Yep. That’s right. Pskebbies.
You might call it spaghetti, but I had a little cousin who couldn’t pronounce that, so in my family it became pskebbies. And the name just stuck.
There are many versions of spaghetti. With meat or without, chunks of tomato or smooth, spicy or mild, with meatballs or Italian sausage. But when it gets down to it, it’s just noodles with a tomato based sauce. But simple can be good.
I was a horrible child. My grandmother made spaghetti that no one has come close to replicating. I might be able to; everyone says I’m good at that sort of thing. But I don’t have a chance at trying to make her version because I never tasted it. It had chunks, chunks of stuff, pieces of meat with visible and identifiable pieces of tomato. There were probably onions and bell peppers in there. Back then, I couldn’t do that.
Nope. I got my sauce from a jar. And it had to be a jar of really smooth sauce. Preferably Ragu. I mean, Prego would work in a pinch, but it wasn’t the one I really liked. I wouldn’t eat more than a small bowl of that. Unless there was as much Parmesan as noodles. Then it would be okay. Oh, and that Parmesan had to be the good stuff. You know, the powdery Kraft kind in the can.
I grew up. For a while I was cosmopolitan enough to go for Barilla. That was pretty adventurous. I still wouldn’t have been willing to eat Mama Kee’s. I still was mostly a chunk avoider.
But then I decided that Patric would never be allowed to be as picky of an eater as I was. He wouldn’t miss out on the great foods that are out there, especially not the great foods that only happen at family dinners. And so, I started making spaghetti sauce from scratch.
It’s not hard. It’s actually one of those things that you end up making because it is easy, and it tastes so much better than any sauce in a jar.
Tonight is a pskebbie night. It’s warm, meaty, a little bit spicy, and the pasta gives it the carbs that comfort food needs. No two batches ever turn out the same. The recipe isn’t set in stone. I typically add my spices without measuring them with anything except my palm and fingers. But there are the basics, and here they are.
Use the best ground beef you can. The better the beef, the less grease you will have. Drain any excess grease before continuing with the recipe. I like to use herbes de Provence because the blend contains rosemary, basil, and fennel among other herbs. I also like to use garlic paste just for simplicity. 3 minced cloves of garlic would be the substitution if you don't have paste. I do not recommend that you never use the minced garlic you find in the grocery store produce section; the flavor tends to be off. The garlic paste I use comes in small jars at Indian or Asian markets, and it makes sauces and stir-fries a lot easier and less likely to burn. I really recommend the San Marzano tomatoes. The flavor is just brighter and more intense than other tomatoes. You can get smaller cans at most grocery stores, but I like to get the large cans from Costco for cost effectiveness and because I like to make extra sauce. During the summer, they make a really great marinara with fresh onion and basil. After your meal, you should end up with at least 2 quarts of extra sauce. Store it in 1-quart containers and freeze it to make a couple of easy meals for a later date.
Add any fresh mild peppers to the sauce. Brown the onions in butter for a deeper flavor. Change the spices to any ratio you like. It's more about the cooking technique than the spices I like.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 medium onions, minced
- 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
- 2 tablespoons garlic paste
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- 1 tablespoon dried shallots
- 1 tablespoon herbes de Provence
- 1 teaspoon half-sharp paprika
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- Salt to taste
- 1 6-pound 10-ounce can whole San Marzano tomatoes
- 1 pound spaghetti
- Shredded Parmesan (optional)
- Heat the olive oil in a stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions, stirring to sweat. They are ready when they stop steaming.
- Add the ground beef to the pot, breaking into small pieces with your fingers as you add it.
- Cook, stirring constantly for 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic paste, oregano, dried shallots, herbes de Provence, paprika, cayenne, and salt to the meat. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes or until the meat is no longer pink. The mixture should be almost smooth with no large clumps of meat.
- Check the meat for seasoning and adjust as desired.
- Add the tomatoes and stir well to combine.
- Bring the sauce to a simmer over medium heat, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for at least 1 hour. The tomatoes will have mostly broken up. Check for seasonings again and adjust seasonings as necessary.
- Cook the pasta according to package directions.
- Serve pasta with a large spoonful of sauce and top with Parmesan if desired.