot sauce. While the meal cools, spread some butter, garlic salt, and oregano on a couple of pieces of bread and toast it in the toaster for a couple quick and easy pieces of garlic bread for dipping, diving, and dunking the various layers of the spaghetti and sauce.
For me, spaghetti will always have that smell and taste of home. The comfort of something so simple, yet so packed with flavor, is reminiscent of childhood itself. The first thing I always taste as I take my first scrumptious bite is the medley of flavors combining to make for one dynamite garlic/tomato/pasta/beef taste that has notes of sweet tangy sauce, elements of seasoned and browned ground beef, and garlic buttered noodles. I love the crunch of the garlic bread, the ways it eventually melds to my fingertips as I smother it in whatever sauce is remaining on the plate. It always hits the spot.