By Nicole Freire
It has been well documented that I do not like to cook. But every once in a while, I like to really bust a move, so to speak, in the kitchen. And because I know that sounds ridiculous, I offer you proof. So put on your aprons and follow along with me. I don't do this often, so pay attention.
Everything is better with bacon, is it not? Yes, it is. So get out six slices of bacon and cut them up into little pieces. Pour three tablespoons of olive oil into a big pan and turn the heat on low/medium-ish. Cut up a yellow onion into little pieces. Throw all the onion pieces and your bacon pieces into the pan with the oil. Let them cook until the onions get translucent.
The smell of bacon and onions will be so good you will be tempted to think about perhaps cooking more often. This is not necessary. Go get a book and sit on the countertop in the kitchen and read while the onions and bacon do their thing.
If a spouse or a child walks into the kitchen at this point, you are well within your rights to say "Hey, I'm COOKING in here!".
Once the onions are translucent and the smell of bacon is overpoweringly good, get out some ground beef. I don't know how much, the amount that fits into the rectangular foam thing you get at the market. What's that, a pound? Half a pound? Whatever. Just make sure it's hormone-free, organically raised if possible and don't cheap out on this step. Get the expensive stuff. It's a bummer if it's frozen because you didn't think far enough in advance to take it out of the freezer, but that would be planning and I think it's clear by now that planning isn't the most important part here, you're winging it.
But if it's defrosted or was never frozen to begin with, take off the plastic wrap. Because this part freaks me out a bit, we'll go over it quickly. Break the ground beef into pieces on top of the onion/bacon goodness. Wash your hands.
Leave it. Don't mix up anything at this point. Turn the heat a little lower and just let the ground beef cook. Imagine that the ground beef is the frosting on top of your onion/bacon cake.
Pick up your book again and start reading. Every few minutes, casually glance over at the pan. When the ground beef has cooked enough that there is just a hint of pink left, put your book down. Now, get a wooden spoon and stir that stuff around, mix it up, scrape the onion/bacon layer off the bottom of the pan and stir some more.
Get out a can of tomato paste. Not tomato sauce, not cut up tomatoes, nothing fancy. Just paste. A 12 ounce can. Open it up. Notice how tomato paste looks like, well, like paste. Red paste. While you're comparing tomato paste to frosting, spoon it out of the can into your pan.
Oh, what kind of pan? Um, I use a cast iron skillet thing? I'm sure that whatever you have will work just fine.
Add the tomato paste. Fill up the can ONCE with water and pour that in too. Whoo! You're still cooking! Ok, now stir it all up again. Really mix it around. Put a lid on the whole thing and turn the heat on low.
We're going to be cooking this awesome sauce for an hour, so make sure that you get your book out again. You can't leave the kitchen because every few minutes or so you'll want to take the lid off and mix the sauce around. It should be bubbling gently. If you've finished your book and the current issue of the New Yorker and you've still got some time on your hands, I hightly recommend just staring out of the window.
You may still be tempted to want to cook again at some future point, but hold off. The desire will pass. Just take some deep breaths of that yummy sauce goodness and relax.
Check out your fridge door. Do you have any old lottery tickets on there? You should probably have those checked. What about those baby pictures on there? Are they your kids? Yes? What about old coupons? You should think about throwing them away because they're expired, right?
Hey, check your sauce again. Stir it around. Does it seem a bit thick? Pour a little more water in there. Don't panic. Stir some more. It looks pretty good now, doesn't it?
If about an hour has gone by and you've been doing the stirring, and the smelling, and the checking every few minutes, you can probably stop now. If you want to add a little salt and pepper to your sauce, go right ahead. This is optional, but don't get all fancy and toss in any other spices.
You can serve this right away over some spaghetti. I like to serve it over angel hair pasta because angel hair only takes like, what, 3 minutes to cook? By this time I'm over the cooking bit and want to move on out of the kitchen and to the eating bit.
Penne is good too, but that takes longer to cook. Also, no little pastas, no teeny elbow noodles or anything smaller than your thumb. You need a pasta with some heft to it. This shows off the sauce better.
If you don't want to eat right away, well, what is your problem? It tastes fantastic. But if you're not hungry or there's a good movie on television or everyone got tired of waiting and ate frozen waffles while you slaved away in the kitchen, go ahead and freeze it.
You should have a glass of wine at this point. Also, you can shift cleaning duties to someone else, because, hello? You've been cooking all day.
This sauce will impress everyone. They'll ask you for the recipe and you can casually tell them to cut up some onions and stuff, just as if you did it all the time.
Don't forget your book, It's probably still on the countertop.
Nicole Freire is a freelance writer who lives in Santa Barbara.