Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Grandma’s Spaghetti


Last week, after Passover ended, our kitchen shelves filled once again with bread, cereal, grains and pasta. This time of year always calls for a hametz-filled dinner with pizza or spaghetti and usually a beer or two (no beer during Passover either).  And when you say spaghetti in our house, it always means my mother-in-law’s spaghetti!


We used to call this spaghetti Mom’s Spaghetti, but over the years it has been lovingly renamed Grandma’s Spaghetti by my sons. Bob’s mom, Ann, did not have a large cooking repertoire, but what she did have was marvelous, with some delicious gems like peach dumplings and homemade fried corn tortillas for taco night.


When Bob and I were engaged, Ann shared her spaghetti sauce recipe in a Cordes family cookbook that was given to me at my wedding shower. This hearty, homey spaghetti has been warming our bellies ever since.


This is total comfort food. A simple sauce is made with ground beef, mushrooms, onions, garlic, oregano and tomatoes. It is incredibly satisfying and easy to make for a weeknight dinner. In fact, I usually double the sauce to have leftovers for lunches. And we always serve it with elbow macaroni, just as Ann did when Bob was growing up (she said feeding three kids long spaghetti noodles was just a mess). When the answer to, “What’s for dinner?” is answered with “Grandma’s Spaghetti!” then all of my boys are happy.


I miss my mother-in-law. Ann was a character, had a lively personality and loved a good story. I have many memories of her heartwarming laugh. She is dearly missed and was a Mom to many of us during her short but colorful life. This Mother’s Day, it will be 15 years since she passed away. Eating her spaghetti and telling stories of her antics evokes warm memories for Bob and me and helps our boys recall their pistol of a Grandma.

Grandma’s Spaghetti
Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 cup mushrooms, sliced (we love mushrooms, so I usually double or even triple this amount)
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 pound ground beef
1 28 ounce can whole tomatoes, chopped (keep the juice to add)
1 6 ounce can tomato paste
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Cooked elbow macaroni for serving

In a large Dutch oven or fry pan, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced onion and cook for a few minutes, until it begins to soften. Add the garlic and oregano and stir. Add the mushrooms, stir and cook for a few minutes. Add the ground beef and break it up with a spoon. Stir and cook until the beef is mostly browned with just a little pink left. Add the chopped tomatoes with their juices, tomato paste and a teaspoon of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to start. Stir and bring the sauce to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the sauce thickens, about 30 minutes. Give the sauce a stir and taste for salt and pepper. Ladle over macaroni and enjoy.

31 comments:

  1. Looks so warm and satisfying Hannah; I could probably eat all of it! After a week of fast food (I maybe should not have packed my kitchen so early?), I'm so ready for a home cooked meal!

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    1. Oh, I wish I could cook for you, Barb! Moving is so draining, emotionally and physically, and a home cooked meal would definitely hit the spot. I can't wait to see what you start cooking in your new kitchen! I hope the move goes smoothly - take good care.

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  2. I adore mushrooms in spaghetti sauce, this sounds amazing, nothing like Grandma's home cooking!

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    1. So true, Suzanne! Simple, cozy and delicious - all the warming traits of Grandma's cooking.

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  3. Hannah - this dish is so special and so comforting. Those are gorgeous pictures!!

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    1. Thank you, Alyssa - very kind of you! This is indeed a special dish for our family. It's packed with many years of memories, and hopefully many more to come.

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  4. Oooh, Hannah. Spaghetti is my ultimate comfort food. My mom has pictures of me on my first birthday absolutely covered in tomato sauce and noodles--it's always been my favorite thing to eat! Perhaps it would have been less messy if I had been eating macaroni instead! This sauce sounds lovely, especially with mushrooms. Thanks for sharing such a special family recipe :)

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    1. My pleasure, Brianne. What a terrific first birthday meal you had! Spaghetti really is good at any age, isn't it? I do love the mushrooms in this one - they add so much great flavor and texture. Hope all is well with you!

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  5. I wish I have a recipe from my grandma, but I don't really have any recipes from her (I should actually ask my mom if she has any). I love meat sauce like this... it's actually my most favorite food growing up. I'd love to try this recipe a try next time I make. Look absolutely delicious.

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    1. Thank you, Nami! I hope you enjoy the sauce. With your lovely blog you're creating a wonderful collection of your cooking, so one day your grandchildren can cook their grandma's recipes. So special to carry this from generation to generation!

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  6. Old family recipes are so special, aren't they? I love every spaghetti sauce I've ever had, and this one looks excellent. Mushrooms add so much to a pasta sauce - grandma really knew her stuff! Thanks for this.

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    1. It's a pleasure to share some family gems, John! I do love old family favorites and am happy to pass them on to the next generation. So much to cherish!

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  7. A compelling post! From the family nostalgia to the robust recipe, a joyful celebration of family! I wish I had recipes from my grandmothers. I would love to know more of my families history through the lens of the kitchen!

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    1. Thank you so much, Deb! I appreciate your kind words. I love your phrase "through the lens of the kitchen"...very true that we can feel connected and learn so much that way. Have a lovely weekend!

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  8. Love this - the same simple approach to sauce I grew up with and it is my starting point for most spaghetti sauces I make. Sounds like our MIL's may have had some similar characteristics. She was a pistol, had a small cooking repertoire but how I wish I had those Korean recipes, and she left us far too soon.

    A lovely post Hannah!

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    1. Thank you, Beth! The simple techniques are always the best, aren't they? And yes, our MIL's do sound very similar. I'm sorry she is no longer with you. Korean family recipes would certainly be a treasure -maybe we could do a cooking project sometime to try to recreate some favorites. xx

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  9. I love that you made this with macaroni. It seems not to get used often enough for how fun of a shape it is. And your mother-in-law sound like a character indeed. I'm so glad you have a way to keep remembering her. Isn't it amazing how food can do that?

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    1. It really is, Mikaela! Food memory is truly remarkable. And in addition to being a cute shape, macaroni is fun to say, too! I hope you have a wonderful weekend! We're off to the Ms game...I guess the roof will be closed tonight. Sigh, hope our sun returns soon!

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  10. Gorgeous! I adore all comfort foods, but a good spaghetti with red sauce and a great red wine? Doesn't get much better than that!

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    1. Thank you, Erina! This really is cozy comfort food. I don't even need the noodles...just a bowl of this sauce makes me happy (with a glass of wine!). :)

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  11. Beautiful, perfect comfort food! Even better when it evokes such wonderful memories, I love how food can do that...it often makes for the ultimate comfort :)

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    1. You're so right, Mairi - food memories are quite strong and I appreciate when they're warm, delicious ones such as this.

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  12. Hannah, this looks so comforting and so delicious. I remember very distinctly all the amazing food my grandma made for me growing up..very fond memories. This looks so beautiful and I love the addition of all the mushrooms for intense flavor.

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    1. Thank you, Brandi! The mushrooms really make the sauce and add such good texture and taste. I'm happy you have warm memories of your grandma's cooking - so special to share in this way from generation to generation.

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  13. What a lovely post. You know how I enjoy a family recipe and a good family story. Thanks Hannah.

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    1. Thank you, Aunt B! I do know how much you appreciate family recipes and stories. They are treasures! :)

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  14. Nothing like grandma's cooking! You did great with this recipe, Hannah :)

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  15. Hannah, wonderful recipies but also some of the best food photography I have seen here on this site. Thank you. I follow you now. Carina

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    1. Hi Carina, thank you for your kind words! It's a pleasure to connect through food. I'm happy you stopped by and look forward to visiting your site. Have a great weekend!

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