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The Spaghetti Story


A bus friend the other day was commenting about my blog, and I thought it is about time to share my cooking story.

First of all, yes, I live in Colorado, and while our mass transit has a long way to go, I take the bus to work every day. I live in some odd neighborhood that literally has a bus stop 2 blocks away that takes me to downtown. For those of you who live in Colorado, you know how rare this is. This is why it is so hard for me to work out I have two options, I could get up early and drive to work out and then literally drive home to catch the bus, or I could just sleep in and catch the bus.

The bus is fantastic by the way, I literally get on, fall asleep, and then POOF I’m at work. I love it.

So anyhow my bus friend was talking about how my recipes sounded so good, and I told her “Well, I’ve come a long way.” She mentioned that her difficult recipe to make was meatloaf, to which I agreed and told her that there was one time that I didn’t defrost the meat all the way before cooking it and it led to disastrous results (wouldn’t you think that after cooking the meat that it would defrost and cook?). No past Dani, the answer is no. And yes,I cut around the cold raw middle of the meatloaf so no one knew, but it was bad. I had meatloaf tartar, everyone else had medium rare meatloaf.

But when I really think about it, my cooking history is best told through spaghetti. So here we go, this is how I started.

Back in 1997, I was living in Washington DC and my handsome future husband I was dating was in Colorado. He came to DC to visit me and I decided to “treat” him to a spaghetti dinner. So here’s how I, Dani, cooked Spaghetti in 1997.

Dry Spaghetti
Ragu meat sauce
a lot of wine

I pour myself a big glass of wine, and pat myself on the the back already about how delicious this meal will be and how impressed my boyfriend will be with me that he’ll never want to go back to Colorado and will stay with me in DC forever. (Yes, I was delusional.)

I put the dry spaghetti in the pot. I put the pot on the stove. Turn the stove on to high (note there is NO water in the pot). Fill up my wine glass and imagine his glee when he eats my creation and then drink the wine. Fill up the pot with water all the way to the top. Put the sauce into a tupperware and warm up in the microwave for 5 minutes. Do not stir anytime during this 5 minutes. When the pot water boils set the timer for 8 minutes (according to package instructions). After the sauce is cooked and the pot has boiled for 8 minutes, drain the spaghetti. Here is the tricky part. The spaghetti is stuck on the bottom of the pan and it is burnt. Yes, I burnt spaghetti. And I burnt half of the package as I layered it in the pot piling noodles on noodles in the pot.

2 glasses of wine in, and no guidance around, I picked the noodles out with a fork and thought the Ragu would cover it and no one would know. I served burnt pasta with the Ragu sauce and hoped for the best. The problem with the way I “cooked” the sauce is that there were cold spots and warm spots in the tupperware where the sauce was boiling hot, and others that were ice cold. It was Ragu Sauce Roulette.

I slammed back my third glass of wine, and served my boyfriend of 4 months burnt pasta with ice cold sauce. And he ate it. This is how much he loves me….HE ATE THIS! He calmly then told me how good it was, then he asked me how I cooked it. I very proudly told him how I did it and he stifled every instinct he had to laugh at me. He then said “Did you know you are supposed to boil the water first before adding the pasta?” I told him that’s a great idea and I would take it under consideration.

He did not leave me, this is how much he loves me.

Over the next few years of moving back to Colorado and then moving in together, he took over the cooking responsibilities in the relationship, and then taught me how to boil water and then put the spaghetti in the water. This built my confidence and leads me to Spaghetti, version 2.0 in about 2000 when I cooked “Spicy Spaghetti”.

I became confident with my two pots, one for spaghetti and one for sauce. The Ragu Meat Sauce turned into Ragu Meat Sauce with spices. Yes, this is the first time I ever bought oregano and knew how to use it. Many of you might know my father, and may think that my dad taught me a thing or two in the kitchen, but what I learned as a young girl was to stay out of the kitchen. My husband taught me how to cook, over years and years, and with a hell of a lot of patience.

So one time, he told me that the sauce could use a little more pepper. This is how “Spicy Spaghetti” was created. The next time I made spaghetti, I added red pepper flakes to the sauce. This should not be a big deal, except I did not know to TASTE the spaghetti sauce. Instead, I added enough red pepper flakes until I smelled the pepper. This is NOT the way to test if the pepper is enough. My boyfriend of 3 years and current roommate knew enough to take one bite, turned beat red and then refused to eat any more. We ordered pizza instead. This is the moment I learned to taste the food before serving it.

He did not leave me, this is how much he loves me.

Then for my final trial of spaghetti, I made Strawberry Spaghetti. Now just by the title, this was a bad idea. But I saw the recipe in this aphrodisiac cook book, so I thought this would be a sexy fun meal that would amaze my boyfriend of almost 4 years and show him just how far I have come in the kitchen.

Our current kitchen in 2000 was a galley kitchen with no counter space. So I made this meal on about 2″ of counter space. This recipe included pasta (which was cooked perfectly by the way) and the sauce had strawberries, sugar, pepper (yes red pepper flakes), salt, and tomatoes. Now that I write this, it is NOT a good idea to make this, but I did and yes, I felt very proud of my abilities. While working in my teeny tiny kitchen, I didn’t blend the strawberries as instructed as I didn’t have a blender, so I thought cutting them up would be good enough. Then adding all the ingredients on the plate instead of mixing them together was also a horrible idea, but a good one that solved the space issue as I didn’t have enough room to have a bowl and two plates on the counter.

Due to space and me being hungry, I turned too fast and knocked over one of the plates and it broke. Plates were precious at this time, we only owned about 6, and I just broke one. Nice job Dani, and yes the spaghetti was on the plate. So I graciously picked up the plate and the food and because I had no backup plan or extra food, I put the food from the floor back on another plate. I’m very nice and ate the floor food, I did not serve this to my future husband….but this is the first time I’m admitting that I ate floor food.

By the time I served this strawberry pasta, it was cold, super cold. The pasta was cold, the sauce was cold and chunky (and dirty in my case) and I put a ton of parmesan cheese on it to mask it’s horribleness.

I served it to my future husband. He took a bite and said “Strawberries don’t belong on pasta”. I took one bite and realized our floor needs a massive cleaning. We then went out to lunch.

He did not leave me, this is how much he loves me.

So fast forward to 2013. I cook, I mean really really cook. I giggle when I think about where I started, and how I got here. My husband is one of the most patient, amazing humans in the world, and has taught me a TON of how to cook. In fact for the years of 2002-2006 he was in charge of cooking. He would tell me what to buy, and I would buy it and he would cook. It was great. In fact in our wedding vows I even told him how lucky I was not to have to cook.

Then we had a baby and I had to learn how to feed her, and I picked a few things up from my talented husband.

I now know how to cook spaghetti, and can do so very well, even making my own sauce, but to this day, our daughter will tell me.

“Your spaghetti is good, but Daddy’s is better.”

Yes I know, and I can live with that baby girl.

But he eats my spaghetti, tells me how good it is, and deals with all of my experiments in the kitchen and in life. That’s how much he loves me.

I am the luckiest gal in the world to have a man stomach all my horrible cooking. Thank you Ryan, you’re the best thing that ever happened to me, and to my cooking abilities.

If I can come from raw meatloaf, and burnt spaghetti, so can you. Keep cooking my fellow Dishers…make your own funny stories, and enjoy the life it leads you to. I know I do.

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