Steve's Pasghetti Pie

This is really Clara's Spaghetti pie:  my grandmother's recipe, passed to my Aunt Evelyn, who gave it to my mom, who gave it to me. I now give it to you.  

My brother Steve adores this. It can be an appetizer, it can be the main dish with a salad, or it can be a side for soup. It tastes good hot, room temperature, or cold right out of the fridge at 2AM. And as we discovered last night, it's divine with a smear of leftover pesto.

In the recipe below, the last 3 ingredients are not Clara's. They are my own tinkering, which is what you're supposed to do with a family recipe. You all get together and something like this is served and everyone knows Cousin Jane makes spaghetti pie with extra onions. Aunt Ethel uses raw onions, not fried. Aunt Mary puts in raisins. Aunt Betty leaves out the salt because of Uncle Jack's high blood pressure so nobody really likes Aunt Betty's spaghetti pie.

But everyone loves Clara's.

Clara's Spaghetti Pie

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1-2 large onions, diced (originally 1, I like a lot so I use 2, and I like using a mix of yellow and red onion)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese
  • fresh ground pepper

Pick a large frying pan with a handle but not too high sides. My largest one does have high sides which makes sliding the pie in and out a little tricky.

Fry the diced onion in olive oil. Do not be stingy with the oil (hey, I'm just repeating the directions, Grandma said don't be stingy!) The onions should brown on the edges.

Take the pan off the heat and put the onions in a large bowl to cool down.

Meanwhile cook 1 pound of spaghetti and generously salt the water. You will not be adding salt later on so you want the water a little more seasoned. Cook the paste until just al dente. It will cook more once you put it in the frying pan.

Drain the pasta and rinse with very cold water. Drain thoroughly again.

In a medium bowl, beat 4 eggs with the parsley, parmesan cheese, and 3 or 4 grinds of the pepper mill. Add the cooked spaghetti to the large bowl with the onions, pour the egg mixture over all and combine well.

In your pan there should be some oil left from frying the onions, but add more if it seems too dry and put on medium-high heat until shimmering. Dump in spaghetti-egg mixture and smooth out to fill the pan. Turn heat down to medium and cook until nice and brown on the bottom. Every now and again take your spatula and run it around the edges and a little bit underneath.

Slide the pie onto a large plate cooked side down.

Call your brother and tell him you made spaghetti pie and he should leave now.

Now the tricky part: hold the plate in one hand like a tray, take the frying pan with your other hand and invert the frying pan over the pie. Keep your hand on the bottom of the plate and push up. Hold on tight to the handle and keep pressure down. 1-2-3, turn the whole operation over. Now the uncooked part of the pie will be down in the frying pan and ready to brown.

It usually takes 5 to 7 minutes per side to brown well (enough time for your brother to drive over).

Slide onto large plate or platter (I like to use my big wooden cutting board) and cut into wedges, reserving at least half for your brother.

My mom says spaghetti pie can be frozen in foil and warmed up in the oven (it should be thawed first). However I cannot attest to this because I have never seen leftover spaghetti pie in my life.

Madame von Meatball: How it All Began

Holy schmidt, I found my old recipe book.

Does everyone have something like this at one point or another? A notebook or composition book with recipes torn from magazines and newspapers, some pasted or taped in, some loose? This was mine. I'm looking through the pages as if looking through an old yearbook.

Oh my God, the eggplant rollatini. I made this dish for the first time when Jeeps and I were dating, at his parents house in Ridgefield. I laugh to think about this now. I just went over with a grocery bag of ingredients and the recipe torn out of Redbook magazine, took over their kitchen and made dinner one night. Thank God my future in-laws were such groovy people. I really need to make this again...

*Gasp* The nectarine-kiwi tart! I never made this but I had aspirations to. I mean look at it, is that not divine?

And then, from myriad of clippings tucked between the pages, I found this:

This, my friends, is what I wrote down one day in the spring of 2001, when my mother came over to my house in Croton Falls to teach me how to make meatballs.

We were a wreck.

Not because of anything bad between us. We were just on shaky ground. Two years prior, we had closed the dance school my mother had run for over 30 years, the school where I had grown up, and where I had taught with her for 9 years. We lived, ate, drank and breathed the school. I'm sure it wasn't all we talked about, but it seemed like it was all we talked about. 

Now, suddenly, our common thread was tied off and clipped. Suddenly there were awkward silences between us. I felt like I had to get to know my mother all over again, and she me.

I was also in the grip of serious post-partum depression. I was twelve pounds underweight, fighting terrible anxiety attacks, trying to deal with going back to work, trying to figure out motherhood as well as daughterhood.

My mother came over to cook. I know she was upset and scared for me, but she was so gentle. She didn't offer advice, she didn't try to fix it. She just came over to cook.  

We made meatballs in gravy. I think we may have even made spanikopita that day, too, but I mostly remember making meatballs. 

I remember asking her, for the first time, "Did you want to have a lot of children?" (There is just my brother and me, but I wondered what her vision of a family had been when she was young). I remember her drinking a cup of coffee and furrowing her brow before she responded, as if this was the first time anybody had asked her. We talked about children. We talked about mothers. We talked about food. Together, stumbling, we began the steps of a new dance.

It was the day my mother began to become my friend.

I make meatballs by rote and instinct now. I don't need these pieces of paper anymore. But I'm going to keep them forever because they are more, so much more than a recipe.