how to fake homemade spaghetti sauce

Forgive the poor photography.

I don't cook much, but there are a few things I can do really well. Breakfast is one of them. Faking homemade spaghetti sauce is another.

You need as many of the following items as you can round up:
  • Sweet Italian sausage
  • Jarred spaghetti sauce of your choice (I am partial to vodka sauces)
  • Red wine (Chianti, Syrah, whatever's around and reasonably full-bodied)
  • Veggies: tomatoes, mushrooms, tri-color bell peppers, asparagus, spinach, broccoli (frozen versions work fine if you don't have fresh handy)
  • Sugar
  • Olive oil
  • Oregano, basil, mediterranean spice blends, salt and pepper, ground red pepper
  • Minced garlic (I am lazy and use the jarred version)
  • Pasta of choice (whole wheat versions are healthier!)
  • Romano cheese, for garnish
I tend to buy the sausage and put it in the freezer until I need it. Put the sausage (frozen or fresh) in a large fry pan on medium heat with a quarter cup or so of water, and cover. Turn occasionally to keep from getting too brown. (You can use mild or hot sausage, but I find the flavor isn't as good. You can also start with chicken: use olive oil, salt and pepper, and basil to flavor it before adding the sauce.)

Once you can't see any raw sausage just by looking (20 minutes or so), pour in the jarred sauce. Add a few glugs of the wine (pro-tip: if you've cooked with it, a glass of it automatically goes well with the meal). Pour yourself a glass to have while you cook and feel more Italian already.

Now's a good time to put the water to boil for the pasta.

The worst part of jarred sauce is the acidity. The sugar combats this. Pour some in your hand - a tablespoon or two - and then add it to the sauce. Taste (you're using a wooden spoon just like grandma's, right?). If it's still acidic, add more.

Throw in large amounts of your chosen spices. Rub them together in your hands before you add them to make the flavor stronger. I like to add the pepper (red and black) so it's a bit kicky. I add garlic to taste, too - store sauce is never garlicky enough.

Let it simmer covered for 20-30 minutes. Add more wine or water if it starts getting too thick. Throw in your veggies now or later, depending on how crispy you want them, and put the pasta in the boiling water about ten minutes out from the sauce being done (you can always let the pot boil awhile with nothing but water in it if you didn't get the timing right).

Once the pasta's cooked, check the sausage for doneness. I always serve the pasta and the sauce separately so that people can choose how much sauce they want (put a bit of olive oil on the pasta to keep it from sticking). Garnish with finely grated Romano cheese - it's way more flavorful than that hackneyed Parmesan.

Greens with a few dashes of olive oil and balsamic vinegar go well.

If you've done it right, no one will believe you started with a jar.


things I like this week, vol. 39

I have it on good authority that this performance is entirely improv - that these dancers never choreograph a performance (unlike most professional dancers).

. . .

It's the entire text of The Great Gastby on a 20x30 poster.

. . .

My friend Bree, photographed for an article on the local brewery Borderlands. Her fiance is the brewer. Their beer (and I don't like beer) is awesome.

. . .

Angelina Jolie in an interview for Vanity Fair in 2010, talking about her kids becoming teenagers:

“I had some great advice: ‘You’ll know they’re teenagers when they close the door.’ And when they start closing the door, don’t talk to them, listen. Because there’s nothing you could say. You’re not going to be able to tell them you know better. You’re not going to be able to correct them. . . . You have to raise them right before that. Then you need to listen for a good five years, just keep your mouth closed. Just be their friend—don’t try to always tell them they’re wrong.”

. . .

 I would like to spend my entire summer like this - swimsuit, nailpolish, turban, everything. From a blogpost about American designer Claire McCardell.

. . .

There's part of me that read this article and the accompanying NPR interview and wanted to become a street musician.

. . . 

Although pianos are hard to transport and I could never be as fast-fingered as this guy.

. . .

Casey Legler, who is a woman working entirely as a male model. So awesome.

. . . 

Simple and elegant roses from a Slim Paley post . . .


. . . which inspired me to get these the following morning . . . 


. . . which looked about the way Sauvignon Republic's 2012 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc tasted, which is to say, like grapefruit and sunrise. I highly recommend it with your next brunch - it's $8 at Trader Joe's. 


saturday morning, early january

I've been cursed the last few days with a bone-crushing exhaustion and a simultaneous inability to sleep when I want to. I'm either fighting off a cold or still sleep-hungover from staying up till 5 am on New Year's.

Although I can't drift back to sleep this morning, I find myself unwilling to leave the comforting seclusion of our bedroom, and so I have been reading--a blog post about Internet hatred and an article about the Uruguayan president--while Colin and the cat sleep on beside me.

This is the sort of peace I crave: the relative quiet except for his regular breathing and the cat purring; the warmth of his limbs and torso nestled with mine; the cat curled up in a furry pile on my stomach or curved around my head on the pillow. My kid is watching Netflix in the other room, but if it's early enough, she'll drift in and rest her small head on my shoulder and sleep contentedly for an hour or two.

Even when I am mentally far away--contemplating solitary confinement or teenage suicide, reading about other people's problems to distract me from the work stress that is preventing me from going back to sleep in the first place--they are here, warm and loving, supporting me even while they dream.