Awhile ago, I made a recipe category for “faster-than-fast-food” meals, and promised that I was going to fill ‘er up. As it turns out, I might’ve made things a little too strict (shock-er, I know) with all the must-start-from-scratch and dishes-count-as-time-spent rules. Homemade spaghettios might break that rule, but it’s BARELY more clean-up than a box of mac and cheese, and that HAS to fit the category, right??
Confession: until I made this recipe when my four-year-old was tiny, I had never actually had “spaghettios”. So I really have no idea if they taste anything like this. But this quick, kinda-creamy tomato sauce has a ton of flavor from garlic and butter, a happy saltiness from the cheddar cheese, and the ditalini is just so darn cute! (You could also use a different small pasta shape, like itty bitty shells or elbows.)
It’s crucial that you follow the order of the steps in the recipe if you want this to be ready in 20 minutes! I set a stopwatch and mine was ready in 21:30. :o)
So: put water in a pot and get it on the stove to boil for the pasta. Start warming olive oil in a big pan or another pot.
You could mince or press the garlic, but I like to just smash a clove with the flat part of the knife like they do on cooking shows and let the whole clove simmer in the sauce. Then I remove it at the end – since the sauce doesn’t cook for very long, I find the garlic flavor a little intense if I mince it and leave it in.
Toss the smashed garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes into the pan, and let it sizzle in the oil for about 30 seconds. Add a can of tomato sauce, a little tomato paste, water, and a little sugar, salt and pepper. Stir in a pat of butter until it melts, and then stir in a little milk and let the sauce simmer gently.
If all goes according to plan, the pasta water will be boiling by now, and you can add the pasta to the pot. My ditalini needed 10 minutes, which is the perfect amount of time to simmer the sauce. It also gives you just enough time to
make a quick salad toss baby carrots on everyone’s plate, cut up some fruit, and pour the drinks!
Fish out the garlic, then stir in some cheese until it melts.
Then add the cooked, drained pasta!
And there you have it – homemade spaghettios! I love this exact ratio of sauce:pasta, and it’s a nice change of pace from either macaroni and cheese or pasta + jar of sauce – but it’s still made from pantry ingredients and a couple of fridge staples! Plus, twenty minutes. Ish.