Yesterday was Matt's birthday. I won't tell you how old he is, but I will tell you that one of his absolute favorite meals is spaghetti with meat sauce. He makes it multiple times per week. Truth be told, this is actually why I started cooking. I don't like to eat the same thing over and over again and I thought I could find new things that he would like. So far, it has worked pretty well. What I did tonight was his favorite, pasta with meat sauce, but with an upgrade (in my opinion). Upgrade meaning that the sauce isn't Ragu and simmers for over an hour instead of being zapped in the microwave for 20 seconds (the pasta also isn't angel hair and the meat sauce involves more than just ground beef). But if it makes him happy, he can eat pasta with meat sauce the way he wants, I just thought we should change it up.
A few months ago, Matt's sister Juli gave me the cookbook Joy of Cooking which I think (and so does Amazon.com) is a staple in every kitchen. I have on more than one occasion been very happy I have it for all kinds of recipes. But this book is extra special. It wasn't bought in a bookstore or purchased online. Rather, this cookbook belonged to Matt and Juli's mom. The book is a twelfth edition from 1979 and has handwritten notes, food splatters, pages falling out, and smells like an old library book (you know that fantastic smell that old books have?? I love it). All of these things make this book extraordinarily special. It has inspired me to do the same for my children as well. Now, in my new cookbooks, I write little notes in the margins so that when my child wants to make a recipe from my book they will find a note from me, so that they can know "how mom used to make it". This book remains one of my favorite gifts I have ever received because of how sentimental it is. I found it to be the perfect book to use when deciding how to "upgrade" Matt's favorite meal for his birthday. I mixed and matched with the recipes in Joy and found a fantastic recipe. So here it is, pasta with meat sauce, adapted from Joy of Cooking:
1/2 cup olive oil
1 pressed clove garlic
1 lb. ground round steak
1/4 lb. ground lean pork
2 cups strained tomatoes (I used this in lieu of Italian tomatoes b/c Matt doesn't like tomatoes--feel free to substitute)
1/2 cup Italian tomato paste
1/2 cup beef or veal stock
1 bay leaf
3 slices bacon, chopped or minced
1/3 cup chopped onion
salt and pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil in a medium to large sized pot
In a small saute pan, cook the bacon over slow heat
Add in: garlic, ground beef, ground pork, strained tomatoes, tomato paste, stock, bay leaf, bacon, onion and pepper (I actually did not need to use any salt)
Simmer the sauce uncovered for about 1 hour
When the sauce is almost done, begin boiling your water and cook the pasta
Strain the pasta (but do not shock it in cold water!!!)
Remove the bay leaf from the sauce
Place the pasta back in the pot it was cooking in (without the water) and add just enough sauce to coat the pasta (do not just dump the sauce onto the pasta). I did it this way because we had significantly more sauce than pasta. If you have about the right amount of each, then you can dump the pasta into the sauce directly to coat evenly.
Sprinkle with Parmesan or Romano cheese and enjoy!
Matt loved it. Even though it wasn't his "typical" spaghetti with meat sauce, it was fantastic and he thoroughly enjoyed it. I highly recommend making this dish. We have a lot of leftover sauce which is perfect because I'm leaving town for a few days so now Matt can enjoy his beloved pasta with meat sauce while I'm gone. And although he is one year older as of yesterday, he's still a kid at heart. See below for photo demonstrating Matt's youthful behavior :)
"I'm still asleep in bed" when he was really awake in the other room...still a kid at heart :)