A few days ago I invited my youngest sister, Tess, over for dinner. I was making Belgian-style spaghetti, or "Domus Spaghetti" as my family refers to it Domus is a wonderful little tavern just down the street from the town hall in Leuven, Belgium. I'm sure that it served many different dishes, but in the eight years I live in Belgium I only ever ordered two, and the spaghetti the majority of the time.
Let me say, that my knife skills are fairly poor. But, I've been reading a little about technique, and practicing, so I was feeling pretty confident. I started on the onion for the sauce, chopping away as quickly as I am capable. I know that most everyone who cooks knows this, but, it is very, very important to use sharp knives. I was forcing my knife through half an onion, it slipped, and I sliced my thumb open. Running my thumb under cold water, I quickly made two phone calls. One to my husband, just to vent a little of my hysteria, and the other to Tess to tell her, please, come over now! I pressed a cloth filled with ice against my bleeding digit, trying to push thoughts of a permanently misshapen thumb out of my mind while I sang silly songs to Sam, crying in his Bumbo-style seat. When Tess came over, she helped me get Sam into the front pack (the only thing that would soothe him) and she made dinner. So I win! I guess...
Tess is the youngest in my family, and my mother and my other sister and I like to tease her about her cooking. She eats a lot of cereal and barely cooked Ramen. The thing is, Tess likes cooking. She is blown away by the fact that you can take several separate elements and combine them in a way that makes it one complete dish. What Tess does not like, is reading. I don't believe she looked at the recipe more than once or twice as she prepared dinner. I nervously watched as she finished the onion I had started, reaching under the raised knife to pick up scraps for the garbage.
"What next?" she asked.
"Chop up the carrot."
"Okay, now what?"
"The bell pepper,"
"Okay, what's next?" and on it went through the entire list of ingredients and the rest of the recipe. We decided that what she needs are recipes on tape. Do they make such things?
In the end, dinner was excellent, and the two glasses of Pinot Noir helped dull any residual pain I was feeling in my thumb.
Domus Spaghetti or "Belgian Spaghetti, Student-Style" adapted from Ruth Van Waerebeek's Everybody Eats Well in Belgium (If you can find this book, buy it! It is full of mouthwatering dishes, from simple recipes like how to make perfect Belgian fries to ways to prepare wild game.)
This spaghetti is delicious and filling. It's a meat based sauce, full of tomatoes and vegetables.The tomatoes are chopped instead of pureed, and the sauce is a little brothy instead of being thick and sweet. The best thing about this recipe is that you can use whatever vegetables you have on hand. Don't worry if you are missing anything. In Belgium it's served with mounds of Gruyère cheese an a bottle of hot sauce.
3 T olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/4 lb white mushrooms, sliced
1 large carrot, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb lean ground beef (I used ground turkey)
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 T minced fresh parsley
1 can (14 oz) peeled whole tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup dry red wine
2 T tomato paste
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lb thin spaghetti
Over medium heat, heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven. Add the onion, pepper, carrot, and mushrooms; cook until soft, about 5-8 minutes.
Next, add half the garlic and the ground beef. Break up the beef with a wooden spoon and cook over medium heat until the meat is no longer pink.
Add the sugar, spices, and herbs. Next add the tomatoes and their juice, the red wine, and the tomato paste. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 35 minutes.
Add the rest of the garlic. Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper, if needed. Cook the spaghetti according to package directions. When done, portion the spaghetti into bowls, and spoon the sauce over it. Serve with cheese and hot sauce. Enjoy!