Iowa City cowboy spaghetti

Weekend Herb Blogging“Did I tell you about the Cowboy Spaghetti?” I was on the phone with my friend Tammy, talking on my earbud as I hurtled down I-380 on the way home from work one night.

Tammy fell silent. For a second, I thought I’d lost connection.

“Didn’t I tell you about the Cowboy Spaghetti?” she asked.

I remembered, then. She had told me about it, but that was back when she first started cooking out of Rachael Ray’s Express Lane Meals. At the time, I listened with interest, but, since I didn’t have a copy of the cookbook, shuffled it off into the Dead Letter Office part of my brain.

In July, a friend here in Iowa gave me a copy of the cookbook for my birthday present. I browsed through the recipes, identifying ones that looked particularly interesting and truly express-like. I am a Rachael Ray fan, but I find that most of her recipes take me far longer to accomplish than she suggests. Maybe that’s because my knife skills pale in comparison to hers, or maybe it’s just because she doesn’t mind undercooked chicken. Either way, I almost never get it done in 30 minutes or less.

Cowboy Spaghetti, though, proved an exception to the rule. It also has some other excellent qualities, including that it is an entirely adaptable recipe. It’s like the Wild West: throw in what you’ve got and let the ingredients fight it out. The version I’ve been making lately features peppers and green tomatoes from our garden, and sometimes a hot pepper or two from the local farmer’s market. If you don’t have some of those ingredients, cut it back to the basics: onions and garlic by themselves will be fine.

My endorsement is that this recipe has made it to the table once a week, consistently, since I started making it. I almost never make a recipe more than once in a long while—there are so many good things to cook in the world.

Three weeks in, I asked Steve if he minded if we had it…again. “Are you kidding?” he asked. “We can have that every night and I wouldn’t complain.”

Iowa City Cowboy Spaghetti
(Inspired by Rachael Ray’s Express Lane Meals)
Serves 4

Cowboy spaghetti, Iowa City style

1 pound uncooked whole wheat spaghetti
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
4-5 slices Canadian bacon, diced
1 pound lean ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 or 2 green bell peppers, chopped
3 to 4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 to 3 small chili peppers, seeded and chopped (depending on your taste for heat) OR 4 to 5 shakes of hot sauce
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
15 to 20 green cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 14-oz can diced or crushed fire-roasted tomatoes and 1 8-oz can tomato sauce OR 1 28-oz can crushed fire-roasted tomatoes
Shredded cheddar cheese and sliced scallions for garnish

  1. Boil water and get the spaghetti cooked and drained according to package directions while you work on the rest of the steps.
  2. Heat the oil in the pan and cook the Canadian bacon until it’s brown and a little crispy.
  3. Add the ground beef and cook until brown. When it’s almost completely brown, throw in the onion, bell pepper, garlic and chili peppers (if you’re using those instead of hot sauce). Let all that cook until the vegetables are softened and starting to caramelize—about 5-10 minutes, depending on how hot your pan is.
  4. Season the meat mixture with salt, pepper, hot sauce (if you didn’t add chilis in the earlier step), and the Worcestershire sauce. Add the green tomatoes and continue to cook another 5 minutes.
  5. Add the fire-roasted tomatoes and the tomato sauce, or, if you’re just using the 28-ounce can of crushed, fire-roasted tomatoes, add them now. Continue cooking the sauce until it comes to a simmer.
  6. By now your pasta ought to be drained and ready to go. Put it back into the pasta pan and throw the sauce in with it. Mix everything up and serve immediately, topped with shredded cheddar cheese and green onions. Cowboy hat is optional.

This post is my submission for Weekend Herb Blogging, which is being hosted this week by Pat of Up a Creek Without A PatL. Stop by to read the full round-up, which will be posted on Sunday!

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12 Responses to “Iowa City cowboy spaghetti”


  1. 1 Kalyn October 21, 2006 at 2:34 pm

    I hav e to admit this does sound pretty darn good. (And I’m not really a RR fan. She’s a tad bit perky for my taste.) I haven’t tried the ww spagetti. Guess I better try it.

