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With an athlete in the house, fall is spaghetti season

Pasta has long been touted as the perfect meal to enjoy the night before a big athletic event because it’s a dish that is traditionally rich in carbohydrates. Carbs are a more efficient fuel source for your body than proteins. It is an important part of the food groups that fuels bodies, allowing athletes to physically push themselves to reach each one’s potential.
Most foods take 24 hours for your body to fully digest. That is one of main reasons pasta is suggested as the meal the night before a big game. Athletes need to have easy-to-release energy to improve physical performance, according to trainers and nutritionists. In fact, carb loading is extremely important for maintaining enough endurance to power an athlete through a big competition.
Carbs offer glucose to help the body to work efficiently and provide minerals and vitamins. During vigorous activity, an athlete needs to fuel their system and carbs are the perfect energy provider. Energy needs are greater going into a big game and that is why a spaghetti dinner is suggested to ensure there are plenty of carbs from the pasta.
Although wheat pasta is generally seen as a healthier alternative to white flour pasta, white pasta made with more refined flour is actually easier for the body to digest.
One of the most important reasons for eating well before an event is to prevent hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), which can impact an athlete through dizziness, nausea, fatigue and muscle weakness.
Eating adequate amounts of carbs before any physical activity will also make sure an athlete’s body does not use protein as the source of energy during the game. Without carbs in the system, the body will break down the available protein for energy instead of carbs, which can risk the body’s ability to maintain and build tissue.
Nutritionists suggest using real cheese when preparing the spaghetti because processed foods are harder for the body to break down. They say processed cheese is one of the worst offenders in making the body waste energy digesting chemicals it doesn’t really know how to handle.
But tomatoes and pasta can become boring throughout long sports seasons. The following recipes will help break the boredom and stretch cooking muscles in the family.

Spaghetti Recipes

Baked Cream Cheese Spaghetti Casserole
12-oz. spaghetti
1 (26-oz.) jar prepared spaghetti sauce
1-lb. lean ground beef
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
Preheat oven to 350º F degrees. In a skillet, brown the ground beef until cooked through; drain fat and stir in spaghetti sauce. Set aside. Cook spaghetti according to directions on packet. Drain and place cooked spaghetti in bowl. Add cream cheese, Italian Seasoning and minced garlic. Stir until cream cheese is melted and the spaghetti is thoroughly coated.
Lightly grease a 9×13” pan. Spread a small amount of meat sauce in the bottom of the dish. Put spaghetti on top of sauce and top with remaining meat sauce. Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top.
Bake for 30 minutes, until bubbly.

Taco Spaghetti
8 oz. spaghetti
1-1/4 lbs. lean ground beef or ground turkey
1 (1-oz.) package taco seasoning
2/3 cup water
1 can (10.75-oz.) cream of chicken soup
1 can (10-oz.) can Ro-tel diced tomatoes with green chilies, undrained
1 (8-oz.) package Velveeta cheese, cubed
1-1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a 9×9-inch pan with cooking spray. Set aside. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain. Set aside.
In a large skillet cook ground beef over medium-high heat until no longer pink. Drain fat. Return meat to skillet. Add taco seasoning and water. Stir to combine. Cook for 5 minutes. Stir in soup, Velveeta and Rotel tomatoes. Reduce heat to low, and cook until the cheese melts, stirring constantly.
Stir in cooked spaghetti and pour into prepared dish. Top with cheddar cheese.
Bake for 30 minutes or until heated through.

Crack Chicken Spaghetti
8 oz. spaghetti
1 can (10.75-oz.) cream of chicken soup
1 (8-ounce) package Velveeta cheese, cubed
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 Tbsp. dry Ranch dressing mix
2-1/2 cups cooked chopped chicken
1 (3-oz.) package precooked bacon bits
1-1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a 9×9-inch pan with cooking spray. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain. In a saucepan, combine cream of chicken soup, Velveeta and chicken broth. Cook on low, until the cheese melts, stirring constantly. Stir in dry Ranch mix. Stir in cooked spaghetti, cooked chicken and bacon bits. Pour mixture into prepared dish. Top with cheddar cheese.
Bake uncovered for 30 minutes or until heated through.

Baked Spaghetti Pie
6 oz. spaghetti
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. butter, softened
1 cup cottage cheese
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 cup chopped tomatoes
6 oz. tomato paste
1 tsp. white sugar
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
2 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
Cook spaghetti in 2 1/2 quarts of boiling water with 2 tsp. salt and 1 Tbsp. oil until tender but still firm. Drain. Add eggs, Parmesan cheese, and butter. Mix and shape into a crust in a greased 10-inch pie plate or springform pan. Spread cottage cheese over crust. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook and stir the beef, onion, and green pepper until beef is thoroughly browned. Mix in tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, oregano, 1/2 tsp. salt, and garlic powder. Spread mixture over cottage cheese.
Bake uncovered in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and bake 5 to 10 minutes more, until cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown.


Spaghetti Carbonara
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lb.spaghetti
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
4 oz. pancetta, chopped  (can use bacon)
4 large eggs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
3 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the spaghetti according to the package instructions while you start the sauce.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil and pancetta. Cook until the pancetta gets brown and crispy, 3 to 4 minutes.
In a bowl, whisk the eggs with the cheese and some salt and pepper.
When the spaghetti is done, drain it, reserving some of the cooking water, and add the pasta to the hot pancetta skillet. Toss to coat the pasta with the oil. Remove the skillet from the heat and pour over the egg mixture, tossing quickly so the eggs don’t scramble. Add some of the hot cooking water to thin it out and form a sauce. Toss in the parsley. Serve immediately with some extra cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.

Spaghetti and Meatball Soup
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup chopped parsley, plus more for garnish
1 small red onion, chopped
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. ground beef
extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 lb. spaghetti, halved
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 cups marinara
2 cups water
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper or use a casserole dish. In a large mixing bowl add 2 garlic cloves, breadcrumbs, parsley, onion, egg, 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Stir until combined and add ground beef; mix by hand until just incorporated. Form 1-inch meatballs and place in a single layer on sheet pan. Meatballs should be touching. Drizzle with olive oil and bake 20 minutes.
In a large pot or Dutch oven, combine chicken broth, marinara sauce and water. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat. Stir in spaghetti and cooked meatballs and simmer gently until the spaghetti is tender, about 10-12 minutes. Stir in Parmesan.
Garnish with basil and more Parmesan, if desired.