Sweet Home Chicago: Italian Sausage Spaghetti

While today is one that history will (likely) not look back fondly on , I have hope. I have hope that, maybe, JUST maybe, something good, even just one good thing, will come out of this administration. Maybe, JUST MAYBE, there is hope left for us over the next four years…it’s not a large hope, but I still have it, cling to it, because without it, we are lost, and I will not let this fear-monger fold me into his flock if I have anything to say about it. But enough about him. He has no business here. Instead, how does cuddling up with five dogs sound? Pretty darn awesome!

Yes, five dogs. FIVE! This weekend, me and my man are housesitting in the northern suberbs of Chicago for his parents, and boy oh boy, are five dogs just a little on the too much side, but they’re all good boys, so I can’t complain too much! Allow me to introduce my brood!


Gus Gus, or just Gus for short, as seen on the left with Frankie! He is also known as the Old Man of the household, reigning from the comfort of the couch. Chief, Tuggs’ best friend and the designated toy destroyer. And finally the mops, Iggy (gray) & Smalls (black) – best seen in the first of the cuddle puddle photos since they don’t always like to sit politely for photos: little five year old fluffs that only really tolerate Gus and each other because they believe they are the Alphas, so Tuggs & Chief get obnoxious growled at whenever they come within close proximity of either, though Smalls is the worst. And there you have it! And boy oh boy do they all like to dog pile onto the couch for a massive cuddle puddle! Is there anything better?

Well, kind of. Food. When we’re stressed or angry or upset, who doesn’t want to just eat something warm and homey, curled up on the couch with a glass of wine and a good book, or your new TV obsession? Food takes the edge off a bad day (especially when paired with a nice cold brew, glass of wine, or a tumbler of whiskey) and it fills us with its goodness of flavor. Frankie requested this of me earlier this week, but with everything else going on, it had to wait till now, and I’m glad it did, because this is a childhood classic of his, and seemed oh so fitting given the distressing evening we’ve got lined up before us tonight.

Italian Sausage with Spaghetti and Red Sauce. Frankie cooked this for me when I had first moved to the city, and while I was never much of a sausage fan growing up (I think the idea of what it was made of grossed me out a little, but I’ve since grown up and realized sausage is fricken declious), this changed my perspective forever. It’s simple, but sometimes simple is all you need in the complexity of uncontrollable chaos…I mean, it just grounds you in solid, yet rich flavors, sits in your belly and warms you from the inside out, like a hug almost. And Chicago is a sausage city central, so it’s only natural that Frankie grew up on the stuff: hot dogs and brats at Cubs games and on the grill at home while watching a Cubs game, sausage on pasta, sausage on pizza (only Lou Malnati’s though because most Chicago families take a side), sausage with chicken and rice, sausage with soup, sausage with gravy…I mean, you mention sausage in a dish and he’s on board. And while I’ve got cooking the sausage pretty down pat, and pasta is a no brainer, the one thing I’ve been trying to vary and experiment with is my sauce.

I’ve done the easy canned diced tomato, with canned tomato paste, and canned tomato sauce, but I’ve started to develop some serious heartburn problems from all the acidity in canned goods, and I hate, HATE adding sugar to a tomato sauce to sweeten it up. This kind of sauce should be a little tart, and only the basil or onion should add notes of sweetness. If I do anything canned, it’s mostly just the tomatoes, San Marzano of course, and then I let those bad boys simmer away, adding spices and onion, garlic, basil, and sometimes, a little oregano. So today, I thought I would share my new quick marinara sauce experiment!



Verdict: Really, really good, especially with thicker spaghetti, a little pasta water, and finishing the pasta in the sauce (al a Scott Conant directions for his own pasta recipe, which I will be trying at a future point). It wasn’t too citrusy (I think that’s the water trick calming it down, so I’ll be doing that every time I make a red sauce for sure), and it was rich and slightly sweet from the grated onion, which I might have to continue doing because I’ve also done red sauce with diced onions and it’s had a strong onion undertone throughout that didn’t always agree with my taste buds. Definitely one of the better sauces I’ve tried, so I do plan to use it again in the future! YUM!


And with that, may you all survive tonight and bind together in a collective hope for a brighter future. (And if you’re marching tomorrow in whatever city you might be in, as I will be doing here in Chicago, be safe!) – Cooking Maggie


Revision/Addition 2/17/17 – Note: You can also turn the marinara sauce into an Arrabiata sauce by adding an extra 1-2 teaspoons of crushed red pepper, and switching out spaghetti for penne! Can add cheese and olive oil over top to cut the heat if you add too much!

Katie Lee’s Homemade Marinara Sauce¬†from Food Network


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