if there is any recipe in this book that could stand as a
totem for the kind of food I grew up on, it is Jewish Spaghetti.
To this day, it serves as the ultimate comfort food for every
member of my family. It was so much a part of our vernacular,
that we thought it was a recipe shared by Jews throughout
the Diaspora. When I realized that no one at school had the
foggiest idea what I was talking about when I referred to
it casually in conversation, I was crushed like a Hunts tomato.
Jewish Spaghetti is a recipe that originated with my great
grandmother Eva. It was made by my grandmother and her three
sisters. It is made regularly by my mother. I can't think
of a piece of sole breaded in matzo meal and fried in butter
without a scoop of Jewish Spaghetti on the side. It isn't
really spaghetti, or even Jewish, for that matter, at all.
But never you mind.
If anything, Jewish Spaghetti probably has its roots in Italy.
I had a revelation once when I was cooking in Italy and the
chef for whom I was working was preparing the employee meal-spaghetti
in tomato sauce. I was in Piedmont at the time, and in that
region every pasta dish is finished with a generous dose of
butter. The tomato sauce had been made fresh from those sweet
Sicilian tomatoes that are hung to dry slightly to concentrate
their flavor and sugar content. Made with fresh pasta, the
end result was as close to Jewish Spaghetti as you could get.
I was so excited I telephoned home to share my discovery with
my family. Everyone at the restaurant in Italy thought I was
Unlike its Italian cousin, Jewish Spaghetti is best if it
is made in the morning and reheated at night. You can reheat
it in a pot on the stove, or in a casserole that you bake
in the oven. My mother dots the top with a little extra butter
before she heats it up. It is also good cold from the fridge.
about 8 servings
1 pound dried pasta, preferably a small, compact shape,
such as rotini, fusilli, elbow macaroni, ditalini, tubettti,
shells, or similar
stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1/4 cups (1 15-ounce can plus 1 8-ounce can) Hunt's Tomato
Sauce, not Italian style, not salt-free, just the regular
to 6 tablespoons sugar
teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
freshly ground black pepper
a large pot of salted water (about 4 quarts water with 1 1/2
tablespoons kosher salt) to a boil. Add the pasta, stir, and
cook until just past al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain. Do
a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add
the tomato sauce, sugar, salt, and pepper. The amount of sugar
necessary will depend on the sweetness of the tomato sauce-yes
in this modern, standardized, industrialized age, every can
of tomato sauce still has a slightly different flavor. Add
the drained noodles and stir to coat. Turn off the heat, cover
and let sit several hours at room temperature so that the
noodles absorb the sauce.
serve, reheat in one of two ways: Transfer the pasta to a
2-quart baking dish. Dot the top with about a tablespoon or
so of butter, cover with aluminum foil, and bake in a preheated
350-degree oven for about 30 minutes. Remove the cover and
bake a few more minutes until crisp on top. Alternately, you
can just reheat the pasta over a low flame on top of the stove,
stirring frequently to prevent burning.
isn't even spaghetti! Truth be told, you can use just about
any shape of pasta to make this dish, but I prefer the smaller
shapes. My mother's favorite shape these days is rotini. But
like the flavor of every can of tomato sauce, the name of
every shape of pasta changes among brands. One company's rotini
is another company's fusilli. Find a shape you like and stick
with it. If you want to use spaghetti, break it up into smaller
piece as you put it in the boiling water to cook.
I get kick-backs from Hunt's. Nope. But over the years my
family has tried every different brand of tomato sauce on
the market. And the only one that gives Jewish Spaghetti is
characteristic sweet, tomatoey flavor is the one made by Hunt's.
much should I make? This dish is good at any temperature:
hot, cold, lukewarm. Because my mother always let it sit on
the stove all day, she had to make extra to compensate for
the tastes we would sneak whenever we would pass through the
Don't even try to make this with anything except butter. It's
sacrilegious and unappetizing.