I would like to talk to you for just a moment about Rachael Ray.
I know there are people out there who can't stand her, and also people whose entire kitchens are filled with bright orange cookware. I land somewhere in the middle. She may not be my very favorite Food Network personality (that title is reserved for Ina Garten and her "good vanilla"), but she's also not my least favorite (Sandra Lee; what a poser). I think she's kinda cute, with her gravelly voice and big smile, her EVOO, and the balancing act she performs when she tries to get all the ingredients for an entire meal from the fridge/cupboard to the counter in one trip. I have two of her cookbooks, of which my standout favorite is "Express Lane Meals." I frequently recommend this book to friends of mine who are interested in learning to cook for themselves, but who have no idea where to start. She explains the basics of a well-stocked pantry, and how to take a recipe and spin it into several different versions. And, you guessed it, all the meals take 30 minutes (or less) to prepare.
It may not be the fanciest or the healthiest cookbook, but it gets dinner on the table, and it helped me to master some basic skills in the kitchen. Like the ability to look at what I have and turn it into a meal that is, 9 times out of 10, pretty darn good. Or how to multitask so that every part of dinner gets done at the same time, and in as little time as possible. I have to say, I like it.
I also really, really like bacon. Anyway...
One thing I have learned in my three years (exactly! happy anniversary to me!) of marriage is that my husband is like any other discerning customer in a restaurant (in this case, it's Chez Coppertop), in that the names of dishes matter a great deal to him. And he is a little bit picky. For instance, he will not eat salads. At all. Ever. (We may get over this at some point, but for now, we are at an impasse.) Once I made a salad that only had things in it that he liked (green beans, asparagus, red pepper, dressed with olive oil and fresh herbs), but I made the mistake of calling it a salad, and he didn't touch it. I feel pretty certain that if I had said, "Here are some vegetables," he would have eaten it. Ah well. My mistake.
So when I found a recipe called "Cowboy Spaghetti" in my Rachael Ray cookbook, I knew we had to give it a try. Spaghetti, ground beef, Worcerstershire sauce (I have to sound out the spelling of that word to be able to type it - holy cow), bacon, cheddar cheese, tomatoes, garlic and (shhhh) onions. It also calls for hot sauce, which is awesome (and I have used before), but we were all out, and it's just as good without it.
This is what we had for our first dinner in the new apartment: Cowboy Spaghetti and Prosecco in our fancy wedding flutes, out on the deck (where else?). It was perfect.
adapted from Rachael Ray's Express Lane Meals
1/2 pound spaghetti
1 T olive oil
2 slices bacon, chopped
1/2 pound lean ground beef
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped (or a few good shakes of garlic powder)
Ground black pepper
1 tsp. hot sauce (optional)
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1/2 14-oz can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup grated Cheddar cheese
Boil a big pot of water, salt it, and cook the spaghetti al dente. Heat a deep skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and bacon, cook until it is crispy, and remove to a paper-towel-lined plate. Drain some of the fat if necessary, leaving just enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the ground beef and brown for 3-4 minutes, breaking it up with the back of a wooden spoon. Stir in the onions and garlic. Season with salt, pepper, Worcestershire and hot sauce, if using. Add tomatoes and about 1/2 cup starchy pasta water, stir, and cook 5-6 minutes. Add cooked pasta, along with more pasta water if the sauce looks really thick. Toss to combine, and serve in shallow pasta bowls, topped with cheese and bacon.