From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...Our neighborhood was buried in dense fog today. The children made the best of it by playing Marco-Polo until boredom reigned them in. I decided quite early in the day to stay in, secure in the knowledge that the world would not end if I missed a meeting or two. Besides, I had the perfect excuse. I couldn't see my driveway. I won't bore you with the minutia of my day, save to say the pantry is clean and the aroma of the bread baking in my kitchen was a perfect counterpoint to that of the madrone our neighbors use to fire their wood stoves. I did puzzle a bit about dinner. I wanted something substantial, but didn't want another soup or stew. I decided that pasta with a huge salad and warm bread on the side would make a perfect meal. I had a jar of tomato sauce in the freezer and thick spaghetti in the pantry, so dinner fell quickly into place. The sauce I had frozen would could be warmed and afford us another delicious meal. I had originally planned to use the sauce as part of our SNAP challenge, but I discovered that as the elements came together, it was simply too expensive to be included in our weekly plan. I figured the sauce and pasta came to $4 a serving, which by most standards is a bargain, but it was way over the SNAP meal allocation. I found this recipe last summer in Food and Wine magazine and literally clipped it, because it reminded me of some of the sauces I had as a child. The recipe uses five ingredients to make a sauce that sticks to the ribs as well as the pasta. There are a couple of things I'd like you to notice about the recipe. It uses lots of olive oil and a quarter pound of garlic. The oil and garlic simmer together before they are added to the tomato sauce and the bite of the garlic is reduced to a mellow nibble in the process. Do not cut back on either ingredient. The recipe also uses a small quantity of mushrooms to make a reduced broth. I cheated a bit here and used a mushroom powder to create the cup of broth needed for the sauce. If the recipe is followed precisely, it takes two hours to get this pasta to the table. If you cheat, as I did, 30 minutes can be shaved off your prep time. While most of the sauces we use these days come together in a quicker fashion, I know those of you who are looking for an old-fashioned tomato sauce will love this one. It is not figure friendly, but it is delicious. The recipe makes enough sauce for 2 pounds of pasta, so you'll probably want to freeze half of the sauce you make. I really hope you'll give this recipe a try. I know that those of you who do, will not be disappointed. Here's how this inexpensive dish is made.
Spaghetti on the Cheap...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of Food and Wine magazine
4 ounces white button mushrooms, thinly sliced
3/4 cup peeled garlic cloves (4 ounces, from about 4 heads)
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 (28-ounce) cans peeled Italian tomatoes with their juices
Freshly ground pepper
1 pound spaghetti
1/4 cup torn basil leaves
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for serving
1) In a saucepan, bring the mushrooms and 3 cups of water to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat until the broth is reduced to 1 cup, 1 hour. Strain and discard the mushrooms.
2) Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring the garlic and olive oil to a boil. Simmer over moderately low heat, stirring, until the garlic is very tender and golden, about 30 minutes.
3) In a large enameled cast-iron casserole or Dutch oven, bring the tomatoes and the garlic and oil to a boil. Add the mushroom broth and, using an immersion blender, puree the sauce until smooth. Bring the sauce back to a boil, then simmer over moderately low heat until thickened, about 1 hour. Season the sauce with salt and pepper.
4) Cook the spaghetti in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain the spaghetti and return to the pot. Add 2 cups of the sauce and cook, tossing, for 1 minute. Transfer the spaghetti to bowls, top with the basil and serve with grated cheese. Yield: 4 to 6 servings.
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