Thursday, October 29, 2009

Favorite Recipes: Tips to Spice Up Spaghetti

When we think of Spaghetti, many of us immediately think of our favorite Italian restaurant where they serve a generous bowl of pasta, a house salad and hot fresh bread straight from the oven. However, when we think about making spaghetti at home, we may get a different kind of picture, like a jar of plain sauce poured over the top of boiled noodles. I must confess, for many years I made spaghetti just like this, until one day I decided to spice things up a bit. I was tired of serving the same meal, the same way, over and over again.

So I started paying attention to what was on the menu when I ate out. Every time I tried something new that I thought I could make at home, I made a mental note of it. Then I would go home and try to fix something similar for my family. This has really made a big difference in the way I cook and I think it will help others as well. Sometimes we just need to get out of the rut we are in and use our imagination. The food we serve to the most important people in our lives should look and taste great, because they are worth it.

To help you get started, here are a few tricks I use to spice up my spaghetti. When it comes to the noodles, I usually choose traditional spaghetti noodles, but I prefer the thin noodles as apposed to the thicker ones, because I like the texture better. I boil my spaghetti in a little bit of salt water until al dente, which is firm but not hard, and I add a little olive oil to the water.

Sometimes I use different shaped noodles like linguini or angel hair pasta. There are also special flavored pastas now available, which you can try. Just experiment around. Remember, it’s your kitchen so do what you like. That’s part of the fun after all; you get to have it your way.

When it comes to sauces, I still start with a jar of store bought sauce. I have learned that by using the jar sauce as my base, I can make all kinds of different specialty sauces of my own in a fraction of the time it would take me to make it from scratch. Some sauces are sweeter than others so keep this in mind when you’re cooking. I like using a sweeter sauce when I make meat sauce or spaghetti and meatballs, and tangier ones for my other types of sauces.

To make my meat sauce, I brown a pound of ground beef and season it with onion salt and black pepper. You could use sausage if you like, or some people like to use a combination of the two. Try adding onions or green peppers to give it an even different flavor. Once the meat is cooked, I add my jar sauce, along with some garlic powder, oregano and an 8 oz. can of tomato sauce.

To make a hearty vegetable sauce, I simply sauté diced onions and zucchini in olive oil. To this I add a can of diced tomatoes and some red pepper flakes. Then I let the juice cook down slightly before adding about a cup of sliced mushrooms. The mushrooms soak up the rest of the tomato juice as they cook; when it does I add my jar sauce, garlic powder, oregano and some parsley. Sometime I make a meatless spaghetti dish and at other times I top my spaghetti with sliced grilled chicken or even shrimp that has been cooked in olive oil and garlic.

If you are an Alfredo fan, you might want to try my Smoky Alfredo sauce. Add a cup of grated smoked Gouda cheese and a teaspoon of tomato paste to a jar of store bought Alfredo sauce. Heat until the cheese has melted and pour over your pasta. Then top this with grilled portabella mushrooms and wow it tastes amazing.

On a final note, to make your meals even more interesting, try serving your spaghetti with different types of salads, sides and breads each time you make it. It will be like eating out at your own favorite restaurant every time. The combinations are as endless as you want to make them, so never settle for that same old spaghetti again. Mix it up a little and I’ll bet your family will be glad you did.


  1. Thank you, I am having a lot of fun setting up and taking my own photos.

  2. your recipe for the alfredo sauce sounds delicious!

    I never really use olive oil when boiling pasta as I tend to find the sauce doesn't really stick to it, my favourite pasta is bronze extruded which gives it a slightly rougher texture which really helps the sauce to cling to it.

  3. Sweet-komal, I had not really thought about doing this to help the sauce cling to it. That's a great idea. I usually just add the olive oil mainly for flavor. Thanks for sharing.