3.01.2009

eco-friendly pasta?

"Look at you doing the taxes, and I'm the homemaker!" Ian said proudly as he Febreezed the apartment. I love my husband. He's now rewatching the credits for Tropic Thunder because Tom Cruise is hilarious as an older balding man hip-hop dancing to crazy rap music. But the language is bad in the movie... catastrophic, actually. We can't recommend it.

I'm trying to get our  taxes done as opposed to Ian doing them (mentioned above), because my skill-set is more geared toward those annoying forms and finance details. This year's taxes are especially irritating because Ian's paycheck in PA had no federal withholding for some reason, so we owe a lot in federal taxes. Funnily enough, PA taxes are higher than what we owe in federal, and the Philadelphia local tax is almost as much as state taxes. Boo east coast taxes.

Moving on to the point! This past Wednesday I came across a food article in the NY Times about saving water and energy by using less water and putting pasta in cold water instead of waiting for the boil. Intrigued, and with Rachel Ray's cowboy spaghetti the following evening on our meal-plan menu, we thought we'd give it a go.

eco-friendly pasta

I broke the spaghetti noodles in half so they fit flat in the pot. I then filled the water so it was a little over double the depth of the pasta, which was lots less water than usual (normally over those silver rivets). I stirred a little until it got boiling. The pasta got really frothy, but cooked like normal. The noodle water was very thick, and we left some in with the noodles - it gave the sauce a great, creamier consistency.

The article pointed out this may seem like an insignificant change, but if everyone does it, it will make a difference in water and energy consumption! I know this is a change Ian and I are going to make permanent.

*another eco-friendly suggestion: when grocery shopping, if there are two brands of something at a similar cost, pick the item that has recyclable/reusable packaging. For example, we buy the pasta in the cardboard box (recyclable) instead of a plastic bag. I also check the recycling number on containers, because here we can only do #1 and 2 plastics. For larger differences in price, decide how much extra you're willing and able to pay to be more eco-friendly.

Rachel Ray's Cowboy Spaghetti (4 generous servings), eco-friendly modifications by Ian and Anna

salt
1 lb. spaghetti
1tbsp. EVOO
3 slices smoky bacon, chopped
1 lb. ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
black pepper
2 tsp. hot sauce (eyeball it)
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce (eyeball it)
1 14-oz. can chopped or crushed fire-roasted tomatoes
1 8-oz. can tomato sauce (we use fun-flavored spaghetti sauce and guesstimate pouring in 8 oz.)
8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese
4 scallions, trimmed, chopped (we've used chives)

Cook the pasta to al dente (as outlined above in post). Drain excess pasta water, leaving a little to make the sauce creamy.

Heat a deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the EVOO and bacon. Brown and crisp the bacon for about 5 minutes, then set aside on a paper-towel lined plate. Drain excess fat if necessary, leaving enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the beef and crumble as it browns, 3-4 minutes. Add the onions and garlic and stir into the meat. Season the meat with salt and pepper, hot sauce, and Worcestershire. Cook for 5-6 minutes more, then stir in the tomatoes and tomato sauce.

Add the meat and sauce to the spaghetti and combine. Adjust the seasonings and serve up the pasta in bowls. Grate some cheese over the pasta and sprinkle with the scallions/chives.

This is also great as leftovers. We take it to work/studio for lunch. Just don't forget to add the cheese topping before you leave home (trust me on this one!).
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