Sometimes finding & figuring out a vintage recipe is like a treasure hunt. I found this one for “Mrs Frank Sinatra’s.. Spaghetti & Meatballs” via Pinterest. A few clicks later & I found out it was from the WFBL Cookbook of the Stars, made in 1945 by a radio station in Syracuse, NY that aired the Frank Sinatra Show (Wednesdays at 9PM according to the clipping). As a vintage cookbook collector, I will admit I’m geeking out slightly & would love to get my hands on a copy of this cookbook. I’ve located a 1941 edition which apparently contains a recipe by Ronald Reagan (in his acting days) on Etsy. Which is cool too, but alas no recipes by “Old Blue Eyes”.
This recipe, like many vintage recipes can be a little hard to follow for the cooks of today. Modern recipes are written assuming that their reader knows nothing about cooking. Every step is laid out in detail. While vintage recipes assume their reader knows their way around the kitchen a bit & leaves out a lot of minutia.
It’s probably ridiculous, but I like to imagine Frank, with an apron over his well-tailored suit, whipping up meatballs, sauce, & spaghetti for Sammy, Dino, and the gang. They of course enjoy the meal with some fine red wine. And later cocktails, naturally. Hence the rename on this recipe…
Rat Pack Spaghetti & Meatballs
For the meatballs:
- 1/2 lb ground beef
- 1/2 lb ground pork
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1/2 C grated Italian cheese, (Parmesan is fine)
- 2 large eggs
- 1 C bread crumbs (I used Italian-style)
- 1 tsp parsley, finely chopped
- Kosher salt & black pepper, to taste
For the sauce:
- 1 large can (28 oz) Italian-style tomatoes (I like to use crushed)
- 1 small can tomato paste
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1 tsp ground parsley
- 1/2 C EVOO
- a few shakes of thyme
- Kosher salt & black pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 350F
- Make the meatballs. Combine all ingredients in a stand mixer. I used my medium Pampered Chef scoop (2 tbsp) to create 36 even-sized meatballs.
- Lay out the meatballs on a greased baking sheet. Cook for about 30 mins, rotating the pans at the 15 min mark for even cooking.
This is the only picture i managed to get of the meatballs before they were devoured by my teens.
- Meanwhile, start the sauce. In a large pot (it will need to be large enough for the sauce and the meatballs to fit into comfortably) heat the EVOO over med-high heat. Add the onion & garlic & cook until golden.
- Add the tomatoes & tomato paste. Stir to combine. Fill the tomato paste can with water & add to the mixture, stirring frequently. If desired, add a tomato paste can full of dry red wine. This is my contribution, not Frank’s.
- At this point, I used my hand blender to even out the sauce so that it had fewer chunks. Also, my contribution. Season with salt & pepper, thyme, and parsley.
- There are 2 schools of thought with regard to meatballs & sauce. Simmer the meatballs with the sauce, or add the meatballs after the sauce simmers. Frank was a meatballs-in-the-sauce guy. Simmering your meatballs with the sauce will give it a greater depth & meatier flavor. Though opponents of this method argue that it can make the meatballs soggy. Per Frank, add your meatballs to the sauce & summer on medium-low heat for 1 hour.
- When you’re ready to serve, cook your spaghetti according to package instructions, drain well, and top with desired amount of sauce & meatballs. Top with grated Parmesan, if desired.
For more vintage recipes check out my Pinterest board Vintage Vittles!
Remember back in February when I visited one of my favorite Missouri wineries? No worries if you don’t, here’s a flashback to that wino field trip. While I was on that trip, if you will walk down memory lane with me, I picked up this little beauty:
When I tasted this guy and his spicy sweetness, I knew I needed to cook something with him. I thought about it for awhile, ultimately going back and forth between carnitas or chicken wings. Obviously I chose the carnitas, but I still think chicken wings would be really good too. Unfortunately, the mead is gone so another field trip may be in order…
Many of the existing carnitas recipes I ran across were crock-pot carnitas. I’ve made crock-pot carnitas before, and they were fine, but for this recipe I decided to use my Dutch oven. It’s a lovely 8 qt. Martha Stewart in bright orange that coordinates nicely with my vintage LeCreuset stuff, and I use it a ton.
Making carnitas can be a little time-consuming, but the finished product is well worth it. In fact, the finished product is so tasty (not to toot my own horn, but TOOT!) it may be gone in a shorter time than it took you to make them. That’s what happened at my house. I only managed to get ONE photo before they were descended upon by my teens…
Honey Orange Chipotle Carnitas
- pork shoulder roast (the one I used was about 5 1/2 lbs)
- 1 large onion, cut into big chunks (eighths)
- 1 1/2 tsp regular Adobo seasoning
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- one navel orange
- 1 bottle Windy Wine Company Chipotle Mead
- Adjust your oven rack to lower position and preheat oven to 300F.
- All your ingredients will go into the Dutch oven. I like to leave any fat on the roast & trim it off after cooking to add moisture and flavor. Even the orange peels will cook with the roast & impart their citrus notes. Pour the mead over top of all the ingredients.
- On the stovetop, bring Dutch oven to a simmer over medium-high heat, uncovered. Once a simmer is reached, cover the pot & transfer it to the oven. Cook for about 2-3 hours until the meat is falling apart.
- Allow to cool several hours, or ideally, overnight.
