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
½ pound cheap hamburger
the ½ pound bulk sausage
one large egg
three cloves garlic minced
½ cup Romano cheese
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 ½ c. red wine, a tablespoon of olive oil, big pinches of basil and oregano and ½ 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!