Spaghetti with a Sausage-Mushroom-Sweet Onion-Cabernet Tomato Sauce
ANY PROUD CHEF WILL ADMIT that some of the most difficult dishes to execute well are the simplest ones. People assume that anyone can make eggs, whether the eggs are scrambled, fried or whipped together for an omelette. They would be wrong.

There are far more ways an egg can burn or be cooked to the wrong temperature than they can set to an individual's liking. I've had peers—grown-ups—serve me grilled cheese sandwiches with the outsides burnt to sooty black while the American cheese on the insides magically retained their refrigerated temperature.

Which is why, despite all the fanciful ways I like to recreate/reconstruct/update dishes, I always remember to practice with the basics. And meals rarely come more "basic" than spaghetti and tomato sauce (the meatball is a whole other "basic" conceit, as I implore new cooks to just master a decent sauce before they attempt a passable meatball!).

Of course, anyone who has made it through high school is fully aware or—if unfortunately accustomed to—the many varieties of brands of tomato-based sauces that can be easily dispatched to a pot, stirred during one or two commercials, then spooned over some un-monitored spaghetti that some adults still believe clumped pasta is a sign of quality pasta. I afforded the recent luxury of being able to give my pasta and sauce the necessary patience, time, effort, and love it, and I, deserve, since I work from home on a computer only 22 feet away from the stovetop.

So, sorry Prego, Paul Newman, and Rao's; you guys do a swell job with your sauces. I, however, need to brush up on my cooking time and heat levels, so I doing this one on my own!

As you may have realized by now, I don't really do recipes. Much like the way I compose music without knowing exactly what chords or notes I'm playing, I just go with my guts with the amount of each ingredient I put in a dish. I can tell you, at least, the order in which I used them though.

I thinly sliced quartered white onions and five cloves of garlic and threw them in a medium-heated pan with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. I sautéed them until the onions got translucent and the garlic started to brown. I then removed the casing from a link of Italian sweet sausage and Italian spicy sausage and added the ground pork to the pot, separating the pork as it cooked with the side of a wooden spoon.

I then added some thickly sliced Cremini mushrooms and a cup of Cabernet (lucky me who lives above a bar!), and kept stirring on the same heat until the mushrooms absorbed the liquid. I then added a can of crushed tomatoes and to cans of tomato paste, a splash of balsamic vinegar, a bay leaf, and about a good palmful each of dried oregano and dried basil, plus an extra dash of salt and pepper.

I stir this beginning of a sauce until it starts to pop with thick bubbles, then I set the heat to low and prepare to let this simmer for the next 3 hours. The diligence from this point on is the stirring that will need to be performed about every 20 minutes or so; the last thing you want is for the tomato's natural sugar to stick to the bottom of the pot and start burning. There is no way to repair the once once that happens.

Three hours a half a box goes into a lot of boiling water with some olive oil and gets stirred about every 2 minutes for about 12 minutes. I do prefer my pasta al dente. One, because I'm a texture addict when it comes to food; and two, because it can keep some of its "bite" if and/or when I have to reheat it at some later date.

The sauce looked and smelled fantastic as I ladled it over a small plate of spaghetti. This was the kind of sauce that I liked, so thick that no water "ran" from it. That meant my pasta stayed al dente, the sauce was a circus of flavors in one taste, while clinging like a smitten Italian schoolboy to his sweetheart! Great, tender, bites of sausage, elevated by the earthy mushrooms, grounded by the sweetness of both the tomatoes and the onions, elevated by the brassiness of the cabernet and balsamic, and all made rustically "homey" by the floral and woodsy herbs.

I wish you guys didn't have to take my word for it on why I was so happy and proud of the outcome of my sauce, but maybe you can agree on how well it presented itself visually (especially topped of with shaved Parmesan cheese!)....




I shamefully couldn't contain myself to just one serving, as I just as well and happily look forward to leftovers for work tomorrow. I used to be able to share my leftovers with coworkers, when I had coworkers. I am thankful that I can at least share the experience of my cooking with you....

Bun Apple Tea!


Spaghetti with a Sausage-Mushroom-Sweet Onion-Cabernet Tomato Sauce