Nana’s Texas Spaghetti is an original creation of John’s maternal grandmother, Janie Cook Smith (Nana to the grandkids). When John and I first started dating, I would suggest that we have spaghetti for supper, and he would refuse. For the longest I thought that he just didn’t like spaghetti. Then we visited his parents. Turns out, he would only eat his grandmother’s spaghetti.
We sat down to a spaghetti supper, his mom served my plate, and I thought that I must have misheard what we were having for spaghetti. The food on my plate looked nothing like the pasta and bottled Ragu that my Mom usually served. There was a layer of spaghetti noodles, a layer of cheddar cheese, and a layer of meat sauce. And by meat sauce, I mean meat sauce – there were very few tomatoes. And it was spicy, with Rotel. But being a polite guest, I started eating and discovered to my delight that while their spaghetti was nothing like my Mom’s, I liked it!
On a later visit John’s mom taught me how to make the spaghetti, and it’s the only recipe that I have used since then. I lost the recipe that she wrote out for me in one of our many moves, so I’ve been making the recipe from memory for a few years. And, I must confess that I’ve tweaked it a little bit, adding the optional can of tomatoes, substituting gluten free pasta, and now making it with tofu rather than ground beef. But the recipe that follows is Nana’s original recipe as best as I remember it, and taste-tested and approved by John’s mom.
Nana’s Texas Spaghetti
1 Tbsp. canola or olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1.5 lbs ground beef or turkey (or one container extra firm tofu)
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. gluten free Worcestershire sauce
1 14.5 oz. can petite diced tomatoes (a second can is optional)
1 10 oz. can tomatoes & diced green chiles
12 oz. package gluten free spaghetti
2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1. Saute the diced onion and pepper in a large skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes
2. Add the ground meat to the peppers and onions, breaking the meat into small pieces as it browns. Continue doing this until there is absolutely no pink left in the meat. Drain any excess oil from the pan before proceeding.
Drain the tofu and press out as much water as possible. In a separate skillet heat another 2 Tbsp of oil over medium-low. Crumble the tofu into the skillet and cook it as if you were browning meat. The tofu will not actually brown, but it will dry out. Once the tofu seems lighter in weight and is not leaving any liquid on the skillet when you stir, then it’s ready. Add the tofu into the onion and pepper mixture.
3. Add the garlic powder, Worcestershire sauce, canned tomatoes, and Rotel to the meat or tofu mixture and simmer over low for 45 – 60 minutes.
4. Cook the pasta according to package directions, drain and set aside. (If it will be a few minutes before you can move on to Step 5, then toss the pasta with a teaspoon of olive oil so that it doesn’t stick together)
5. Once the sauce and the pasta are done, it’s time to assemble. Grab a 2 quart casserole dish and spread the spaghetti across the bottom. Sprinkle the 2 c. of shredded Cheddar cheese in an even layer over the spaghetti. The last layer is the meat mixture – scoop up some of the meat with a slotted spoon and then use another slotted spoon to press down on the meat so that all of the liquid is expressed. Then put the spoonful of meat on top of the cheese and repeat untill all of the meat has been added to the dish. Sprinkle parmesan cheese on the top and you are ready to eat.