Saturday, July 3, 2010

Summer Spaghetti

Of all the dishes I cook, pasta is the one I make most often. I'm always fiddling and fooling with my sauces and pastas. The variations range from minimalist (diced tomatoes and garlic) to rich (alfredo sauces) to just plain weird (macaroni and tuna fish, spaghetti with fennel and sardines).

I like all of them. The Dear Devoted Husband, however, has--to put it nicely--mixed feelings about some of these experiments. Really, all he wants from life is a thick meat sauce, emphasis on the meat. A jar of meaty Ragu would suit him just fine.

So, every once in a while, I cater to his tastes, and just make a spaghetti with meat sauce. (Un)fortunately, I can't seem to make a pasta dish without fiddling with it somehow.

Today I present Summer Spaghetti--a meat sauce, yes, but a late-June-ramping-up-into-the-height-of-farmers'-market-season meat sauce. There's meat in this sauce--slightly more than a pound of hamburger from Downing Family Farm--but that is most certainly not all.

Ingredients: Fennel, canned tomato sauce, tomatoes, Czech Broadleaf garlic, summer squash, zucchini, onion, basil, oregano, hamburger, olive oil, and spaghetti (the basil and oregano are mine; everything else, excluding the canned sauce, olive oil, and spaghetti, was acquired at the Cherry Street Farmers' Market):

Heat a splash of olive oil in a large skillet:

Add one young onion and several cloves garlic, chopped:

Add about one pound of ground beef (I could get by with less, but the DDH insists this is the perfect amount):

Meanwhile, boil some water and add spaghetti:

Cook according to package directions.

Drain the spaghetti once cooked:

Chop the summer squash, zucchini (one small of each):

and fennel (maybe a quarter or half of a large bulb):

When the ground beef is cooked through, drain:

 Add another splash of olive oil to the skillet:

Add the summer squash, zucchini, and fennel to the skillet:

Then add some tomatoes:

If using grape tomatoes, like here, you can toss them in whole; larger cherry or full-sized tomatoes could be chopped first. If you prefer the tomatoes to be incorporated into the sauce smoothly, you can chop the grape tomatoes, but I love warm whole little tomatoes like that.

Cover and let cook on low:

while you tear the basil and oregano leaves and some fennel fronds:

Once the tomatoes and squashes have softened, add the cooked beef:

tomato sauce:

and herbs:

 Add the cooked spaghetti:

And mix well to coat:

Serve with a salad (here, greens, cherry tomatoes, fennel, and balsamic vinegar):

And enjoy.

The sauce definitely consisted of more than meat and pureed tomatoes, but neither of us complained. The DDH did not quietly push any little vegetable pieces to the side of his plate; he didn't make a face and say, "No, it's good, just...what's in it?" It's good. It's spaghetti. With meat sauce. And it's delicious.

A Note: The DDH has put up with my farmers' market habit for a little more than a year now, usually quite patiently, but he did raise an eyebrow when I started branching out into getting meat there. The hamburger here is quite a bit more expensive than at Sam's Club. When eating this meal, however, he kept remarking on how delicious the meat is:

 'Cause it is. So I think it's worth it, at least sometimes.

Yum yum yum.

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