Sunday, November 11, 2012

Northern Italian Spaghetti in Rice Cooker

My heritage is Italian.  When I tell people that, they picture pasta, lasagna, lots of meatballs, lots of seafood and spice.  Not in my family!  The truth is, I am northern Italian. 

Picture the Italian landscape and right away you might notice that there is no where in northern Italy for grazing cows; therefore there is not much beef.  The cows that exist in northern Italy are milking cows for the plethora of cheeses that come from that area. Also, with no flat lands there is little room for large farms of wheat.  Therefore, not much pasta either!

My grandmother was a great cook.  We ate lots of pork, veal and chicken.  We ate quite a bit of fresh vegetables.  Pasta, when it was served, was a side dish like potatoes or rice.  OH!  RICE!  Yes, we ate lots of risotto too!  The flavors of porcini mushrooms and spicy sausage (from the aforementioned pigs) permeated the air, along with lots of cheese.  I didn't even taste lasagna until I was 16 years old.  And, the tomato gravies that are well known in most Italian, read southern Italian, kitchens and restaurants were only an occasional gravy.   Butter and cheese sauces along with herbs like basil were the sauces of choice.

Ahh, the word sauce!  Well, in my family if it has meat in it, or flavoring it or is served with meat, it is a GRAVY!

So, this leads me to my recipe today.

1 pound bulk Italian sausage meat; hot or spicy or a mixture
1 onion, diced

6 ounce can tomato paste
1 tablespoon dried oregano
3 garlic cloves, minced

handful of dried porcini mushrooms

4 cups water
1 8 ounce can tomato sauce
1 pound spaghetti

In a skillet, or the browning setting of rice cooker, brown the sausage meat with the onion until onion is translucent and sausage is granular.

If using a skillet, pour the entire amount into the rice cooker.  Add the tomato paste, oregano and garlic and stir to coat everything with the tomato paste.  Crush the porcini mushrooms and add to the rice cooker.  Add the water and tomato sauce and stir well. 

Break up the spaghetti into three and add to the rice cooker.   Stir to separate the pasta and close cooker.  Cook on white rice setting.  Open cooker and stir to keep pasta from sticking 2-3 times during the cooking time.

Serve with plenty of Parmesan cheese.

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