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Spaghetti makeover: A few tips make simple pasta look fancy


(CBS News) With only a few weeks left of culinary school, I simply cannot believe how far we've come. My classmates and I have moved on from knife skills and food identification, to working on the line at the restaurant.

It's amazing how time flies.

The restaurant is a whole different world. We prep food with customers in mind, knowing that each plate now has a dollar sign attached and someone will actually sit down and pay to eat it. How surreal.

Video: Take spaghetti from simple to stunning

Learning to cook food to order and leave time to plate a pretty dish takes practice. In three minutes, you can cook a steak to order, finish off some lemon risotto, heat up ratatouille and plate it all to impress. And I always forget to breathe.

But it's really not that hard. Even a simple dish like spaghetti with tomato sauce can be easily dressed up on a plate. Watch the video above to learn how!

More tips:

  • White space is a good thing. Don't overcrowd your plate.
  • Keep some white vinegar on hand to clean up any splattered sauce, smeared oil or any other impurities.
  • Work high. Stack your food if you can. Towered food appeals to the eye.

Here's a yummy pasta sauce recipe for you -- it takes a little more time than regular sauce, but it's worth the wait.

Meat Sauce
Adapted from The International Culinary Center

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 1/2 oz pancetta, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 lb ground pork
  • 3/4 lb ground beef
  • 2 1/2 oz prosciutto, finely diced
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/8 cup red wine
  • 3 1/2 cups whole, canned tomatoes, pureed
  • 1 1/8 cup water

1. Process the onion, celery carrot and pancetta in a food processor until finely ground. Place in a large pot with the oil, set over medium heat and cook, adding the pepper flakes and spices after a few minutes. Cook until the water has evaporated and the flavor of the vegetables has deepened, about 10 minutes.

2. Add the ground meats and the prosciutto and cook, stirring almost constantly, until the meat has entirely broken down and is cooked through, about 15 more minutes. Season halfway through the cooking.

3. Degrease the pan, add the wine and reduce until evaporated.

4. Add the tomato and simmer slowly until the liquid has almost evaporated and the mixture is beginning to stick to the bottom of the pan, about 20 minutes.

5. Add half of the water and cook 10 minutes. Add the remaining water, season with salt, cover and cook gently for 2 hours. Taste and adjust the seasoning, and cook until the ingredients are completely broken down, the gelatin from the meat has bound the sauce slightly, and the flavor is rich and melded, about 1 more hour. Taste and adjust the seasoning.