It’s hard to do something truly simple for a dinner party — after all, the guests bring their lovely wines, they entertain you with their great conversation. You project onto them a certain level of expectation, and you want to do something to show your appreciation, something that isn’t so usual. Which rules out spaghetti. Or does it? Spaghetti could be simple, beguiling, something to put guests right at ease. But it’s a risk.

Our test group of eight came over for dinner tonight, all neighbors. We had spread the word that this wouldn’t be anything special, just an easy school night dinner. It seemed crucial to manage expectations. Nevertheless, I tried hard to make the case. I used San Marzano tomatoes and threw in fresh herbs from the garden. I simmered the sauce all day.

We had a beautiful table with heaping plates of pasta and an enormous bowl of neighbor Kimber’s fresh, delicious salad. As guests aimed their forks, I announced, as a last hedge, that we were eating Lopez Island beef, Wagyu beef. Soon the plates were clean, dessert was on the table, and then we were on to the couches, sipping port, telling stories, and groaning over full stomachs. What a great evening — and easy on the hostess. Can’t wait for a reprise.

Recipe: All-Day Spaghetti Sauce

1 onion, minced / 2 ribs celery, minced/ 2 carrots, minced / 2 lbs ground beef/ half-cup milk / 5.5 pound can San Marzano tomatoes / 2 cloves garlic, minced / ¼ cup chopped fresh oregano and thyme / salt and pepper

Saute onion, celery, and carrot in a little vegetable oil on medium heat, until the vegetables begin caramelizing, about 8 minutes. Turn heat up to high, add ground beef, and cook until the meat browns. Add milk, turn down heat, and simmer until evaporated, scraping up the brown stuff on the bottom into the sauce. Add tomatoes, garlic, and chopped herbs. Cook on low heat for three hours or longer. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Feeds 14-16.