My Mother’s Spaghetti :: Faster Isn’t Always Better


My mother used to make the best spaghetti and meatballs around. She immigrated to the United States from Germany in 1956 when she was in her early 20s. She came alone but had a lot of extended family already in the states who assisted in finding her a sponsor. Her sponsor was an Italian woman known as Ma Stow and she taught my mom how to make spaghetti and meatballs.

My mom is now 86 and has the beginning stages of dementia so she no longer makes the spaghetti and meatballs I grew up with. I have been working on perfecting her recipe to honor my mother and the memories they evoke from my childhood. I remember trying to recreate her recipe in my late 20s and thinking I would just leave it to my mom because it is a lot of work! Specifically, it is 2 days of work. I am now 56 and I wish I could say that by simply following her recipe it tastes the same, but it doesn’t yet. It is getting closer but I am not quite there! In fact, I don’t think it will ever taste the same but that is okay. It will always be Oma’s spaghetti and meatballs—just cooked by me.

The recipe my mom gave me in high school makes a small amount, but my Mom would always make big batches and then freeze them so we would have containers of sauce and bags of meatballs in the freezer. They were not frozen together; they get cooked together for around 5-6 hours then separated for the next day of simmering. You then add them back together when you make them from the freezer. The meatballs do not fall apart, always hold together very well, and taste like they have been cooking all day. My mother’s meatballs are made from ground beef and venison. We ate a lot of venison growing up because my Dad hunted for venison and elk to fill the freezer.

Today’s meals are all about how quickly we can get a meal on the table. It’s about shortcuts and time-saving. This meal doesn’t start out that way but when you have a batch in the freezer, it is definitely a time saver. There is no shortcut for slow-cooked flavor, however, and that’s ok, I love the anticipation of a crockpot meal. That is what my mom’s spaghetti and meatballs are to me: the anticipation of a two-day, slow-simmered sauce that actually gets better when it has been in the freezer for a few weeks and then heated up. 

Sometimes we need to stop and smell the roses or, in my case, the spaghetti sauce. Not everything needs to be quick or fast; some things are better when they take longer to achieve or when you have to work hard for them. These things are the most satisfying— like my Mom’s spaghetti. It’s a lot of work but nothing tastes as good. 

Set aside some time to do something that takes longer and remember why fast is not always better. Enjoy your reward of accomplishing something you had to put a lot of effort into. It will be worth it!