Last night we went to our monthly church potluck, and I brought Chocolate Zucchini Cake which I made because I had everything on hand. I love a potluck.

Tonight we’re doing an American classic: spaghetti. I think there are probably as many ways to make spaghetti as there are people to eat it. I don’t often make my sauce the same way two times in a row, but here’s my basic “recipe” (can you call it a recipe if you don’t actually follow any guidelines?) that’s at the heart of Peek spaghetti.

1 can diced or crushed tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
1 can tomato paste
1/4 c red wine
1-2 T brown sugar
1/2 lb breakfast or Italian sausage
1 onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
Olive oil
1/2-1 tsp basil
Crushed red pepper flakes
Vegetable assortment: mushrooms, olives, green peppers, shredded zucchini, etc
1 box whole wheat spaghetti style pasta

Get your pot of water boiling for the pasta while you make the sauce. Once the water is at a rolling boil, add the pasta and follow the package directions for cooking time. I like a truly al dente noodle, so i usually take my pasta off a minute or two before it’s supposed to be done. More on that later.

For the sauce, heat a little olive oil over medium high heat in a large skillet. Add the onion and any other vegetables that you’d like to sauté (peppers or mushrooms). Cook, tossing or stirring until the onion has started to become tender and it smells amazing, about 3 minutes. Add your garlic and cook about 2 minutes more, making sure the garlic doesn’t burn. Remove the vegetables from the skillet, setting aside with remaining vegetables to be added later.

Return the skillet to the heat and add a wee bit more olive oil and your basil. Toss in your sausage and cook over medium until browned. I always use sausage in my spaghetti–I feel like you get so much more flavor for your buck. Drain the sausage, add all of the vegetables to the pan and stir in the tomato paste, sauce and diced tomatoes. Stir in the red wine and the sugar, which will add flavor depth and cut the acidity. Season with additional basil and red pepper to taste. Bring the sauce to a low boil, then reduce heat to low to let all of the favors become friends while the pasta finishes cooking.

When your pasta has reached your desired level of tenderness, remove from heat and drain. Immediately dump the pasta back into the cooking pot and generously drizzle with olive oil while tossing to coat. I like my pasta HOT with the sauce, so rinsing in cold water makes my heart ache. The oil will keep the pasta from sticking (and it’s yummy) but the cooking process will continue, hence my practice of removing pasta from the heat a little early.

Serve heaping bowls of spaghetti topped with your piping hot sauce, sprinkle with some parm and enjoy! Depending on how many vegetables you add and if you throw in a side salad or bread, this meal can range from cheap ($4ish) to not-terribly-expensive ($6-7ish).

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