Every family has those recipes that are associated with home. Those dishes that your mom prepared that everyone loves, those are your comfort foods. Those are the recipes that are taken to potlucks, passed around and handed down to the next generation. When you smell them cooking it takes you back to mom's kitchen. No one can cook like Mom! Here is one of those recipes from my mom's kitchen.Did you ever wonder where the term comfort food originated? Are you surprised to learn that the whole idea of comfort food was born in the heart of a home-a mother's kitchen? There are a lot of words associated with mothers and comfort is definitely at the top of the list. I think when you become a mother, your heart is forever changed, and your soul awakens to a new purpose, a new song and a new existence. Part of loving and caring for a child, as we moms do, is making sure they are well fed. In the process of loving them and feeding them, we create many special food centered moments that are the beginnings of many great memories for our children. The term comfort food originated in mom's kitchen. For some it originated in grandmother's kitchen. Who ever it was for you, we all have those meals. Those meals that instantly put a warm feeling in our heart and take us back to special places of our past. Comfort food, it is one of my most treasured heirlooms.
My mom with my daughter, Macey in 2002.
...and the two of them in 2010.
I have so many special comfort food recipes that originated for me in my mom's kitchen. She was always cooking, entertaining and feeding the masses. She was indeed a great cook. Holidays were always over the top with the food. No one ever left our house hungry! The food was always great, and I looked forward to all my favorites at every meal. The icing on the cake, no pun intended, was being surrounded by so many family and friends. The way we grew up, a get together just wasn't a get together if there were not at least ten people involved. Ten was on the conservative side too. It was not uncommon for us to have 20 plus people for meals, especially on holidays. I miss those days so much! Now getting everyone together is very few and far between because every one is so spread out and has families of their own.
Today I am featuring one of my favorite comfort dishes my mom made, baked spaghetti. She would often cook a large dish of it and it was always accompanied by garlic bread and a wonderful green salad loaded with all the goods!
I have a real weakness for bread. Add garlic to bread, it is even better. In my opinion, add garlic and cheese, and it is over the top. I think I have passed my love of garlic bread and garlic cheese bread to my children. Whenever we go out to the local Italian or pizza restaurants, we are all craming the bread in so that we can get as many pieces in before it is gone. If only bread was figure friendly! A girl can dream, can't she?:)))) I sure hope in Heaven that there is a good cook, and calories and weight gain are non- existent. Now that is a great thought, isn't it?
It is just Carter and me this weekend. Dad and Macey are on an Indian Princess Father Daughter Camp Out. Carter has a friend spending the night and they are hungry. Since Carter loves spaghetti, I decided I would make my mom's baked spaghetti and garlic bread for the boys. I had so much fun cooking, and reminiscing about all the wonderful times we shared this dish in my parent's home. My most fond memories are coming home from college on weekends, and walking in to a house full of the wonderful aroma of baked spaghetti and garlic bread.
I often wish I could experience that one more time, one more day. I loved it back then, but I did not fully understand how sacred those times were. I was grateful, but you never understand the importance of something, and how much you cherish it until it is gone. You see, my mom had a stroke in 2005. She was actually sick long before that, and we just did not realize it. So, probably about two years before her stroke, she stopped cooking, or cooked very little. It was sad because she had always taken so much pleasure in feeding loved ones. Now, she simply cannot cook. She has the desire, but she is not able to stay on task, organize steps and follow through. Also, her memory is poor, and that is a hindrance to cooking as well. I guess I am grateful she did so much cooking when she could. I only wish I could have known that like a thief in the night, suddenly and without warning, that aneurysm would come in and rob her of her capabilities. I suppose life is about not knowing. It is also about trusting and and believing in the only thing we do need to know-we are children of a loving God who has our lives mapped out in the palm of his hands.
One great way I reconnect with those wonderful times past is cooking. I love making dishes my mom and grandmothers made. It is calming, therapeutic and very good at connecting me to all the wonderful food centered memories stored away in my memory treasure chest-my heart. What wonderful heirlooms our memories are! Now, lets get cooking!
All good spaghetti, baked or otherwise, starts with a good sauce. This sauce is simple, has few ingredients and does not take long to make. I suppose you could just go ahead and put this over any kind of pasta and add a little cheese if you didn't want to bake it.
A necessary ingredient for a good pasta is salt. Go for Kosher or Sea Salt. No table salt here please. Be sure and season your boiling water before you cook your pasta. Also, do not add the salt until the water is boiling. Pasta should be cooked to al dente. My grandmother always taught me that. Al dente, al dente, al dente...she would always say. Al dente means the pasta is slightly undercook and is a bit chewy when you bite into it. Remember, with baked spaghetti it is going to cook more, so you definitely need it AL DENTE! One trick my grandmother taught me was if you take a piece of the cooked pasta and throw it at the backsplash and it sticks, it is ready. If it does not stick, it needs to cook more. That works, or you can just scoop a piece out and try it!
My Mom's Baked Spaghetti Recipe:
1 lb. ground chuck
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 tsp. crushed basil
1/4 tsp. thyme
1 T oil--olive oil
2 cans tomato soup
1 can tomato paste
2 soup cans of water
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 medium Bay leaf
Cook you spaghetti in liberally salted water until it is al dente. Brown the chuck, garlic, onion, thyme and basil. Add the soup, water and tomato paste, bay leaf, salt and pepper and cook on low 15 minutes stirring often. The sauce will thicken up nicely. Remove the Bay Leaf. Combine the sauce with the drained, cooked spaghetti and stir in the Parmesan Cheese. Put in a greased 9x13 pan and bake at 350 for 25 minutes. In the meantime, put together a wonderful green salad, and bake some garlic bread!
A few sneak peeks:
This is so creamy and decadent...I just LOVE it!
Garlic bread...I love you!
Are you swallowing hard yet? Is your mouth watering? I am, and mine is!!:)))
The finished product looks something like this:
Right out of the oven, I garnish the top with even a little more Parmesan Cheese. Use whole wheat spaghetti and lean ground chuck to keep this dish on the lighter side if you want. You could also use a whole wheat garlic bread to be more health counscious. Which ever way you do it, it is sooooo good. This baked spaghetti is creamy, silky and so luxurious. It is a true party in your mouth. It is very savory and you will find yourself relishing every bite. Stir it up just before serving and listen to it sing to you. It is so moist and creamy and it truly makes music when you give it a stir.
What are some of your favorite comfort food dishes? Make one this weekend, and take a beautiful stroll down memory lane. It is sure to brighten you day, and put a song in your heart. Until we meet again friends, happy cooking and merry memory making!