Dennis Patillo is a committed foodie and chef. He has spent a lifetime studying foods from around the world as well as regional cuisines.

Spaghetti and sauce

Spaghetti and sauce

COVID-19 has thrust us all into uncharted territory. There are so many more questions than answers. Our elected officials are doing an exceptional job and service keeping us informed of the latest news of the spread of this disease and the things that we can do to limit the spread. I hope, when you get a chance, you can pass on a word of thanks to Mayor Rawley McCoy and County Judge Ben Zeller.

Schools have paused classes. Restaurants and bars have all suspended in-house service. Many restaurants are attempting to transition to a pickup or delivery business model. Businesses are forced to furlough thousands of loyal employees. Both the federal and the state governments seem committed to mitigating the financial hardships of those neighbors who find themselves suddenly without a paycheck.

Things that we have taken for granted, like going to the grocery store, have become a challenge with long lines and limited supplies. There is no question in my mind that the supply and distribution issues will resolve, in short order, as we adapt to this new normal.

Through all of this we still need to eat. Some of our friends may be strangers or only remotely acquainted with the kitchen. Some may be looking for ideas to prepare a lot of good food for a small amount of money.

Louise and I grew up with parents who were children during the Great Depression. They learned to make a whole lot of food with very little. Louise remembers her mother’s hamburger stew. She remembers her mom softening chopped onions in some bacon fat (the bacon fat is a critical element of the flavor).

There was always a coffee can of bacon drippings on the back of the stove. She would then brown a pound of hamburger meat and add peeled and sliced potatoes to fill the large cast iron skillet to the top and cover with water.

She would bring everything to a boil and then simmer until potatoes were cooked. She would mix a tablespoon or two of flour into a coffee cup half filled with water to use as a thickening agent. She would slowly add this mixture to the stew, stirring constantly. Add salt and pepper to taste. Not low carb, but filling, this stew was served with ready-to-bake dinner rolls.

My grandmother would make enough tomato sauce, which she called succo, to feed an army. In a large stainless-steel pot, she would add chopped onions and chopped sweet peppers along with olive oil.

When softened, she would mix in a small can of tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly until the tomato paste darkened slightly. She would deglaze the pot with a big slurp of red table wine. Then she would add a No. 10 can of tomato sauce and a No. 10 can of whole tomatoes.

She would add about a tablespoon of dried basil, a teaspoon of dried oregano and a teaspoon of dried thyme. Sometimes, she would simmer this for 45 minutes, and sometimes, it would bubble slowly on the stove for hours. Into the pot she would add chicken pieces, Italian sausages, pork chops, and even chicken feet. Chicken feet were never my favorite.

On the first day we would eat the meat and the second and third days we would have spaghetti with the remaining sauce. I can still hear her say, “Mangia” (you eat), after she said grace.

Potatoes, pasta and rice are all great meal extenders. I have included a couple of other ideas. I hope you try them. You can double, triple or quadruple these recipes to make a lot. If you can, give some to your friends and neighbors. One thing I am certain of – Victorians all stand ready to help one another any way they can.

Stay safe, healthy and God bless you.

Dennis Patillo is a committed foodie and chef. He has spent a lifetime studying foods from around the world as well as regional cuisines. His passion is introducing people to ingredients and techniques that can be used in their home kitchen. He and his wife, Louise, own The PumpHouse Riverside Restaurant and Bar.

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