FARGO - One year my sister and I decided to honor our ancestors and make an authentic British feast for Christmas Eve dinner. Among other things, we dined upon Yorkshire pudding, plum pudding and sticky toffee pudding. (Apparently, the British Empire was built on pudding.)
Most of it was pretty tasty, but it was super time-consuming and left a gigantic mess in the kitchen. So instead of having a relaxing "all is calm" Christmas Eve, we were clattering dishes in the sink for hours.
A couple of years ago, we decided to follow the KISS principle. In this case, "keep it simple, sisters". We made spaghetti and meatballs with garlic bread. A simple dinner that would definitely keep the stress level low. It was a big hit.
No one seemed to mind that we didn't slave over the stove all day. Instead, we whipped up the dinner, quickly did the dishes and had a great night with family.
This year I've decided to make spaghetti and meatballs again, but I'm upping my game by making a new recipe from the Chairman of the Board himself - Frank Sinatra. It's hard to believe that the legendary crooner would have turned 101 years old this month. (He died in 1998.)
We know his hits, his style and his swagger, but you might not know Sinatra was also at home in the kitchen, frequently cooking for guests in his Palm Springs home. He even introduced his own bottled spaghetti sauces to grocery stores in 1990.
In his book, "Mr. S: My Life with Frank Sinatra," George Jacobs, who worked for Sinatra from 1953-1968 as a valet and sometimes chef, said everything he learned about cooking for his boss came from Sinatra's parents.
"His dad, Marty, was an even better cook than his mother," Jacobs wrote. But the classic Sinatra sauce is actually his mother Dolly's marinara recipe.
After following the recipe exactly, I decided to do it "my way" and add another ½ teaspoon each of the oregano, basil and Italian seasoning. Apparently, I like a little more "oomph" to my sauce than Ol' Blue Eyes. Everything else was perfect - super flavorful and much better than bottled sauce. In fact, I think I've got this sauce under my skin. It's that good, baby.
But what is spaghetti without meatballs? Sinatra (or his publicist anyway) shared his meatball recipe in the late '50s or early '60s with California radio station KMPC in its cookbook "Cook with the Stars". It's a pretty standard meatball recipe with the exception of mixing the bread crumbs and eggs and letting them sit for a few minutes before adding the meat.
The Sinatra's spaghetti meal came together in less than an hour. Serve it with salad, bread, wine and a chocolate dessert. It's a lovely Christmas Eve dinner fit for any Rat Pack.
Best of all you won't be doing dishes into the wee hours of the morning.
Sinatra Spaghetti Sauce (Dolly's Marinara Sauce)
½ cup of olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 ½ teaspoon of oregano
1 ½ teaspoon of basil
1 ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring until tender - about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring until the oil is fragrant and seasoned - about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes.
Heat to simmering, and cook on low heat until the sauce thickens - about 20 minutes. Add the oregano, basil and Italian seasoning and mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Cook on low heat for another 15 minutes or so as it thickens. Serve over ½ pound of cooked pasta.
Recipe altered from recipe found in: "Mr. S: My Life with Frank Sinatra" by George Jacobs
½ cup water
1 cup fine bread crumbs
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 pound ground beef
½ pound ground pork
½ cup grated Italian cheese
Mix eggs with water. Add bread crumbs, salt, pepper and garlic. Let stand for 5 minutes. Mix beef, pork and cheese together and combine with bread crumb mixture. Shape into balls.
Brown in pan lined with olive oil. When outside is brown, finish cooking meatballs in 350-degree Fahrenheit oven for 15 minutes.
Recipe courtesy: KMPC "Cook with the Stars"