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Five Foolproof Meals

The question is: meatballs or no meatballs?
The question is: meatballs or no meatballs?

­Italian immigrants originally introduced spaghetti to the United States in the late 19th century. Where early Italian versions were less meaty and probably baked, the abundance of meat, a scarce commodity in Italy, distinguished this newer version as an American original.

Franco-American started canning spaghetti as early as the 1890s, and today you can find canned spaghetti as well as dry spaghetti mixes, microwave entrees and frozen dinners in every neighborhood grocery store. There are entire restaurant chains that rely on spaghetti as their signature dish, and whether you like yours chunky or smooth, with whole-wheat noodles or with a few mushrooms thrown in, it's a good bet that spaghetti in one form or another will be a hit at your house [source: The Nibble].

During times of financial struggle, spaghetti has always been considered a good value. During World War I, when imports of foreign manufactured pasta were stopped, the demand for domestically made pasta soared. During the Great Depression in the early 1930s, spaghetti and other inexpensive entrees, like soup, became staples of the American diet.

Some simple tips will help you make perfect spaghetti every time:

  • Use plenty of water to cook dry spaghetti, and make sure that it's at a rolling boil when you add the noodles. Six quarts (5.67 liters) of water for a pound of pasta is a good ratio.
  • Add a teaspoon or two of salt to the water to enhance the flavor.
  • Stir spaghetti occasionally as it cooks to keep it from sticking together.
  • Read the directions for cooking times, and taste a small piece of spaghetti for doneness before removing it from the heat. It should still taste a little chewy. This is the "al dente" that Italian cooks talk about, and the best way to make sure you've got a good, soft but still slightly chewy texture is to taste it.
  • Drain pasta thoroughly in a colander, shaking it vigorously to remove excess water.
  • Don't rinse spaghetti pasta; the extra starch sticking to the noodles will help make the sauce thicker. To get the full benefit, mix with sauce immediately after draining.

On the next page, we'll see what's simmering in the slow cooker.