I ate spaghetti for a week.
Last month, when my gambling buddies and I made our annual trip to Las Vegas, we were in high spirits. We missed our trip in 2021 (thanks to COVID) and were determined to catch up.
Loving the drive this time of year, I was in the car with four friends. The drive from Solvang to Vegas takes seven to eight hours, and we found plenty of things to talk about to pass the time.
Naturally, at some point it turned into food. Sue Olivera’s Santa Marian broached the subject of her father’s favorite dish, the not-quite-traditional spaghetti recipe that was a family favorite when she was growing up. She promised to send it to me when she got home.
She kept that promise, and I did my duty and let him go.
The recipe is another retro recipe (there have been several recently), easy, filling and delicious.
The “tasty” part was a surprise. Sue’s dish called for an ingredient I knew about but didn’t use, Cheez Whiz. This o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o, the invention of Kraft Foods in the 50s.
I remember it as very salty and, at that time, somewhat expensive … almost a gourmet party.
It is now often used as a topping for corn chips, nachos, Philadelphia-style cheesesteaks, and hot dogs, and is also sold in Canada, Mexico, the Philippines, and Venezuela.
Various flavors are available including original, light, Tex-Mex, salsa con queso, Italian, bacon, and red pepper, I believe any of these could be used in Sue’s recipe.
I enjoyed getting to know Sue and hope to see her more than once a year. This year, one of her twin daughters, Jennifer, joined us on the desert hike.
Sue told me about her life before these trips. She grew up in a local town, her maiden name was Butler. This November, she and her husband Jimmy will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary.
The Butlers, thanks to Jennifer and her twin Don, have five grandchildren: two girls and three boys. Nice number, but keeps life busy. And then there are their 5kg Yorkies, Willow and Francesca, a Shih Tzu shelter.
As she and Jimmy celebrate their big anniversary, Sue confesses that Willow is “the love of my life.”
As for the recipe, Sue says the amount is easily adjusted to suit taste and servings. “I don’t really have accurate measurements,” she said. “I just remembered them in my head since I’ve been doing this for so long…enjoy.”
Although her parents are dead, Sue remembers that her father probably got the recipe from his mother.
I tried her recipe, which is great (which is why I’ve been eating spaghetti all week) and quite delicious. The kids will love it, and it’s quick, easy, and, aside from the ground beef, requires all the groceries from the pantry.
One note, like all pasta, it was a bit dry when I reheated it. I added one can of diced tomatoes, juice and all, and it was just perfect. Cheez Whiz has all the salt you need, plus it gives the sauce a light creamy flavor.
Now my only concern is what to do with 15 ounces (minus 4 tablespoons) of Cheez Whiz. Can be a good accompaniment to macaroni and cheese; I can try.
In the meantime, here is the recipe in her own words.
Thanks Sue, let’s have lunch!
DAD’S SPAGHETTI RECIPE
1 pound ground beef
1 pack of 16 oz spaghetti
1 can of 16 oz tomato sauce
1 tablespoon butter
3 or 4 tablespoons Cheez Whiz
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder
Fry ground beef, season with pepper and chili powder. When ready, add tomato sauce and let it boil a little. Boil spaghetti, drain but do not rinse. Place in a large bowl, add butter and Cheez Whiz, toss…then pour the sauce over the spaghetti and toss. Enjoy!