- Once cooled, you can remove the meat from the pot and begin to separate it, removing the fat & any bones or connective tissue (a shoulder will have 1 small bone). I like to do this with my hands, so I can feel the fat, meat, connective tissue etc easily.
- While you are separating the meat, remove the onions, and orange halves from the pot, leaving only cooking liquid behind. Reduce this liquid over high heat until thick and syrupy. It will take about 20 mins for the liquid to reduce.
- Tear the meat into bite-size pieces (think pulled pork) and spread evenly on a baking sheet covered with foil.
- Pour 4-5 ladles of reduced cooking liquid over the meat.
- Bake in a 300F oven for about 15 mins or until browned and a little crispy on the edges. Move meat around and flip during cooking as needed, usually every 3-5 mins.
- Serve on warm corn tortillas, with desired accoutrements such as avocado, tomatoes, lettuce, and onions.
The headcheese is done! It was a busy weekend but I finally had the chance today to unmold my headcheese from it’s mini loaf pan home.
It’s meaty and gelatinous enough to hold it’s shape fairly well. My one kid who would eat it said he liked it better than the store-bought headcheese he tried last week; because it had more meat.
While I was running across recipes looking for something to do with all the headcheese I now have I ran across a Banh Mi. My understanding is that many different types of sandwiches can be called a Banh Mi, but headcheese is a fairly typical filling. So tonight I fixed up some Banh Mis, with French bread, headcheese, mayo, sriracha, lettuce, tomato, cucumbers, and pickled veggies. I didn’t make my veggies in an authentically Vietnamese way, I bought a jar of of the Italian-style pickled veg (cauliflower, carrots, peppers, and cucumbers). This was in the interest of getting the headcheese on the sandwich and the sandwich into my belly and onto the blog ASAP. Making Vietnamese pickled veggies is on my to-try list though (see my Pinterest).
I think that perhaps I’m more comfortable with Vietnamese cuisine than with other Asian cuisines because of the French influence. I’m trained on the classically French tip, and that’s what typically feels comfortable for me.
Quick Little Banh Mi
- hoagie-sized baguette
- 2 slices headcheese
- 1 tbsp mayonnaise
- 3-4 slices of tomato
- 3-4 slices of cucumber
- 1-2 leaves Boston Bibb lettuce
- a big spoonful of pickled veggies (someday soon there will be recipe link here)
- a few drops of Sriracha (to taste)
- Cut the baguette in half length-wise and width-wise. Scoop out a bit of the inside of the bread if needed.
- Spread the mayonnaise on the bottom piece of bread, drizzle with sriracha.
- Put the the headcheese on the top half. Press down and spread if necessary.
- Dress the sandwich with the veggies and press down lightly.
Making headcheese was a fun & interesting experience. I learned that I still like doing homemade charcuterie. I learned that people are apparently really squeamish when it comes to animal heads and other obscure animal parts. People that I really didn’t expect to be. I also learned that there are folks that think it’s wicked cool (these are the people who have random food pictures in their phones and don’t think it’s odd when there’s pictures of a pig’s head in yours).
The end of last week I began to assemble my headcheese. First, I scooped the creamy white fat off the top of my stock. Surprisingly there was close to 2C of it! Below the fat, the stock was thick and gelatinous. I put it on the stove to liquefy and reduce and began chopping my meat. The meat was much easier to chop when it was cold. I put about a handful and a half of chopped meat into a foil mini loaf pan (filled it about 2/3). I had the perfect amount of meat to fill 10 mini loaf pans. It took about half an hour for the stock to reduce once it came to a boil (about 45 mins from the time I put it on the stove). I added about 2 ladles of stock to each of the loaf pans. You can fill the pans as close to the top as you feel comfortable. Once all the loaf pans were full I wrapped them with plastic wrap and put them in the fridge to chill. After 4-5 hours the headcheese had started to solidify, but I would give it 10-12 hours before you try to unmold it.
Today I finally found a pot big enough for my hog’s head. It’s 33 qts. I coarsely chopped 2 large white onions, a pound of carrots (unpeeled, ends cut off), a head of celery (leaves left on), & peeled and smashed about 10 cloves of garlic. When I took the head his vacuum-packaging I gave him a quick rinse in the sink and shaved his scruff with a paring knife (fun). So now the head is simmering away in the pot with the veg, enough water to cover and a few dashes of Kosher salt. I don’t know if it was necessary but about halfway through the cook time (it will be about 6 hours in total), I flipped the head over, because I was concerned whether the snout was getting fully cooked (it was sticking out of the water a smidge).
Here’s the fully-picked clean skull. Also, I learned that a dough hook can double as a meat hook in a pinch (because who has a meat hook laying around the house anyway?).
Currently, I have a container of chopped-up usable head-meat ready to go in my fridge. The broth has been put through a strainer & cheesecloth and is way more gelatinous than I had anticipated. Hoping to get everything assembled and working in loaf pans by the end of the day…
So today I ventured out to Paradise Locker Meats to pick up a pig’s head. The plan is to try to make some headcheese. You guys should know that this a whole new thing for me. I didn’t grow up with this kind of stuff, I am a suburban girl. Having said that, charcuterie was my favorite class in culinary school. I’ve made aspics & terrines, so hopefully I will be able to successfully pull this off.
For now, my new porcine friend is in the fridge, defrosting. Probably for a few days. Also, something a bit disturbing: he has a bit of a 5 o’clock shadow.