Don't sleep on beefy oatmeal
puttanesca sauce
Credit: Photo by lewty92 via Getty Images

"I'm a texture eater" is a thing I say to people, arrogantly assuming that they care what I put into my oatmeal hole. But texture really does matter to me. Put a baked sweet potato in front of me and I'll thank you because I'm not a graceless monster, but I'm not going to enjoy it nearly as much as if it had been cut or twirled into smaller pieces with infinite crunchy edges. Same goes for oatmeal. The problem for many people is that it's an abyss of gray sameness, spoonful after spoonful, and honestly, that's their fault. Would you eat a bowl of undressed spaghetti? If that's your jam, twirl on, but most of us need something to chew on. And it sure doesn't have to be raisins.

What I'm saying here is that you should consider treating your oatmeal (or grits or farina or whatever your hot morning mush happens to be) like pasta and get wacky with the sauces and mix-ins. My love for cacio e pepe oatmeal is documented, but it's as much for the crunch of the salt flakes and peppercorns as it is for the flavor. Do you dig a chunky pesto or the funk and chew of a puttanesca? Slop it on there. A chunky arrabbiata may be just the kickstart your engine needs on a chilly morning, and a sausage-studded sausage ragu just seems inevitable. (Alfredo would be weird, but it's weird on pasta, too. You know this to be true.)

No one is expecting you to arise before the crack of dawn to gin up a meat gravy, and it's generally accepted knowledge that most sauces benefit from a slumber party in the fridge so all the ingredients get a chance to braid one another's hair and do trust falls and whatnot. Use preexisting sauce for this and, hear me out, cook the oatmeal with broth or stock instead of water to maximize the flavor. You don't know you've been missing out on beefy oatmeal until you have had beefy oatmeal and then you will excoriate yourself for having slept on beefy oatmeal all this time. (Or chicken or mushroom or whatever floats your oats.) If you feel so inclined, bake the oatmeal (place 2 cups of oats and whatever seasonings you'd like in a layer in a greased baking dish, pour 2 cups of liquid beaten with 1 egg over the top, then then bake it at 350°F for about 35-40 minutes) and individually pan-fry it in slabs before you sauce them to add an extra element of crunchiness. If you were to add chopped herbs like rosemary, oregano, thyme, or basil during the process, some people might even call you a genius.

And cheese? Why would you even ask such a thing, save for the fact that most of us have been culturally conditioned to think of oatmeal as strictly a vehicle for sweetness? Add as much as is necessary to you personally, and let it melt, or let it get brown and bubbly under the broiler for a soupcon of extra pleasure and, yes, texture.