People sometimes ask my what my guilty pleasure is. Well, I have quite a few, and I really don't feel terribly guilty about any of them, except for this one: my love for SpaghettiO's.
It started when I was around 3 or 4 at my babysitter's house. She would make simple things–peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, turkey sandwiches (which I was also obsessed with)–but the one thing that I really loved? SpaghettiO's.
My parents never bought stuff like that for us. Don't get me wrong, we still ate our fair share of processed foods growing up, but maybe it was the fact that my mom is Italian, she just didn't see the merit in spaghetti in a can. I did. Actually, I hated "real" spaghetti: It was too long and I was terrible at twirling. It was embarrassing to eat it around people because I usually ended up with most of it on my face, chin, and shirt. (I swear, you can't take me anywhere.)
But those little O's! What a delight. I could fit loads of those little overcooked shapes onto my spoon, cradled in a bed of slightly sweet sauce. And the meatballs! They were so little and perfectly bite-sized. What's not to love about them? My obsession carried over into high school. And it never really left. I'm a private chef for a fantastic, well-to-do family, and sometimes, when I'm out shopping for the freshest and most beautiful ingredients for them, I buy myself a can of SpaghettiO's. I eat them alone, in silence and shame and fear that if they discovered my dirty little secret they might even fire me. What kind of chef eats SpaghettiO's?
But maybe, just maybe, if they knew that I developed a real life, grown-up, homemade version, they would understand? Maybe they wouldn't be disgusted at my childhood, and now adulthood, guilty pleasure? I'm not sure, but it's out there now. Here goes nothing.
It begins with the o's, which are actually the easy part. Look for anelletti, ring-shaped pasta that you can boil to make your very own SpaghettiO's. You can overcook them like the canned kind if you want, or boil them al dente for something a little more texturally interesting.
The sauce is more tricky—homemade sauces don't usually have that sweet, tomato-pastey consistency that the canned stuff has. So to start, make a sauce with a good amount of tomato paste, and add subtle sweetness with onion cooked down in butter. But I finish it with some Parmesan, because I'm an adult now. Sort of.
Get the recipe for Homemade SpaghettiO's »