Introduction: Special Spaghetti
This is a dish that I thought up a while back, my wife improved on, and that I want to share. It's a hearty, nourishing meal in one pan, and as you can see from the timestamps in the picture below, it takes very little time to make (especially if you're not stopping to take pictures during the cooking, as I did).
The secret that makes this "spaghetti" special is that it doesn't use noodles. It uses cabbage, stir-fried with the meat to become tender and flavorful. The really neat thing about this recipe is that kids will eat it right up and ask for seconds, because they think it's just some kind of special noodles instead of veggies. In fact, once when I was making it, my 3-year-old came in and "busted" me, saying, "Daddy, you're making SALAD! Nooooo!" I told her that this dish was just for me and that she was going to get spaghetti, and when I served it up 15 minutes later, she thanked me for the "spaghetti" and scarfed it right down.
The key thing to the simplicity of this recipe is that it uses ground beef, either 80% or 85% lean, and a bag of coleslaw mix, already shredded and cleaned. The oil from the beef is used to stir-fry the cabbage, so if you use sausage or leaner beef (or no meat at all), you will need to add a tablespoon or two of oil to fry up the coleslaw. For the sake of the kids, I'd use vegetable oil rather than olive oil, since that can make it "taste weird" and turn off a finicky eater.
The original version of this recipe called for using spaghetti sauce, but I will be making the Mk II revision tonight that is a bit closer to this recipe's goulash/borscht roots, and use condensed tomato soup and water instead.
This will be just about enough for 4 servings.
Step 1: Ingredients and Utensils
A pound or so (1/2 kilo) of ground beef, 85% is best, 80% will do - not too lean (the cheap stuff). If you're going meatless, just use a couple tbsp vegetable oil, and skip the next step.
One bag of coleslaw cabbage. I used a 10-ounce (1/4 kilo) bag of pure cabbage tonight. The store also sells 16-ounce bags of coleslaw mix, which has both green and red cabbage, with shredded carrots thrown in. This is also great to use - the carrots add a little al-dente crunch to the final dish.
Optional - chopped onion
Optional - leftover rice, which thickens and adds body to the dish (at that point, it isn't exactly spaghetti, it becomes "Hamburger Surprise," but the kids still love it)
The original recipe calls for one jar of spaghetti sauce (yes I use the whole 26oz/700g jar, but you're welcome to use less). Instead of that, you can use a can of condensed tomato soup, or you can even throw in a can of diced tomatoes if you like.
If you are going with the spaghetti sauce, the spices and seasonings are all taken care of. If you use the tomato soup or tomatoes, you should add in salt, pepper, garlic, and any other seasonings you like.
Frying pan with cover
Spatula or wooden spoon
Step 2: Brown the Meat
Over medium heat (enough to bubble steam but not enough to cause grease to spatter, certainly not enough to produce smoke), add the meat to the skillet and fry it, stirring occaisionally, until it is all browned - maybe 5-8 min or so. Add in salt, pepper, and optional garlic or other spices at this point.
There will be a bit of oil and water at the bottom of the pan when you are through with the browning. DO NOT drain it - we need the juices for the next step.
Step 3: Add in the "noodles" (cabbage)
Pour the coleslaw mix (and onions if you want them) into the skillet slowly, a few handfulls at a time, folding it into the browned meat as you go (for meatless, just add some oil to the skillet to stir-fry the coleslaw in). By the time the entire bag is added into the skillet, it will look like it's full to overflowing, but as the veggies fry and wilt, it will settle into the skillet with plenty of room to spare.
Let the cabbage and meat mixture cook together for 5 minutes or so, stirring every so often, until all of the cabbage is mixed in and softened, and all of the food's love is spread around. The cabbage will have absorbed a lot of the oil at this point, and will have wilted and released its own water, so there will now be some broth in the pan as well.
Step 4: Mix in the Sauce
Add the spaghetti sauce into the skillet, or the tomato soup, or the can of tomatoes/tomato sauce. If you have leftover rice lying around, add it too,along with a little water (especially if you are using condensed tomato soup with the rice - half of a can of water is all you'll need, as there is already a lot of broth going on here).
Mix this all together.
Step 5: Cover and Simmer
Turn the heat down to a simmer. Cover the skillet, and let the dish simmer and bubble for another 8-10 minutes.
Step 6: Success!
Your special spaghetti is now ready to be served and enjoyed. Easy-peasy and only one pan involved. See if your kids won't love this one!
I didn't use rice or onions tonight, but I did add some water with the tomato soup, so this was closer to a stew than a pasta dish. No problem with that, though - there were no leftovers at all when we were done. For a full family of four, I would use the 1-pound bag of coleslaw mix; that 10-ouncer we had just wasn't quite enough.
I haven't tried making it without meat. If anyone tries this recipe vegan-style, tell me how it worked out in the comments.