Chow Town

Remake of popular Spaghetti Pie recipe uses grill for added flavor

Spaghetti Pie ready to take off the grill
Spaghetti Pie ready to take off the grill Special to The Star

The other day I was scrolling through Facebook when one of my friends, Stacey Lukas, posted a recipe called Spaghetti Pie.

Many people were commenting about how this dish reminded them of childhood or that they had learned how to make this dish in Home Economics class.

I had never heard of it before. If you’re a reader of my blogs, you might recall that we didn’t really cook a lot at home when I was growing up, except for maybe tacos and chili, so I’m all excited to learn about a new-to-me comfort food.

After reading the recipe, I wondered where Spaghetti Pie came from. After doing some Internet research, here’s what I found:

▪ The dish originated in Chicago, like a spaghetti version of a deep dish pizza.

▪ It was a dish made for church socials and then gained in popularity.

▪ Spaghetti Pie was created for Al Capone because he liked both deep dish pizza and spaghetti.

I contend that someone just said, “Hey, I need to feed a lot of kids, let me see if this will work.” I could see that the Internet was getting me nowhere.

So as usual, when I need to find more answers about food and origins, I consult an expert. This time I look up fellow Chow Town blogger and restaurateur Jasper Mirabile.

According to Jasper, there are quite a few versions of Spaghetti Pie. His family did a version where they fried leftover noodles and meatballs to create a dish. He also remembers a family member that made a version where they cooked down onions and green peppers and then added hamburger and finally layered the pasta to fry.

He told me he made this the other night at 1 a.m. after coming home from his restaurant (Jasper’s, 1201 W. 103rd St.). I might have to give that one a try myself sometime.

Still a bit inconclusive, but I’m going to move on and figure out how to make a version of Spaghetti Pie on the grill. After all, that’s what I do.

The recipe that was posted on Facebook looked OK, but I felt like it needed a “Grill Mayor” overhaul.

First of all, I wanted to use a more flavorful sauce than what was proposed. I have a red sauce that I make for pizza that my wife and I refer to as Grill Mayor’s Favorite Red Sauce. It’s a perfect red sauce for pizza or pasta, so let’s start with that.

Next, I’m going to swap smoked Italian sausages for the suggested sautéed turkey or hamburger. And, since I’ll have the grill going to cook the sausages, I’m going to finish the dish up on the grill to add a little smoky essence. As I always say, “cooking outside tastes so much better and is a heck of a lot more fun.”

I hope you’ll take the time to make this and let me know what you think. (You can reach me at grillmayor@gmail.com.) Maybe this will bring back some old memories, or perhaps create some new ones. Or maybe it will be a good chance to clean out your fridge. Enjoy!

Grill Mayor Spaghetti Pie

4 Italian sausages hot or mild

1 1/2 cups Grill Mayor Red Sauce (recipe follows), divided — or your favorite red sauce

12 ounces spaghetti, cooked al dente, keeping 1/2 cup cooking water in reserve

3 large eggs

1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese, divided

2 cups shredded mozzarella, divided

2 tablespoons olive oil

Grill set up: Set up your grill for a two-zone fire with medium heat (350 to 450 degrees). A two-zone fire means having heat on one side and no heat on the other side. If using a charcoal grill, put all of your lit charcoal on one side and a disposable aluminum drip pan on the other side. If using a gas grill, just ignite one side. NOTE: Some gas grills light front to back versus side to side. In that case, light the back half of the grill and keep the front half off.

Smoke: If using a charcoal grill, add a chunk of smoking wood or chips that have soaked in water for 30 minutes and then drained, directly onto the fire and place the lid back on the grill, ensuring that the vents are over the sausages. If you have a gas grill with a smoker box, follow those directions and then close the lid.

Cook the sausages: After the grill has heated up for at least 10 minutes and the grates are cleaned, place the sausages on the side of the grill without the fire and directly over the drip pan. This is referred to as the indirect cooking method.

Cook until done, about 20 to 30 minutes or until an internal temperature of 160 degrees is reached. Remove from grill and set aside. Remove the aluminum pan. Add more briquettes (8 to 10) to keep the heat up in the 350 to 450 degrees range. This will be needed to cook the spaghetti pie.

While the sausages are cooking, you can make my favorite red sauce. This sauce will make 2 1/2 cups, so you’ll have some leftover sauce.

After the sausages are cool enough to handle, remove the sausage casing. Slice each sausage in half lengthwise and then chop each half into 1-inch pieces. Place the sausage pieces in a food processor and pulse until you get a loose grind. About 5 to 6 pulses. If you don’t have a food processor, just finely chop the sausage.

In a bowl, combine the ground sausage, 1 cup of Grill Mayor sauce.

In another bowl, combine the cooked spaghetti and  1/4 cup of the reserved pasta cooking water. Next add the eggs, 1 cup of Parmesan, 1 cup of mozzarella, and  1/2 cup of the Grill Mayor sauce. Using tongs, toss until well combined.

Grease a disposable aluminum pan (approximately 10-inch-by-13-inch) with the olive oil. Place the greased aluminum pan inside another identical aluminum pan for stability. Then spread half the meat mixture over the bottom of the pan. Add the spaghetti mixture, using a spatula to level the pasta out. Top with the rest of the meat mixture, and then add the remaining Parmesan and mozzarella on top.

Place the pie on the indirect side of the grill (the side without heat). Add a very small chunk of wood to the charcoal for smoke. You can also use a small handful of soaked and drained wood chips. Place the lid back on the grill with the lid vents directly over the food. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and slightly browned. Half way through the cooking process, rotate the pie 180 degrees for even cooking.

When done, remove the pie from the grill and let it sit for 10 minutes. After all, nobody wants to burn roof of his or her mouth onm the bubbling cheese. Slice into appropriate serving sizes and enjoy.

Grill Mayor’s Favorite Red Sauce

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 cup grated onion, from 1 medium onion (use the large holes in a box grater)

1 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves or 2 teaspoons dried basil

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon leaves

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

Fresh ground pepper

Heat butter in a large saucepan over medium heat until melted. Add onion, oregano and kosher salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has evaporated and onion is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes, sugar, dried basil (if using), onion powder, garlic powder, thyme and tarragon. Increase heat to high, and bring to simmer. Lower heat to medium-low and simmer until reduced to 2  1/2 cups, 25 to 30 minutes. Off heat, stir in oil and fresh basil (if using). Finally, season with salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.

Craig Jones is a live-fire cooking expert, the Grill Mayor for Food Network (2012), and owner of Savory Addictions Gourmet Nuts. He’s also a certified KCBS BBQ judge, a student of pizza crafting and an enthusiastic supporter of the greater Kansas City food scene.

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