Thanksgiving Spaghetti

I'm trying to write about BlogHer Boston but it's a little too big and I'm a little too tired at the moment. Instead I'm satisfying with being back home where I have a large furry cat sleeping beside me. She was so happy that we were back home that she had to wake us up at 4:45am and tell us all over again with headbutts and cuddles. I'm thinking about Thanksgiving dinner, which sadly is not turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes, glazed carrots and mashed sweet potatoes with honey and ginger. It was originally going to be Chinese takeout but I feel like something soothing and comforting. Something that is warm and homey.

I am craving spaghetti with homemade pasta sauce.

I don't have a recipe. Homemade pasta sauce was one of the very first recipes that my mother let me play with. We were a strict meat and poatoes kind of family but my mother used to make a pretty good pasta sauce. She'd make it about once a year and freeze a bunch. I later found out it was the pasta sauce from The Better Homes and Gardens Complete Step-by-Step Cookbook (my mom gave me her copy the last time I was home but refused to give up her Five Roses cookbook). She followed it to the letter, using the instant beef bouillon granules and canned mushrooms. We used Kraft Parmesan cheese out of a green plastic container. Rather than using garlic bread or a baguette we sopped up the extra sauce with homemade biscuits. We drank milk with it. It was one of my favourite meals and as far as I was concerned we didn't have it nearly enough.

Eventually, when I was old enough to use the stove with minimal supervision (I guess I was nine or ten) and my mother got tired of my complaining she let me start to play. Back then I first started experimenting it was pretty basic poor man's spaghetti, which is to say rather than using canned tomatoes or tomato sauce my first pasta sauces were made with Heinz tomato soup. (All of you that bow down before the altar of Campbell's tomato soup are wrong, Heinz is where it's at, but I still buy Campbell's for Kit-Cat when she's coming over).  We used to freeze ground beef in individual patties (1/4 lb per patty, maybe a bit less) so I'd get a couple to play with. I was also given free range of the spice cabinet. Sometimes I'd go overboard with the dried oregano. Other times I'd put in a few too many crushed chilies. But as far as I was concerned it was fanstastic, even if not to my mother's standards.

I grew up and moved on and moved out. I was 1200kms away from home and would crave something homey and comforting. And cheap. I was a poor starving student. The internet searches started and through much trial, error and constant evolution I learned how to turn out a pretty tasty pasta sauce. I'd make big batches of it at a time and freeze it ziplock bags in my tiny, so not frost-free freezer. It was a great meal to pull out and have on during exams, when friends came over or whenever I was feeling world-weary. I eventually weaned myself off of bottled pasta sauces and used my own exclusively. I developed a decent meat-free marinara sauce as well as my super-meaty sauce.

There's no recipe. It's not gourmet. It's easy. It's different every time but yet still always tastes right.

There's a simple base of onions, carrots, garlic and because I can never figure out what to do with the rest of the celery I use celery seed. I use canned tomatoes, usually whatever brand is on sale. I alternate between crushed, diced and whole and I've tried every combination of them that you can think of. I may or may not add tomato paste. If I'm making a meat sauce I'll use ground beef or Italian sausage removed from it's casings. Or both. If I have pancetta I'm not against throwing that in too. If I have them I use mushrooms. When making a veggie sauce I love to thrown in grated zucchini. I mostly use dried spices but if I have fresh I'll use those. I top it with Parmesan that's been freshly grated on my microplane. If there's garlic bread I use garlic bread. If not I still sop up the extra sauce with homemade biscuits (there's *always* some in my freezer). I eat it on spaghetti, bowties, whatever is in my pantry. I use it in lasagna. I still freeze it in ziplock bags. I still sometimes use too much oregano or basil.

The pasta is boiling right now and we'll soon sit down to a late lunch/early dinner of Thanksgiving spaghetti before Lee goes off to do his volunteer shift. We'll load our plates high with pasta and sauce and thick covering of grated Parmesan. We'll drink milk with it. We'll sop of the extra sauce with biscuits. The stove will be splattered with sauce.

And it will all be thanks to my mother who let me play in the kitchen when I was barely old enough to use the stove. We will sit down to a great meal because my mother taught me how to feed myself and those that I care about with food that comes from my heart and my hands. I'm thankful for so many things in my life, but that is one that I carry with me every day. Thanks Mom.