vintage

Vintage Vittles #2: Rat Pack Meatballs & Sauce

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

Ingredients: 

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

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

     
  4. 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. 
  5. 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. 
  6. 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. 
  7. 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.
  8. 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! 

Vintage Vittles #1: Pickled Cherries White House Cookbook (1902)

I acquired the White House Cookbook from a friend who got it from her grandparents-in-law. She knew that I collect vintage cookbooks & text me some photos of the book to see if I wanted it. She warned me that it was not in the greatest condition, but the title & age of the book had me intrigued. 

This book is a beaut! It’s quite literally falling apart & leaves bits of binding & glue behind each time I crack it open, but hell, it’s over 100 years old!! There are some amazing butcher’s charts in the beginning (seriously, why are the pigs always so adorable in these?) that I may frame & hang in my kitchen if the pages continue to fall out. 

This happy little dude reminds me of a piggy I’ve met before….


Honestly, I’m not quite sure why it’s called the White House Cookbook. There are pictures throughout of various First Ladies, and there’s a section in the back about State Dinners & their table set-up & etiquette; but I cannot figure out any direct relationship between the author, Mrs Gilette & the White House. I researched her, although not extensively, and as far as I can see this was her only book. It seems Mrs Gilette & her knowledge of the White House is a mystery.

Look how pretty Mrs Taft is!

I wonder if the men enjoying cigars & liquor after dinner while the ladies “retire to the parlor” is still a thing.


I made a very interesting recipe from this book. Pickled Cherries. I was vaguely aware that you can pickle fruit; I’ve definitely enjoyed a pickled watermelon rind or two. You may have garnered that I have a deep love for anything pickled/brined. Cherries are one of my favorite fruits and really, what’s a more American fruit than a cherry? Sure, there’s apples, but I offer you the cherry blossoms in DC & the favorite George Washington chops down a cherry tree story as proof that cherries are as All-American as it gets when it comes to fruit. 

Here’s the original recipe as it appears in the book.


Vintage recipes can be a little challenging in a number of ways. First, many are written in paragraph form & take you through the entire process of making the recipe rather than giving you a list of ingredients followed by a procedure. Second, there’s a matter of sizes/measurements. Example: a recipe will call for a small onion. I am certain that a small onion by today’s standards is not the same as a small onion by 1930’s standards. Third, many vintage recipes assume that the reader has basic cooking skills mastered already, whereas today’s recipes generally assume the ignorance of the reader. Keep this in mind as we navigate the world of Vintage Vittles. 

Pickled Cherries

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of cherries (I used Bing)
  • 2 C white vinegar
  • 1/4 C granulated sugar 
  • 24 whole cloves
  • freshly-grated nutmeg (Mace is actually the outer part of a whole nutmeg. Unable to find mace, I grated the nutmeg with 12-15 strokes.)

Instructions:

  1. In a medium saucepan combine vinegar, sugar, cloves, and nutmeg/mace. 
  2. Bring to a boil & cook for 5 mins at a rapid boil, you will want the sugar to melt completely. 
  3. Remove from heat and cool pickling liquid for about 1 hour. Basically, you don’t want it to be scalding my hot when you pour it over the cherries. 
  4. Meanwhile, wash your cherries, remove the stems & pack them into a pint-size mason jar. (I left the pits in mine.)
  5. When the liquid is cooled pour over the cherries (I left the cloves/nutmeg/mace in the jar with the cherries & liquid. After all, they are pickles!)
  6. Cover jar tightly & allow fruit to marinate for several hours or overnight in the refrigerator.

These are great for snacking, tangy & sweet with just a hint of warm flavor from the clove/nutmeg. Best of all they keep their bite, because nobody wants a mushy pickle. They would be a great addition to a cheese board or a picnic. If I can stop eating them before they’re gone I may fashion a relish from them to go with some Brie.   

Frank’s Old-School Dumplings (Knedliky) #sevendaysofsoup

With colder temperatures & hearty soups comes talk of dumplings. In the same week that I first made Chicken & Dumplings, I got some texts from my childhood friend, as her dad was making some dumplings to go with a roast. He wanted to make him the way his mom did & was using several old cookbooks & reportedly some old chicken-scratch notes he had made. Why do I feel like this is going to be me when I get older? They were Czech dumplings, AKA knedlicky. I know many ethnic foods, but was unfamiliar with knedlicky. I inquired about the books being used, & received several pix starting with this one of a cookbook from the 1920s.

 And several dumpling recipes. I made this one, specifically because it was labeled knedlicky.  

  I love vintage cookbooks. Someday I’ll write a post featuring all my favorites. But vintage recipes are sometimes confusing. They are often written in a conversational tone, like this one, and sometimes the measurements can be a little sketchy. “Enough flour to make a thick dough…” would definitely not fly as instructions in a modern recipe. Here’s my analysis & translation.

Frank’s Old-School Dumplings (Knedlicky)

I’m told that these dumplings are “bread dumplings” and that Frank’s dumplings are not; but I’m keeping this title to pay homage to Frank & his manic dumpling-making. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 C whole milk
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter (this is adjusted from the original recipe’s 1 tsp which didn’t seem to be nearly enough)
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 1/2-2C all-purpose flour
  • 2 slices of white bread
  • butter or margarine for frying (I used plain old Blue Bonnet to keep things Old School)

Instructions:

  1. Beat 2 large eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.
  2. Add milk, butter (at room temp), & salt.
  3. Slowly add the flour 1/4 C at a time until a thick, slightly sticky dough is formed.
  4. Beat at medium speed for about 5 mins, until the dough comes together and starts to make a slapping noise on the bowl as it is kneaded.
  5. While your dough is being kneaded in the mixer, butter & fry 2 slices of bread & tear them into small pieces.
  6. Add your fried bread pieces to the dough and beat until combined. This seemed to be an odd thing to do, and scientifically I’m not really sure why you would add bread crumbs to a dumpling dough but in the spirit of making a vintage recipe, I went along with it.  
  7. The recipe calls for making your dumplings the size of a small apple. I’m thinking apples must have been much smaller in the olden days, because my dumplings came out HUGE. Not that that’s a bad thing, but you may want to go a bit smaller.
  8. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. When you drop the dumplings in they will probably sink to the bottom, and will probably need to be scraped from the bottom of the pot with a knife.
  9. Cover and cook 10 mins at medium-high.
  10. Serve with soups, roasts, and gravies.