A plate of spaghetti.
Photo by Nick Paris.

“Good ol’ spaghetti.” This was the reaction I heard when my roommates saw what I was preparing for dinner. This reaction was perfect, and I couldn’t have agreed more. While growing up, spaghetti for dinner was almost a weekly occurrence as it was my dad’s all-time favorite food. At Italian restaurants, there are many varieties of spaghetti, and they are all delicious.

Spaghetti has many good aspects going for it. It’s inexpensive to make, it’s easy to make in large quantities (great for those large gatherings), and it’s a dish that can be made in a healthy manner as well.

There are several steps to preparing the spaghetti, but first let’s start with what you’ll need. My favorite spaghetti is spaghetti bolognese, which is simply spaghetti with meat sauce. For this, your grocery list will consist of an onion, a clove of garlic, 3 cans of tomato paste (the smaller size cans), 2 ½ of diced tomatoes (canned or fresh), and a pound of ground beef, turkey or pork. The last one’s up to you.

Your first step will be to chop up the veggies. Dice the onion until it is pretty small pieces. As our food blogger, Mikaela, said in her article about onions, these are great vegetables, as they are healthy and can add great flavor to almost anything. Next is the garlic. Something to note here is that one clove is enough, but I actually like putting two for the extra flavor. Two will add flavor but won’t overwhelm it. You want to chop the garlic up a lot finer than you did the onions. This way, people can avoid getting an abnormally large mouthful of garlic while enjoying their spaghetti. If you have more vegetables on hand you can chop them up and add those as well. The only one I usually do is a whole zucchini — but experiment! That’s half the fun of cooking.

Once the veggies are chopped, you can leave them on a plate for the time being. The next step is to get out a decent-sized saucepan. One which is about a foot in diameter and about two inches deep will work perfectly. Add butter to the pan and put it over low-medium heat on the stove. Add a pound of your meat of choice to the pan. With a wooden spoon, begin separating the meat in the pan until there are no clumps remaining. At this point, you’ll need to season the meat. Add 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper to the meat. A little bit of oregano is a great addition as well. Keep moving the meat around with your wooden spoon until it has browned on all sides.

Add the chopped onions and garlic. This stage will last for about 10 to 15 minutes as you stir the garlic, onions, and meat. One great thing about this stage is that now that the meat is cooked, you can begin nibbling it as you cook. This is a good way to test the flavor and make sure the meat doesn’t overcook. It is also your right as chef to enjoy mini-samples along the way.

Once most of the onions have started to turn a golden color and are a bit softer, you can add the remaining ingredients. Add the 3 cans of tomato paste, the 2 ½ cups diced tomatoes as well as 2 cups of water to the saucepan. If you’re adding a zucchini, now’s the time to do it as well. Set a timer for 40 to 45 minutes and leave it while stirring it frequently.

After the sauce has been cooking for 20 minutes, put a pot on the stove and begin boiling water. Once it is boiling, add a pound of pasta to it. Be sure to stir the pasta as well so that no noodles stick to the bottom and burn. This step is also where spaghetti presents a healthier option of using wheat pasta.

Once the noodles are done, drain the water and put the noodles back in the pot. Once the sauce has been cooked for 45 minutes you can add it to the noodles. This amount of sauce will provide for a good ratio of sauce to noodles so there will be enough spaghetti for about four people.

If you’re like me, you love to put parmesan on most Italian foods. With spaghetti, it’s a necessity. Other great foods to have with spaghetti include salads, bread or garlic bread, and, of course, some vino.

As you sit down to eat your meal, be sure to raise your wine glasses in a toast to the great country of Italy for one of its best contributions to the culinary world. Now enjoy!