Easy Cheesy Spaghetti with Serendipitous Sauce and Herby Garlic Bread

Serendipity = the phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for

Amen. I first fell in love with the idea of serendipity as a child when I read the wonderful children’s series by Stephen Cosgrove (remember Leo the Lop?). Serendipity was a pink sea monster who came across fortunate discoveries by accident while learning to cope with life’s everyday mishaps. The moral of Serendipity’s story is “knowing who you really are will bring you happiness.” Today, in my middle age, I still find happy surprises where I didn’t expect them…and call out “Serendipity!” when the moment hits me.

So, when I tried a few weeks ago to make braciole – an Italian steak roulade or filled meat roll – things didn’t go so well. The meat was tender but dry (probably because I used the wrong kind of steak and cooked it too long), the filling was too thick and choppy (because I should have pureed it in my Cuisinart), and I did a horrible job of tying the meat roll with butcher’s string. (The very next day after my beefy disaster, while surfing The Cooking Channel, I found a “Good Eats” episode on exactly the proper way to make braciole. This was not a serendipitous moment at all – rather, as Alanis Morisette so aptly put it – ironic.)

My serendipitous moment came when I made the marinara sauce that smothered the braciole. My little culinary disaster reared a wonderfully light tomato sauce flavored with onions, garlic, herbs, carrots and celery. And it made enough for the braciole plus a large Mason jar (plenty for today’s spaghetti recipe).

I may or may not attempt braciole again (I’ll have to consult Alton Brown on this one), but I now have a tasty marinara sauce that will become a staple in my house – Serendipity!

Marinara Sauce Ingredients
1/2 cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1 small Onion, chopped
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 stalk Celery, chopped
1 Carrot, chopped
2 (32-oz.) cans Crushed Tomatoes
1 Tbsp. dried Basil or 4 to 6 fresh Basil Leaves
2 Bay Leaves
Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper
Unsalted Butter

In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until soft and translucent.

Add celery and carrot and season with salt and pepper. Saute veggies until soft, about 5 minutes.

Add tomatoes, basil and bay leaves and reduce heat to low.

Cover the pot and simmer for 1 hour. Remove the bay leaves and taste sauce. If too acidic, add butter, 1 Tbsp. at a time, to round out the flavor.

Store sauce in a Mason jar or freeze in a freezer bag for future use.

Spaghetti Ingredients
1 jar Serendipitous Sauce
1 lb. lean Ground Beef
4 oz. sliced Mushrooms
Spaghetti Noodles, prepared according to package

Garlic Bread Ingredients
1 loaf French Bread
Unsalted Butter
1 clove Garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp. each of dried Basil and Oregano
Grated Cheese (Parmesan or Pecorino Romano)

To finish the sauce, brown the ground beef in a large skillet.

Add the Serendipitous Sauce.

Add the mushrooms, mix into sauce and let simmer over medium-low heat until sauce is hot and mushrooms cook through.

While the sauce is simmering, preheat oven at 375 degrees. Prepare the garlic bread.

Slice a loaf of French bread in half. Place on a baking sheet lined with aluminum.

Melt 2 Tbsp. of unsalted butter with a crushed garlic clove in a microwave. Takes about a minute.

Add the dried basil and oregano

and combine.

Brush the herby butter onto the French bread.

Bake for 10 minutes until edges become golden brown.

Sprinkle grated cheese (I used pecorino romano) on top of the warm bread.

Spoon the marinara sauce on top of noodles, sprinkle with cheese and serve with garlic bread. A dish a pink sea monster would love!

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