Thursday, January 6, 2011


Is this Dutch, German, Midwestern?  Whatever it is, it is not Italian.  I called it Mom's Dutch spaghetti, pasta cooked all afternoon. The name was not important to my children.  It was always the first thing Mom's grandchildren wanted her to make when they visited her in Grand Haven.  This is the recipe our grand-daughter said she had to when she was only 4 years old.  My Grandpa didn't like red sauces but he like Mom's spaghetti.  I hope I get the chance to cook this for the sixth generation, my great-grandchildren 

Mom didn't know any Italians to tell her that pasta is served al dente, but she did know enough about good food to be very fussy about the brand of spaghetti she used. As a child, I can remember being sent to a particular corner market to get the special long spaghetti wrapped in dark blue paper that she liked. It was the only time anything was purchased from that store and I seemed to be the only one who went there.  I can't remember much about the store but it seemed poorly lite and dark with the spaghetti in its dark wrapping on the bottom shelf.

Today in the spirit of my Mom, we get our spaghetti at Fortino's in downtown Grand Haven.

It is wrapped in white paper and on the bottom shelf.

Doing these recipes for Michigan Cottage Cook is flooding my memory of being young and in the kitchen with my Mom and Grandma.  As clear as looking out the window at the snow falling is the memory of standing by the stove as Mom broke the long spaghetti into short pieces.  I asked her why she did and she replied that it is easier to eat that way. 

Professional chefs salt everything element that goes into the preparation of a dish.  I grew up in a household that was rather salt-free as my Grandma had heart trouble.  I don't add much salt as I cook preferring to add it to the finished dish on the plate where it is on top of the food and hits the tongue immediately.  However in making Mom's spaghetti I make an exception and salt as I go.  Mom babysat her spaghetti and fussed over it all afternoon. She achieved a flavor that is difficult to duplicate in our busy world. I have found that if I season the meat while I am cooking it, salt the water for the spaghetti and add the sugar to the tomatoes that it is easier to get closer to the wonderful flavor Mom’s spaghetti had.

Enjoy my Mom's gift to you.

What is tomato sauce?  It is hard to imagine today with the supermarket aisles filled with spaghetti sauces and pastas, the bookstores filled with books on Italian food, and the food channels filled with how to cook pasta dishes that in the 1950' and 1960's, Italian food was not common in the Midwest.  The following recipe from my Mom is what we ate for spaghetti.  In the middle 1960's, I was a junior in college and cooking a dinner for my apartment-mates.  The recipe called for 8-ounces of tomato sauce and I had no idea what tomato sauce was!!!  I used Heinz Chili Sauce, the chunky ketchup that is used for shrimp cocktail sauce.  It was the 1970's before I was in a real Italian restaurant and that was on The Hill in St. Louise with my dear friends Mike and Nelda.

What I used for tomato sauce before I learned what tomato sauce is.

Recently I was looking through an old church/community cookbook in an antique store.  There was a recipe for Baked Spaghetti.  Laurie of Grand Haven was looking for such a recipe.  I read down the list of ingredients and the spaghetti sauce was made with a cup of ketchup and a can of cream of mushroom soup.  My family was not the only one who didn't use tomato sauce.  

Our family comfort food which gets even better the second day.  You need a good quality spaghetti to stand up to the long cooking time.

1 lb. spaghetti, cooked and drained
1 to 2 lbs. lean ground beef
2 to 3 medium onions, chopped
1 (1lb.12oz.) can whole tomatoes, no seasonings except salt, crushed
2 cans tomato soup, undulated
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 T or more Worcestershire sauce
2 t sugar
(Sometimes I add a couple of cloves of garlic, minced. Mom never used garlic.)

Ingredients:  Good quality ground beef, spaghetti, tomato soup, whole tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, onions, sugar, salt and pepper.

The easiest way to prepare this is with an electric frying pan. Brown the ground beef, onions and garlic, if desired. Drain well.  Mix together the cooked spaghetti, browned meat and onions, stewed tomatoes, one can of tomato soup, a half soup can of spaghetti cooking water, sugar and Worcestershire sauce.  Simmer on low heat, stirring often.  Gradually add second can of soup and another half can of cooking water from spaghetti as the spaghetti simmers.  Mom would start this in the early afternoon and simmer it until supper time. 
Electric frying pans seem to have gone out of vogue so I cooked the Mom's Spaghetti in a slow cooker.

Add add the ingredients except second can of soup to a slow cooker.  Cook 1 hour on HIGH.  Reduce heat to LOW, stir in second can of soup and second half soup can of  spaghetti cooking water.  Cook for another 2 hours or more on LOW.  Must stir occasionally during the cooking time.

Brown meat in a skillet until no pink is left.  Drain.

Break spaghetti into pieces for easier eating.

Chop onions.

Saute in the pan that meat was cooked.

Cook spaghetti in boiling salted water according to package directions or until al dente.

Before draining, save some of the cooking water to use later.  This is one thing I learned from TV cooking programs.

Drain spaghetti.

Put cooked meat, cooked onions and salt in a slow cooker.

Add the juice from the canned whole tomatoes.

Crush the whole tomatoes with your hand.

Add crushed whole tomatoes to meat mixture.

Add one can of tomato soup and a half of a soup can of spaghetti cooking water.

Season with Worcestershire sauce.

Add sugar.

Mix in cooked spaghetti.

Mix well.

Cover slow cooker and cook for 1 hour on HIGH.

Reduce heat to LOW.  Add second can of tomato soup and half of a soup can of spaghetti cooking water.  Mix well.  Cook another two hours or more, stirring occasionally.

Before serving, remove a small amount and check for seasoning.  Add seasoning if necessary. 

Reday to serve.

Be comforted and enjoy!!!!

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