Being home for a month, I haven’t had to do much cooking, but that’s an extremely fantastic thing sometimes. Inspiration comes in waves when I haven’t cooked or don’t have the opportunity to for a while. Certain things have given me a renewed zest for life, something I haven’t experienced in years, and these past two nights I’ve made something extraordinary out of normal items, yet doctored up a bit.
Last night, my brother wanted some macaroni and cheese. When I get in front of the stove, though, with a can of Campbell’s Cheddar Cheese soup, milk, butter and extra shredded cheese, I simply cannot just throw them together and pour over macaroni. It’s blasphemy. So, I added some sour cream, herb-infused oil & vinegar, smoked paprika, sweet Hungarian paprika, parsley, and Himalayan pink salt (not as fancy as it sounds). Literally, the best cheese sauce ever, but I made a little too much for simple mac and cheese. What was the solution? Bake it! Olive oil, parmesan and bread crumbs on top, in the oven at 375 until golden and bubbly. This makes the sauce soak into the pasta and set up a bit.
Tonight, I made spaghetti. I really can’t just throw a can of sauce in a pot and pour it over pasta. That just will not happen. Ever. I toasted all the spices before adding the sauce. Herb-infused oil & vinegar, sweet Hungarian paprika, herbs de provence, thyme, italian seasoning, ground mustard, onion powder, one bay leaf, Himalayan pink salt, pepper, lime juice, butter, and the smallest pinches of cayenne, nutmeg and cinnamon. I know what you’re thinking, “Cinnamon and nutmeg in spaghetti sauce?!” Yes, cinnamon and nutmeg in spaghetti sauce. They add that comforting warmth you won’t get from anything else. You also get an awesome depth of flavor by using those kinds of spices in uncommon ways. My dad bought two large store brand tomato sauces: roasted garlic and onion as well as mushroom. I used the entire can of garlic and onion, then half the can of mushroom. I didn’t need all the sauce for the pasta to achieve that perfect ratio, but kept it out just in case others wanted more. It was easily the best tomato sauce I’ve ever created. For the spaghetti, I put olive oil and parmesan into the pot after I drained it, then put it back into the pot. The most heavenly aroma came when the hot pasta hit the cheese and oil… then I added the sauce gradually, mixing in little by little to let it soak in and get the great texture. Giada likes to say it’s perfect when the pasta “talks to you.” You’ll know it when you hear it; it’s like music to my ears.