Nan Kempner has been on my mind lately. It started last month when I commented to my friend Danielle Rollins that her book Soirée (one of my favorite books) reminded me of another favorite book, RSVP by the late Nan Kempner. As it turns out, RSVP inspired Danielle’s beautiful book. Then, over the weekend, Dallas designer Pam Kelley commented on a Facebook post. Pam wrote, “Sundays are the hardest for me. Not Sunday morning, but Sunday evening. I never liked it as a child, and still do not as an adult.”
Pam’s comment resonated with me. I felt the same way…until I read about Nan Kemper’s famous Sunday night spaghetti buffets. Nan lived in the same sixteen-room duplex at 79th and Park for over 45 years. An invitation to Nan’s famous Sunday-night spaghetti dinners was coveted one. It was Nan’s Sunday suppers that inspired my Soup on Sunday. It gave me something to look forward to…both cooking and seeing people I love around the table. Nan once said, “The secret is not lavish menus, place settings and flowers, but imagination and great friends. Some of the best parties are done with spaghetti.”
So this Sunday we made spaghetti. It was a hit with both kids and adults. My recipe is below (along with my secret ingredient …baking soda).
2 lbs ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
3 -4 garlic cloves, minced
1 (28 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
2 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
2 (15 ounce) cans tomato sauce
2 cups water ( for a long period of simmering to meld flavors; less if short on time)
3 teaspoons dried basil
3 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/42teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon fresh coarse ground black pepper (or to taste)
1/4 cup red wine
a pinch of baking soda (to reduce acidity)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
In large, heavy stockpot, brown beef, breaking up as you stir. Add onions and continue to cook, stirring occasionally until onions are softened. Add garlic, tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce and water. Add basil, Italian seasoning, parsley, brown sugar, salt, crushed red pepper, and black pepper. Stir well and barely bring to a boil. Stir in red wine. Stir in another pinch of baking soda; the sauce will foam. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick and almost brown. Make sure to scrape the sides of the pan in to the sauce. Simmer on low, stirring frequently for at least an hour. A longer simmer makes for a better sauce. Add water if it cooks down too much. Add Parmesan cheese. Taste sauce. If it is too tangy or acidic, add another pinch of baking soda and simmer another 1/2 hour.
Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Spoon sauce over drained spaghetti noodles and sprinkle with more parmesan cheese if desired.