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This is the spaghetti I grew up on. It’s flavor is unlike any other spaghetti I’ve ever tasted, and it remains today at the top of my “comfort food” list. I love going to my parents’ house and opening the fridge to find leftovers tucked neatly away in Tupperware for me to chow down on! (Yes, it’s just as delicious the second day, which is something you can’t always say for other pastas…)
Heat a large, deep skillet (or wok!) over MEDIUM HIGH burner setting. Meanwhile, cut one yellow onion and one fresh green pepper into long, thin slivers. When skillet is warm, begin to brown 1 lb. thawed ground beef (or TVP/meat blend).
Once a small amount of grease starts to appear from the meat, add the onions and peppers. Now is also a good time to start boiling water for the pasta.
While it browns, sprinkle the following spices over the skillet mixture: 1 teaspoon basil, 1 teaspoon marjoram, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 2 teaspoons oregano and salt/pepper to taste.
And now for the two secret ingredients(!): Add 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder and 1 teaspoon fennel seeds to the meat and veggies; stir well. Here’s why this works: The cocoa powder does an excellent job of masking the acidity of tomatoes without
sweetening the sauce like sugar does, and the fennel seed really, really makes the flavors of the fresh produce just pop out so they don’t get lost in the finished sauce. I’ve never seen anyone but my parents use fennel seed in their sauce, but it’s just delicious.
Once water is boiling, add 1 box angel hair spaghetti or vermicelli and reduce heat to medium. The thin spaghetti will cook quickly, and you want it a little bit undercooked when you drain it since it’s being added to the sauce later. No one wants mushy pasta, so keep checking on it!
While pasta cooks, add the following canned goods to your sauce: 2 regular cans diced tomatoes (drained), 2 regular cans tomato sauce♥ and 1 (4-oz) can mushroom pieces & stems (drained). Stir
into the simmering meat and vegetables and continue to heat while pasta cooks.
♥Chef’s Note: If you’re not planning on eating all of the spaghetti right away and will be saving some for leftovers, you might want to add an additional one can of tomato sauce, since some of the sauce will be absorbed into the pasta overnight in your fridge.
Once pasta is about 2/3 way cooked, drain it well and dump the spaghetti into the sauce skillet. Stir until mixed well and serve under a mountain of grated
Parmesan cheese. Texas toast with garlic, butter and oregano makes a great quickie side.