My (famous to those who have had it) Vegetable Spaghetti

I've had consistent success with this - though I guess, with the exception of my siblings and the boy, it's all I've ever really cooked for guests! I always make a big batch and either freeze or give away the leftovers. I gave some to my meat-loving mother one time, and she loved it, to my surprise. I thought its meatless status would turn her off.

I've adapted this recipe from the recipe that my stepfather uses to make his (famous to those who have had it) spaghetti casserole - which is good, but LOADED with cheese. I've made this so many times and so many different ways, it is pretty much the only dish I make without a recipe (generally - I look at it for a refresher sometimes, like today!)

I made the spaghetti casserole for the first time way back when (...6 years? 7?) when I was living in my first apartment and wanted to have people over for dinner. I made a "meaty" one for myself and a few friends, and then a meatless one for my dear friend Nick, a vegetarian who told me he's not really into vegetables but liked Italian food.

As time passed, I whittled the recipe down to just the sauce, and add lots of veggies. I was doing this even before I became a vegetarian, throwing in chicken on occasion as my taste for ground beef in spaghetti waned. I now can no longer palate the bottled, pre-prepared spaghetti sauces, which sucks. This especially sucks when I don't feel like putting a lot of effort into the meal. I call this "semi-homemade," since I use canned products. One day, I'd like to make it from tomatoes alone, but that would be a shit-ton of tomatoes.

This is a two-stage sauce.

Beer break! Ephemere in a Unibroue glass (my housewarming present from the aforementioned stepfather a few years ago - I have a ton of those things). I love Unibroue beers.

Anyway, STAGE ONE - The Sauce
1 bell pepper, diced
1 onion, diced (I used local! yaaay)
2-3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup parsley, chopped (I never have enough, but today it was local, so that compensates, right?)
~2 tb Italian Seasoning
~1-1/2 tb Season Salt (the "secret" ingredient)
2 bay leaves
1 big-ass can tomato sauce (today I used Dei Fratelli because Publix's had suspicious "natural flavor")
*1 big-ass can diced tomatoes, or 2 normal sized cans
1 can tomato paste (optional - adds thickness)
Sugar, to taste (I don't always use this, just when the sauce tastes especially acidic)
A few shakes of cayenne (since I forgot the tomatoes with green chilies)

*A note on the canned tomatoes - I love to use tomatoes with green chilies in this sauce! I generally add one regular sized can of diced tomatoes, and one can of mild or original Ro*Tel diced tomatoes with green chilies, and it adds (to me) the perfect amount of heat. Publix brand tomatoes with chilies is pretty mild, and I love to use that too. Winn-Dixie brand is hot to the point it has a bad flavor, IMHO.

You know those moments where you think, I've been an idiot for years? Today, as I was chopping onions, I thought to myself, "You idiot. You have two huge unopened boxes of Kleenex, and you've been wiping your eyes with paper towels in the kitchen for years. Why are you just now thinking you should put a box of Kleenex in the kitchen." So yeah. That happened.

Stage one ingredients -

It seems to be good practice to cook the peppers/onion/garlic before adding the canned products, but since it simmers so long, it is unnecessary. I combine all ingredients in the pot and bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for about an hour, or less if I'm pressed for time.

Kind of looks like chili - but doesn't taste like it.

STAGE TWO - The Veggies
Any combination of veggies will do. I consistently use portabella mushrooms, broccoli, and zucchini. Tonight's has squash, because Local Fare brought me squash two weeks in a row and I have a fuck-ton of it. I've also used a combination of bell peppers in the sauce before. Broccoli can be added in earlier than the squash/zucc/mushrooms, if you want it soft. It's important to keep an eye on the squash/zucc/mushrooms, because they can cook down to almost nothing if you let it go too long.

Add in the veggies, and continue to simmer for about 30 minutes.

I always serve my sauce over whole grain thin spaghetti or angel hair, and usually make garlic bread to go with it.
Easy, quick garlic bread: 
Brush bread with olive oil. Shake garlic salt and Italian seasoning, to taste, over the bread. Broil for about 2 minutes.

We had it with kale salad (kale fresh from the boy's mother's garden!) and slightly burned garlic bread, as I forgot to keep an eye on it while the boy was taking out the trash (since he made the bread, he told me to keep an eye on it, but I was busy texting my cousin about wedding business.)

(that's fresh Parmesean on top - otherwise, this is a vegan meal.)

In a not-so-selfish note: My thoughts are with those injured and affected in Boston. It's terrible, and Patton Oswalt had a very comforting and wise reaction on Facebook.

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