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I grew up with spaghetti and meatballs.  It was just an everyday staple at Mom’s kitchen table in spite of our lack of Italian ancestors

Mom’s recipe grew out of early marriage memories made during my parent’s first trip back east.  While I was there too, I was not yet a year old.  So it was seven or eight years later that I first heard the story of how we once stayed at a small Vermont roadside motel with a nearby restaurant.  Mom recalled that the tables of the quaint restaurant were covered with red and white checked tablecloths.  And there she and Dad enjoyed a dish of spaghetti and meatballs.  I’m not sure whether it was Mom’s first taste of spaghetti, but I know it was this meal that inspired her to recreate the sauce from memory.

Her recipe was simple.  She served it anywhere and everywhere.  She served it in her home to large family gatherings, it was her favorite take-out bereavement meal and she would often package up leftovers to send home with her youngest grandchildren Abigail and Annie.  It was my father’s favorite meal.

Perhaps it’s the memory of Mom that lives out in my own life that causes me to give away this meal to others.  I’m not really sure.  But in January this year, I prepared it for a couple of master gardening friends in recovery from orthopedic surgery.  And this Christmas season, I’ve made a couple of batches as gifts for a few special folks in my  life.

As with all the best recipes, Mom’s recipe is splattered with who knows what ingredients from years of much use, though I’ve used another recipe for almost 10 years now.   Yet, I still make Mom’s meatballs; I smile at the memory of once calling them light bulbs, not knowing the difference between one label and the other.  And really, there is truth under this childhood memory —  because no matter what ingredients and labels are used, a gift of a home-cooked meal is about love beyond all else.

Both sauce recipes are included for the sake of posterity.  Enjoy either or both — from my life to yours.

Spaghetti Sauce with Meatballs

Serves 4 to 6   Sauce made in advance is better the second day —  allow 2 hours for preparation

Serve over 1 16 oz box of spaghetti, cooked al dente per package directions


2 slices of sandwich bread soaked in 1/4 cup milk – mix together until fine. Mix with:

2 pounds lean ground beef
1/4 to 1/2 cup finely minced onion
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Mix together and form into flattened golf-size balls.  Mother cooked in a skillet over low heat until done — I cook mine in a 9×13 pan in a 350 oven for an hour.  When cooked through, drain and add to sauce as it cooks.

Mother’s Spaghetti Sauce

Serves 4

2 15 0z cans tomato sauce
2 Tbsp sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 Tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
1/8 tsp garlic powder
2 medium bay leaves

Simmer in a large sauce pan over low heat for 1 to 2 hours

Janell’s Spaghetti Sauce

Makes 12 cups — Divide and freeze extra sauce for simple future meals

Saute until tender in dutch oven over low heat:

2 Tbsp olive oil
6 finely chopped celery stalks
1 cup finely chopped onion

Add following and continue to simmer over low hear for two hours, stirring occasionally:

2 28 oz cans tomatoes, processed in blender until smooth
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
1 12 oz can tomato paste
1/2 cup of ketchup
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
2 garlic cloves crushed
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 cup water
1 cup red wine (not cooking wine)
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp sweet basil
1 tsp allspice
1 bay leaf
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper