pregnancy spaghetti

Oh spaghetti, how I love thee. I love thy smells and tastes and the way your deeply tinted sauce stains the front of my new white t-shirts, proving to the world that I am not ‘the cool girl’. You have stained my heart forever, dear food, and if I needed one more reason to love you, it would be this – you seem to be one of the only foods my pregnant stomach can stand.

We’ve all heard of pregnancy cravings and pregnancy food aversions and somehow they always have to do with pickles and ice cream – which makes me wonder exactly who it was that started that fad – but I’m here to share with you my first pregnancy craving, my mom’s spaghetti with meat sauce. Oh boy. It’s like magic, it is. I can be green at the gills all day, come home and whip up some spaghetti and suddenly there is a break in the nausea and my stomach actually growls, a weak, pathetic sort of growl, but all the same it is the unmistakable sign of actually Hunger. Sweet, sweet success.

I know most of you reading this probably aren’t pregnant, but why go and deny yourself this good thing? It may not be the *only* thing you can eat but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it, right? Of course right. This is why  I am going to share the recipe with you. It started out something that was uniquely my mom’s, I have been making it with her all my life, but like all good recipes it came to its new home and was slightly altered in the moving. That’s the beauty of timeless dishes, they stay true to themselves while adapting to whatever kitchen they find themselves in. Hopefully it does the same for you.


Spaghetti Sauce

1/2 medium onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1/2 lb sausage ( I like to use sweet Italian, but you could use something a little spicier)

1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes plus 1/2 can water

1 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1/2 teaspoon crumbled, dried bay leaves

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon sugar

Cooked pasta of your choice


I like to make my spaghetti sauce in a deep cast iron skillet, but you could very easily use a three or more quart pot. Heat the pan over medium high heat and then add the olive oil. The olive oil will look very liquid and shiny when it is ready. It shouldn’t smoke, but you want it rather hot. Add the onions and garlic first, stirring them and letting them saute for a bit until they are fragrant and the onions begin to look translucent. Add the sausage and a little water (like a 1/4 cup) – this will make it easier to break up. As the sausage cooks, crumble it into uniformly-sized pieces. Once it is all browned, you might want to remove some of the fat that came off the sausage while it was cooking. You can spoon it out or drain it – whatever works best for you. Now add the crushed tomatoes, water, salt, sugar and herbs. My mom taught me this trick to add some sweetening to the sauce, it helps to cut down a little on the acidity of the tomatoes and deepens the overall flavor  – a trick well worth knowing.

Turn the heat down and let the sauce simmer while the pasta boils. You could let this cook all day, or make it fifteen minutes before serving – I’ve done it both ways!

As I mentioned before, one of the best things about a good spaghetti recipe is it’s adaptability. This is the sauce recipe I use when making lasagna, I swap out the sausage for ground beef when I have it or skip the meat entirely and use the sauce for pizzas. It freezes fantastically and makes a quick meal even quicker when the need arises. How can you not love that? Let’s just say that, pregnant or not,  spaghetti is a real winner of a meal!

spaghetti delirium

I made spaghetti for my love on Wednesday, but unlike the other batches of garlicky red sauce I have cooked up previously, this one was made in preparation, in expectation, as an offensive maneuver against the day ahead.

I was going to have an MRI, my first ever, and after hours of trying to distract myself by counting dust floaties in the air and coming up with witty things that “MRI” could stand for (as in, My Ridiculous Insurance. Or, Many Radical Insects- yes, I was desperate) I decided to work on dinner.

They told us during my first appointment with the shoulder specialist that I needed an MRI, and soon, before they could diagnose or treat my bum arm. When we were scheduling said MRI, they asked if I was claustrophobic. I immediately felt pressed in and breathless.

“Like, how claustrophobic would I have to be to have it be a problem?”

I *am* claustrophobic. I don’t sleep with the covers over my head and I can’t stand the thought of babies being womb-bound for nine WHOLE months. I don’t usually even sleep with socks on my feet because my toes begin to clamor for freedom. And yet, I’m not claustrophobic enough to refuse to ride in elevators or small cars. Just where was this MRI going to fall on the ‘claustrophobia’ scale?

“Ok.” The receptionist began, understandingly, “We’re just going to put in for a prescription for one Valium for you to take beforehand so that you are able to relax. Most people just sleep through them, you’ll be fine.”

I’ll be fine. Sure I will.

“You will need a driver, I assume you’ll bring her?” She looked at my husband. He eagerly signed up as designated driver and we were off.

Ten days later I was standing in my kitchen, thinking about dinner. I knew I was probably going to be a little tired after the day’s events, and might even still be woozy from the Valium and didn’t want to have to worry about food, so I decided to make spaghetti in the crockpot. It could cook all day and if I was really bad off, all Alex would need to do was boil some pasta and we’d have a simple, but decent dinner to sit down to. It’s a meal even someone tripped out on Valium could work out.

Pre MRI Spaghetti

1/2 lbs Italian sausage

1/2 lbs lean ground beef

2, 28 oz cans tomato sauce

1 small onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 Tbps Italian seasoning


equal parts basil, oregano, thyme, and parsley

salt and pepper

1-2 Tbsp olive oil

1-2 Tbsp water

The oil goes into a hot frying pan and then is joined by the diced onions and minced garlic. This is left to cook for some time until the savory bits have melted and browned. If you are going to cook this in a crock pot, that should be ready and waiting to receive it’s due. If you’re going to slow cook it on the stove, you’ll need a decent-sized pot. The onions and garlic should be scooped out of the frying pan and put into their long-cooking home.  Now the ground beef and sausage is going to be fried with the water. The water is going to help the meat cook with a little less fat than would be otherwise be needed. If things start to stick, feel free to add a couple more tablespoons of water or so. You can either let it cook off in steam, or use it and try to strain some of the fat that will come from the cooked meat later on. You’re the Cook- it’s up to You. Make sure to break the meat up into little bite-sized pieces. Yum. I love spaghetti sauce with sausage.

I opened the cans of sauce and dumped them in with the waiting onions and garlic, then added the herbs. When the meat is well cooked, it’s goes into the pot as well. Heat is applied- for quite some time. Viola. Very simple, but the end result is delicious.

 I went to have the MRI, I took the little yellow pill right before going in to have dye injected into my shoulder joint (no, it didn’t kick in in time and I had to suffer through the dye totally sane and conscious. Bummer.) and then was whisked away to their loud, plastic tube to be MRI-d. By that time, the medicine had *definitely* started to work and I think they could have tied me up and thrown me off a bridge and I would have laughed and had a merry old time. But they propped me up and I spent 45 minutes listening to classical music and yes, sleeping. By the time I was leaving the hospital with my beloved designated driver, I could barely walk. I guess those sorts of drugs work rather hard on people who aren’t used to them. I am not used to them and spent the next hour or two rushing between hysterics and depression. No, I don’t remember most of it. Yes, I totally freaked my husband out. No, I am not going to start taking Valium on a regular basis. Yes, he was able to get some of the insanity on video with my iPod. I guess I became quite emotional about french fries and Dairy Queen and a random stranger who was walking in the rain before insisting that all the bees had died. Oh my.

The good news is, I was able to sleep it off and woke up wicked hung over, but back to myself. I was able to weakly rejoice over having survived the dreadful injections and the MRI. And, the spaghetti sauce was incredible.

Alex told me that during my drug-induced frenzy, I kept asking him if he wanted spaghetti with his spaghetti. Yeah. We’ll just let that one go.