Family Recipes
The following is my interpretation of my father's pasta sauce
as it has evolved for me over the years. It isn't healthy or fast.
But people will fall in love with you and follow you around if you
feed it to them--this is how my husband came into the picture.


  Jennie Ver Steeg,   Northern Illinois University

Jack's Spaghetti, Sausage and Meatballs a la Jennie
First, you must find an Italian grocery store where they make their own 
sausage. I suggest Graziano Brothers, over 100 years in the same location, 
on Jackson Street almost to the Bottoms. Travel to Des Moines isn't cheap, 
but.....If that is impossible for some sad reason, the sausages must above 
all be hot, not sweet or breakfast sausage, ans you should have a pound of 
links and a half pound of bulk sausage. A hot sausage is made hot by 
crushed dried red pepper, fennel and paprika--I have in desperation
(As  when I made this in  Idaho--a beautiful place, but not full of ethnic 
groceries) rubbed paprika, red pepper, fennel seed and garlic into the links.

At some point before you eat, prepare the meatballs. You will combine:
•one cup fine soft Italian bread crumbs
• pound cheap hamburger
•the  pound bulk sausage
•one large egg
•three cloves garlic minced
• cup Romano cheese
•parsley
•black pepper
•a bit of crushed fennel seed
•a bit of red pepper

Handle them as little as possible, form balls and set aside.
Brown the sausage links. Remove from skillet. Brown the meatballs in the 
same skillet. You may need to add a bit of olive  oil--but resist putting 
in any more than 1/4 a cup.  If they still stick, add low salt V8. When 
they are brown and at least hot all the way through,  move from the skillet, and scrape the crusty bits off the bottom. Don't get  rid of them--just scrape. In the fat from the sausages, saute one green pepper, one red pepper, one  yellow pepper, all chopped, two cloves of garlic, crushed, and one huge  onion, diced, until soft. You may add a glass of red wine, some red wine  vinegar or some low sodium V8 if you need more liquid. When they are soft, transfer them to a large heavy Dutch oven (or
something  similar), and add a 28 oz.can  of crushed tomatoes, one of 
diced tomatoes,  and a can of tomato sauce the next size down. May I go 
out on a limb here  and suggest Hunt's for the tomato sauce and Progresso 
for the other products. Have a couple of cans at the ready, and a little 
can of tomato  paste, to doctor the sauce as it cooks. Add the following, 
to your taste: oregano, basil, thyme, two bay leaves, rosemary,  crushed.
I use dried, because ...another Des Moines confession....the Tone spice 
factory has been in the city for a gazillion years, so I support my  
hometown economy, and I know how much to add of all these spices.

Remember  a few things: one T. of dried spice= 3 T of fresh
don't add too much basil and oregano at the outset--time and heat diminish 
their flavors, so we will add more toward the end.
Bring the pot to a nice rolling bubbling simmer, then add the sausage and 
meatballs. Simmer, lid slightly ajar, for two or three hours. Stir every 
now and then and check that it isn't burning to the bottom, and add liquid 
if it becomes too thick to stir, such as wine or even water. In the last 
fifteen minutes  of cooking, add  c. red wine, a tablespoon of  olive oil,  big pinches of basil and oregano and  c. Romano cheese.  In the meantime cook the pasta, and drain it. Don't blanch it--if it  was  good pasta to begin with, the starch it sheds should be gone by now anyway,  and any left will help the sauce cling to the pasta. And for the love of  Mike don't overcook the pasta! Do the fridge test: throw a piece of pasts  at the side of the fridge. If it sticks, it's likely done. If it falls, it  isn't. Now plate it up, add more cheese, a salad, some garlic bread,
and a  sophisticated glass of diet cola--and buddy, you are there.
White Trash Stroganoff
This next recipe is my mother's, given to us by my sainted Aunt Marcene.
The name of the dish is relatively recent--I may have been in my thirties
before I realized that what my mother called beef stroganoff was not what
the rest of the world called beef stroganoff. She was getting off easy!
This recipe may not make people follow you around, but I have bribed old
roommates to do the dishes or pay the light bill with it.
Brown a pound of ground chuck.  Drain the fat from the skillet.
Add three cloves garlic, crushed, a T or so of dried onion, and  1 t. of 
paprika. Let them blend a bit while you open: a can of cream of chicken 
soup. Add the soup, and a soup can of water, to  the skillet, and let 
simmer on medium or so for fifteen minutes to half an  hour, then reduce 
heat to low. In the meantime, boil up a package of Kluski noodles. When 
the noodles are ten minutes out, add 8 oz. of sour cream to the  skillet 
and let it heat slowly. Drain the noodles, and you can figure out the rest. 
For those of us who have the guts to stand up for cream soups and shun 
those fancy schmancy mushrooms, this is manna from the white trash gods, 
who, incidentally, probably live in Des Moines.
Stay tuned next time for recipes that show a bit more class and breeding...
and a lot less Des Moines!