  2. 2 inadvertentgardener October 21, 2006 at 2:42 pm

    She can get a little perky, can’t she? Some days, I’m not sure where she finds the energy. But for general quick-cooking techniques, I find her to be really helpful. I bet this would work with any kind of South Beach-friendly pasta, like Dreamfields or something like that.

  3. 3 wes October 22, 2006 at 4:30 pm

    I leafed through “Express Lane Meals” at one point and wasn’t too impressed with their “express” qualities; I’m with you in thinking that many may take more than 30 minutes to prepare. (Also, profuse pictures in a cookbook turn me off as they seem a marketing ploy.)

    I’m still searching for a really, really good “fast, fast meals” style cookbook to add to my very small collection of cookbooks. Are you by chance aware of any?

  4. 4 inadvertentgardener October 22, 2006 at 4:51 pm

    Wes, one cookbook that I actually helped do some recipe testing for was “Low-Fat Cooking To Beat the Clock” by Sam Gugino. He claims a 15-minute cooking time, which I also always found was stretching it, but it was probably pretty close to 30 minutes. One criticism of the cookbook, though, is that the “meals” could often use a salad or something to round them out. But salads are easy to throw together, eh? (As long as you don’t get a bag of e.coli as your starter greens…)

    Please note, too, that I didn’t get paid for my recipe testing — I was a volunteer, so I’m not in Sam’s pocket by any stretch. I just liked the cookbook.

    But at the end of the day, the fast-fast cooking that I do is never out of a cookbook anymore. I have some tried-and-true standby’s for super-fast dinner on the table, and part of why they’re so fast is because I’ve made those meals so often.

  5. 5 Ruth October 23, 2006 at 6:29 am

    I’m always looking for new ways to do quick and healthful pastas. Thanks for sharing tihs one.

  6. 6 inadvertentgardener October 23, 2006 at 10:12 pm

    You’re welcome, Ruth! Thanks for stopping by.

  7. 7 Don October 24, 2006 at 4:39 pm

    I’m actually kind of a RR fan… I like perky! Have you seen her newest shows though; yikes… she’s not only perky now, she’s CHUNKY! When she starts flying back and forth real quick like in her kitchen, I’m afraid her breasts are going to fly out of her top and topple her over to the floor.
    Don

  8. 8 inadvertentgardener October 25, 2006 at 6:16 pm

    Don, that’s hilarious. I wonder if she’s pregnant, and just hasn’t told the world? That could explain the, ahem, expansion.

  9. 9 Heather March 2, 2007 at 9:28 am

    Ok – I’ll confess to being a bad friend who had not read your blog lately. Then, the link to it was on your email from earlier this week, which prompted me to check it out. I’m very impressed my friend. Shocked by some of it and what a country girl you’re becoming after all your years in the city.

    Anyway, I saw this post about Cowboy Spaghetti and had to snicker as it has quickly become a favorite in our house since I got a complete set of Rachel Ray cookbooks for Christmas from Rob’s mom. You know how she is – you give her an idea and she responds in a totally overboard way. So, my saying, “I think I’d like a Rachel Ray cookbook for Christmas” resulted in not one, not two, but THREE cookbooks by the grand dame of quick cooking.

    Anyway, I digress. Just wanted to let you know that Rob and I also love the Cowboy Spaghetti. In fact, we might have it for dinner tonight now that you’ve made me think of it.

  10. 10 inadvertentgardener March 4, 2007 at 10:01 pm

    Heather, I don’t know about country girl, but yeah…it’s different out here! :-) I’m glad to hear you guys are fans of the Cowboy Spaghetti, too…it’s really good stuff. Actually, your comment reminded me that it’s been awhile since I’ve made it…I need to break out the recipe and make it happen again!


  1. 1 Recipe Links » Blog Archive » Iowa City cowboy spaghetti Trackback on October 21, 2006 at 2:12 pm
  2. 2 Mac and cheese like you never tasted before – The Inadvertent Gardener Trackback on January 23, 2009 at 6:21 pm

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