It’s Just The Best Spaghetti In The Whole World; That’s All

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One place our family went to a lot when I was a kid was Madame Turci’s Italian Restaurant in New Orleans. The man and woman who ran the place were famed opera singers in Italy in the 1920s. I understand that the restaurant closed down in the early 1970s. Too bad; it was super!

A friend from the Shorpy.com nation (Hi, Colleen!!!) found for me a recipe for the spaghetti sauce they served at Turci’s; she found it here:


The site has, among other interesting info about New Orleans food and restaurants, over 600 recipes you can try!

Here’s the Turci’s spaghetti recipe from that wonderful site. My daughter is reluctant to cook with chicken innards, but I’m encouraging her to try cooking it anyway. It’s a two-day process.

Spaghetti Ala Turci

  • Stock:
  • 1 small whole chicken (gizzards, liver and heart reserved)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 onion, cut into chunks
  • Leafy tops from 1 bunch celery
  • Stems from 1 bunch parsley
  • Sauce:
  • 1 pound ground veal
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • Gizzards and heart from the chicken above, chopped
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 lb. ham steak with fat, finely diced
  • 1 8-oz. can tomato paste
  • 1 28-oz. can whole Italian tomatoes, pureed
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1/4 tsp. thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. basil
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • Meatballs:
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 cup freshly-grated bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 12 sprigs fresh parsley, leaves only, chopped
  • 2 eggs, beaten into a froth
  • 8 oz. white mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 lbs. spaghetti

1. Put all the stock ingredients into a saucepan with 1/2 gallon of water. Bring to a light boil, then lower to a simmer. Simmer for 90 minutes, uncovered. Strain the stock and set aside. Put the chicken into a food storage bag and into the refrigerator.

2. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy, large skillet over medium-high heat. Remove a fistful each of the ground veal and ground pork (put the rest into the refrigerator). Add the meats to the skillet, along with the chicken gizzards and heart. Let the meat brown well, then break it up with a kitchen fork. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

3. In a large saucepan or dutch oven over medium heat, heat the remaining olive oil until it shimmers. Add the onions, celery, and garlic until they get soft.

4. Raise the heat to medium-high. Add the tomato paste and the pureed tomatoes. Cook for about ten minutes, stirring constantly, until it gets thick and noticeably darker in color.

5. Add the chopped ham and the browned veal and pork. Continue to cook and stir for another three minutes.

6. Add 5 cups of of the chicken broth, and the thyme, basil, and oregano. Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer. Cover the pot and let it simmer for for two hours. Stir the pot, scraping the bottom well every twenty minutes or so.

7. After two hours, turn off the heat and let the pot cool for a half-hour. Spoon the contents into a large bowl or food storage container. Put it into the refrigerator overnight to let the flavors come together.

8. The next day–about two hours before you’re ready to serve–put the sauce back onto the stove on low heat. If it seems too thick after it warms up, stir in add a little more chicken stock.

9. Pull about two cups of chicken meat–a blend of white and dark–from the chicken you used to make the stock. Slice it if necessary into pieces the size of the tip of your little finger.

10. Make the meatballs next. Combine the salt, pepper, bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning and parsley with a fork. Wet your hands with cold water, and combine the remaining ground pork and veal with sprinklings of the bread crumb mixture and the beaten eggs. Handle all of this as gently as possible, rolling the meatballs into rough spheres about an inch and a half in diameter. Cracks should show around the outside. Gentle!

11. Heat 2 Tbs. of olive oil in a skillet until it shimmers. Drop a few of the meatballs in. Every few seconds, roll them around (gently!) until they’re browned all over (not cooked all the way through). Remove and drain. Keep going until all the meatballs are cooked.

12. Add the meatballs and the chicken to the sauce. Simmer for an hour, stirring only very lightly (to avoid breaking the meatballs). Add the mushrooms, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook another fifteen minutes.

13. Cook the spaghetti until still firm (six minutes or so). Drain and put it into a big bowl. Ladle about two cups of the liquid part of the sauce over the spaghetti and toss to coat. Serve in big bowls with the remaining sauce on top.

Serves eight to twelve.

Saturday Nights With The Usual Suspects . . .

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Music is a big part of my life. My aunt bought me a little kid’s record player before I went into the first grade, and she provided three 45 records with it: One was Elvis, one was Patty Page, and one was country singer Claude King. Stunned me; I had listened to radio, but being able to pick what I wanted to hear played opened up a new world.

Later, as a third grader, I was walking in the French Quarter of New Orleans one afternoon and saw a group of older men sitting in chairs on the sidewalk, jamming on some blues tune. I was gobsmacked; you mean regular folks can make their own music? Astonishing! Soon I had my aunt’s alto sax and was trying to play what I heard from those guys at Preservation Hall. It was so difficult to learn to play but that was part of the fun.

Seeing The Beatles on TV one Sunday night in early 1964 was another seminal event; I knew I’d switch from sax to guitar and bass.

Here are some of my musical buddies last night, playing in John Sapper’s backyard gazebo in Silver Spring, Maryland. We have a group of perhaps a dozen friends who get together most weekends to jam and sing. We call this assemblage The Usual Suspects, and we never know who will show up.

Last night, at John’s, it was John, Dan Collier, David Martin and me. I had already packed up my Telecaster when this song began, so I filmed it with my iPhone:

I belong to a more conventional band called The Gizmos, which plays blues, Bakersfield country, rockabilly and classic rock. I’ll try to get some video of that group soon!

Café Du Monde, 1965

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We continue our review of old color photos with one of the New Orleans of 1965.

When I was a kid we lived in Louisiana for a few years, and going to the Café Du Monde at the Farmer’s Market in New Orleans was always a big treat. The puffy and powdered beignets with the strong coffee in teeny cups was something I looked forward to. The location, then as now, was by the levee and the old Jax Beer factory.

In this photo are my mom, me with the glasses and my younger brother, Jeff. The nifty beige car behind my mom is a 1961 Plymouth Savoy.