It has been a nutso week. I could feel it coming last weekend.
On Monday we’d be launching work on a new cookbook, including bringing in some new staff.
On Tuesday, several of us on the editorial team were driving to meet with publishing staff for the American Diabetes Association. (Watch for some great new books which we’ll collaborate on again in the future!)
Wednesday and Thursday we would have back-to-back, face-to-face meetings in our office with our key designer who lives 10 hours away.
Not much cooking time in the days ahead. But I really like to eat at home when I’ve had a pressured non-stop day.
So I started early Sunday morning, making a batch of spaghetti sauce before we headed off to church. Our older daughter was coming over at noon to watch football with Merle. (If you’re interested, more about the truce we reached on football-watching when the kids were little, at the asterisk below.*) A couple of weeks ago she told me how hungry she was for the spaghetti sauce I made when she was a little kid. Well, that’s a veiled request that’s pretty hard to resist.
I started to see a solution developing here about to how to cook this week when I would really have no time. If I made a good-sized batch of my Long-Ago Spaghetti Sauce, I’d have enough left to make a Spaghetti Pie. So I cranked up the amount of pasta I cooked for Sunday lunch to be sure I’d have enough of it for the Pie, too. I would absolutely not have time or interest in cooking as the week went along. So Sunday was the day.
It was sorta sweet to cook alone in the quiet house Sunday morning, moving toward my Spaghetti Two-Step. The 30 or 40 minutes of prep time, and the hour and a half of simmering time that followed, was going to net me 2½ meals—1.) Spaghetti Sauce over Pasta for Sunday noon; 2.) Spaghetti Pie, probably for Tuesday supper; 3.) Half a meal means lunch leftovers—either Spaghetti Sauce over Pasta, or wedges of Spaghetti Pie.
Okay, a warning. This recipe for Long-Ago Spaghetti Sauce might be a shocker, but I grew up in a part of the world where you eat your spaghetti sauce sweet, not spicy. If your alarms go off when you read my old-timey recipe, just substitute your own. The point is, with a little planning, you can make 2½ meals almost in the same amount of time it takes to make 1, whatever sauce recipe you choose.
Long-Ago Spaghetti Sauce
Makes 8 servings
Prep Time: 30-40 minutes
Cooking Time: 1-1½ hours
1 lb. ground beef
1 good-sized onion, chopped
1 red, or green, bell pepper, chopped
1 tsp. salt
¼ cup sugar
1 Tbsp. paprika
1 tsp. prepared brown mustard
½ cup ketchup
1 quart tomato juice
1-1¼ lbs. spaghetti, linguini, or fettucine (The amount depends on how big the eaters are that you’re feeding this Sauce and pasta to; you want to have a scant half-pound of pasta left for the Spaghetti Pie. Its recipe follows.)
1. In a good-sized stockpot, brown ground beef, chopped onion, and chopped pepper together. Stir frequently to break up beef.
2. When meat is browned, drain off drippings.
3. Stir in all remaining ingredients, blending well.
4. Simmer over low heat, uncovered, for 1-1½ hours, or until sauce thickens slightly. Stir frequently.
5. Serve over cooked spaghetti, linguini, or fettucine.
Makes 8 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes (Not counting the time to make the sauce or the pasta. Remember, you’re using leftovers from the Long-Ago Spaghetti Sauce recipe above.)
Baking Time: 25-30 minutes
scant half-pound cooked spaghetti, linguini, or fettucine
2 Tbsp. butter, cut into chunks
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs, beaten
8-12 ounces cottage cheese, depending on how much you like the cheese
2-3 cups cooked Spaghetti Sauce (left from the recipe above)
½ cup grated mozzarella cheese
1. Heat the scant half-pound of cooked spaghetti, left over from your Spaghetti Sauce and Pasta bash above.
2. Stir butter chunks, Parm cheese, and beaten eggs into hot pasta with a fork, blending well.
3. Grease a 9” or 10” pie plate. Place prepared pasta in pie plate, pulling it up the sides with the fork and spreading it evenly across the bottom.
4. Spread cottage cheese evenly over pasta “crust.”
5. Top with leftover Spaghetti Sauce.
6. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or longer, until edges of crust turn brown and sauce is bubbly in the middle.
7. Top with grated mozzarella cheese.
8. Return to oven and bake 5 more minutes, or until cheese melts.
9. Remove from oven. Allow to stand 10 minutes so Pie can firm up. Cut into 8 wedges and serve.
*How Our Daughters Came to Love Football, and I Had No Reason to Hate It
I’ve heard all sorts of tales of woes from women who hate football because it removes their husbands and male friends from family life for hours on Saturdays and Sundays and Monday nights—WHEN THE KIDS ARE AROUND.
We have 2 daughters, but that never stopped Merle from scooping both of them up when they were pretty little and taking them into the living room with him to watch football. (My first good fortune.) It was just the 3 of them; I preferred to stay 2 rooms away with the Sunday papers, my favorite magazines, and a couple of books. They never missed me a bit. (My second good fortune.)
Merle explained the plays to the girls, patiently taught them the players’ positions and names, helped them watch and hear the commentators—and hooked them on the sport. They loved it. They soon had their favorite players with their posters in their rooms. They talked plays and fumbles and interceptions and draft picks with their uncles and cousins and boys at school. They’re still football freaks.
These days, Kate often comes to watch with Merle, and they commiserate (usually in low tones or silently) and celebrate (generally jumping and whooping) together. Rebecca and her husband watch together, while at the same time playing on 2 fantasy football teams—against each other, of course.
Fortunate for family harmony, all of them love the same NFL team. So when that team’s played for the day, our son-in-law usually calls Merle to replay what’s happened. Meanwhile, I’m still reading.
In pre-DVR days—and now with a DVR—Merle and the girls bellow for me to come see the replay of big plays, so I have the best of both worlds. I’ve got peaceful reading time, plus I see the hinge plays and the greatest drama.
That means there are a lot of holes in what I understand about football. So I have to be really careful about joining any Monday conversations about what should have happened in weekend football!