Are you a closet SpaghettiO’s fan? Take it a step further by admitting you also like their meatball version…or (alas!) their hot dog one? 😉 Or, did I just lose a few of you from readership at the disgust that I would even mention this distasteful cheesy American canned “pasta”? Whichever side you’re on, I have to take the leap and confess that I am a fan. If you’re hating me now because of it, please keep reading. Maybe I can win you back with my homemade version instead.
As much as I love heating up a can of Spaghettio’s, and eating the entire thing in one setting, I don’t love the thought of the preservatives and imitation ingredients involved. Judah is now at the age where he will start getting hooked on these sort of kid fanatic foods, so I set out to create my own version that is much healthier.
I say “much healthier” very lightly, though, as I tend to add probably more butter than you wish to handle (on your hips). You can definitely use less, to your taste, with no tweaking of the other ingredients. My version is below, and doesn’t taste exactly like the canned variety, but we love this one more!
- 8 oz ditalini pasta (or other small pasta)
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed
- Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
- 15 oz can tomato sauce
- 1 cup water
- 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water, to al dente (about 10 minutes).
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or large saute' pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until just fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomato sauce, water, tomato paste, salt, pepper, sugar and butter. Heat, while stirring, until the butter is melted. Slowly stir in the milk, then turn the heat to low. Simmer at low heat for 10 minutes.
Stir the shredded cheese into the soup until melted. Drain the pasta and transfer to a serving bowl. Pour as much of the tomato sauce into the pasta as desired; stir to combine. (I don't like mine extremely soupy, so usually have about 1/3 cup of the sauce leftover.)
Looking for the convenience factor? Double the batch and freeze the rest for later. Heat on the stove top or in the microwave when you're ready for that quick lunch or dinner!