We had a ham dinner last week and enjoyed the leftovers all week long so we were not exactly in the mood for an Easter Ham and all the usual trimmings.
We threw tradition out the window yesterday and had spaghetti and meatballs. I “cheated” a little and used frozen meatballs, which were beyond their prime, and doctored up canned spaghetti sauce.
There is an Italian restaurant (Schiavone’s) in a nearby community which sells its sauce in local groceries. I buy it often and even bootleg it to my daughter in Knoxville. I used to take it to DC when my other daughter lived there. Yes, it’s that good; leaves Ragu, Prego, Newman’s Own and the others in the dust.
I’m not such a purist that I don’t use prepared sauces when it is most convenient or makes little difference. I also make my own sauce when the spirit moves me or when I have a recipe with a different twist that appeals to me. I like to make my own Bolognese sauce when I have the time to make it the way I like, with long, slow cooking of the meat and other ingredients. When I want a rich, meaty sauce, I fix that. If I’m making lasagne, I always use canned/bottled sauce. Lasagne is tedious enough as it is without spending at least another hour making sauce.
For lasagne, I use two cans of Schiavone’s sauce, one of the marinara and one of the spicy. It always tastes great and everyone I’ve served it to has asked what kind of sauce I use because they’ve liked it too. If I’m making another pasta casserole, I decide then what sauce to prepare. Sometimes it’s pre-made, and sometimes homemade. Depends.
Don’t let a long list of sauce ingredients keep you from making any pasta casserole. Glance through the ingredients and get a feel for what kind of sauce it is. Is it creamy? Use prepared sauce and add a few tablespoons of heavy cream. Is it spicy? Add a few hot red pepper flakes. Is it a meaty sauce? Brown your own ground beef or sausage, drain and add to the sauce. You can saute your own vegetables to make a primavera sauce.
I rarely use the prepared sauces as is for spaghetti. I almost always add meat, ground beef, Italian sausage, or diced hard salami or pepperoni. I also add sauteed onions and garlic, sometimes green bell pepper and mushrooms. Usually I add a can of diced tomatoes, and a small can of tomato sauce. With a dash of Worcestershire, some minced garlic, extra herbs, dried or fresh, I can call even prepared tomato sauce “my own” crossing my fingers behind my back.
Anyway, I love spaghetti and could eat it once or twice a week easily. Of course, it is always different since I never fix it the same. I must admit sometimes it is better than others but you live and learn, right? I learned yesterday to throw out the frozen meatballs if they are covered in freezer frost. I had my doubts when I used them. I tried to knock off as much frost as I could but they tasted old and “yucky.” The sauce itself didn’t suffer, so I will throw out the meatballs when I use the rest of the sauce.
I’ll probably make a casserole (Johnny Marzetti) later in the week. It is kind of a lasagne-all-mixed-up casserole, not in layers. It’s cheesey, meaty, with penne or campanelle, macaroni, or any bite-size pasta. I’ll tell you more about it later.
In the meantime, go on and fix spaghetti tonight.