Grown Up “Spaghetti-O’s”

For this week, Amanda and I were looking to make a dish that could be served in a bowl. She went above and beyond and made an amazing Gumbo, so I wanted to go for a more simple, weeknight vibe. When I think back on an easy, comforting dinner in a bowl from my childhood, that can of Spaghetti-O’s which were only minutes from de-tinning to dinner table came to mind.

Of course, posting an article about opening a can would have made for a very easy Distance Dishes skype date with Amanda but probably not the best writing, so I wanted to adult-up this classic a bit. I’ve recently been on a spinach kick so I thought that might be an easy, delicious way to add some nutrition and color to perhaps make that glass of wine with dinner a little less guilt-inducing. Additionally, this recipe can easily be vegan-ified by using non-dairy milk and omitting the sausages if you prefer.

The beauty of this dish is it can be as simple or as complicated as you like. The recipe calls for some tomato sauce which can be bought or homemade. I made a Basic Tomato Sauce to go in this dish which can be built upon your tastes, or you go for that jar in the store if that’s what makes you happy! Either way, this makes for a nice, simple dinner with some healthy elements so you can treat yourself later.

Ingredients: 

  • 3-4 Italian chicken sausages, casings removed
  • 8 oz of small, cooked pasta
  • 1 cup of the starchy pasta water
  • 2 cups of tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup milk (non-dairy works)
  • 2 tsp nutritional yeast (optional, could also use a sharp cheese or omit altogether)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • Pinch of salt to taste depending on your tomato sauce
  • 2 cups baby spinach

Instructions:

  1. Remove the casings from the chicken sausages if they have them. Slice into 1/2″ thick pieces and sear in a pan until fully cooked/heated.
  2. Meanwhile, cook your pasta in salted water and drain while al dente. Be sure to save 1 cup of the starchy water for the sauce.
  3. In a medium saucepan, heat the tomato sauce over low-medium heat and add the starchy water, milk, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes and a small pinch of salt if needed.
  4. Once fully incorporated and heated through, remove from heat. Stir in the spinach and allow to wilt in the sauce for 1-2 minutes.
  5. Stir in your pasta and sausages and serve. Goes well with some nice, crusty bread as well.

Wine Pairing: Since this can be on the spicy side with the sausages and the pepper flakes, you want a wine that can stand up to those flavors. While this is hardly authentic, you could keep with the Italian theme and go with a Chianti to pair. Usually a Chianti is bold enough to go with a lot of seasoning, and should bring out the flavors nicely. 

Basic Tomato Sauce

This is a great, basic sauce that can be enjoyed on your favorite pasta or can be part of a bigger recipe, such as the “Grown Up Spaghetti-O’s”. You can customize this recipe with your preferred tastes by adding more herbs of your liking, but this can be a great starting point wherever your saucy cooking may take you.

Ingredients: 

  • 1 tbsp olive oil (not extra virgin) or vegetable oil
  • 10 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 yellow onion, diced.
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 3 tbsp basil, chiffonade
  • 1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • Salt & Pepper

Instructions: 

  1. In a wide saute pan or saucepan over medium heat, add the vegetable oil and garlic and stir for 1-2 minutes. Do not let the garlic brown.
  2. Add the onion and bell pepper to the pan and saute until the onions are becoming translucent and the mixture is fragrant.
  3. Add your tomatoes, basil and a bit of salt and pepper (you can add more later) and lower the heat. Allow to simmer for 30 minutes, stirring every 5-10 minutes.
  4. Using an immersion blender or allowing the mixture to cool slightly and transferring to a regular blender (be careful of the heat) break up the larger chunks of vegetables to your preferred consistency.
  5. Taste your sauce and adjust the salt/pepper level to your liking and it is ready to serve on top of pasta, as a bread dipping sauce or any other purpose you’d like. Enjoy!

Wine Pairing: Although you can also wait until you choose a protein to choose your wine pairing, tomatoes can certainly be the dominating flavor of a dish. A Sangiovese might pair nicely with this sauce which is usually tart, and can be rustic with higher acidity. This can be a nice addition to the tomato sauce here. Enjoy!

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