• Spaghetti on Sunday: Remembering Nan Kempner

    by  • 31 Mar ’14 • profile • 6 Comments

    nan4Nan Kempner has been on my mind lately. It started last month when I commented to my friend Danielle Rollins that her book Soirée (one of my favorite books) reminded me of another favorite book, RSVP by the late Nan Kempner. As it turns out, RSVP inspired Danielle’s beautiful book. Then, over the weekend, Dallas designer Pam Kelley commented on a Facebook post. Pam wrote, “Sundays are the hardest for me. Not Sunday morning, but Sunday evening. I never liked it as a child, and still do not as an adult.”

    Pam’s comment resonated with me. I felt the same way…until I read about Nan Kemper’s famous Sunday night spaghetti buffets. Nan lived in the same sixteen-room duplex at 79th and Park for over 45 years. An invitation to Nan’s famous Sunday-night spaghetti dinners was coveted one.  It was Nan’s Sunday suppers that inspired my Soup on Sunday. It gave me something to look forward to…both cooking and seeing people I love around the table. Nan once said, “The secret is not lavish menus, place settings and flowers, but imagination and great friends. Some of the best parties are done with spaghetti.”

    So this Sunday we made spaghetti. It was a hit with both kids and adults. My recipe is below (along with my secret ingredient …baking soda).

    nan3 nan1Spaghetti Meat Sauce

    2 lbs ground beef
    1 small onion, chopped
    3 -4 garlic cloves, minced
    1 (28 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
    2 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
    2 (15 ounce) cans tomato sauce
    2 cups water ( for a long period of simmering to meld flavors; less if short on time)
    3 teaspoons dried basil
    3 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
    2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
    1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/42teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
    1/4 teaspoon fresh coarse ground black pepper (or to taste)
    1/4 cup red wine
    a pinch of baking soda (to reduce acidity)
    1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

    In large, heavy stockpot, brown beef, breaking up as you stir. Add onions and continue to cook, stirring occasionally until onions are softened. Add garlic, tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce and water. Add basil, Italian seasoning, parsley, brown sugar, salt, crushed red pepper, and black pepper. Stir well and barely bring to a boil. Stir in red wine. Stir in another pinch of baking soda; the sauce will foam. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick and almost brown. Make sure to scrape the sides of the pan in to the sauce. Simmer on low, stirring frequently for at least an hour.  A longer simmer makes for a better sauce. Add water if it cooks down too much. Add Parmesan cheese. Taste sauce. If it is too tangy or acidic, add another pinch of baking soda and simmer another 1/2 hour.

    Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Spoon sauce over drained spaghetti noodles and sprinkle with more parmesan cheese if desired.

    Serves 8

    6 Responses to Spaghetti on Sunday: Remembering Nan Kempner

    1. 31 Mar ’14 at 5:55 pm

      HOw do I count the ways to make great pasta! Thank you for this insightful post Ronda….Nan’s thoughts are wonderful

      Art by Karena

    2. Daphne
      1 Apr ’14 at 5:56 am

      I, too, own this book. I have devoured any publicity on Mrs, Kempner for years. From photos in Town and Country magazine to her fashion retrospective. She was a real role model for me.

    3. 1 Apr ’14 at 3:11 pm

      LOVE this! Also covering all the food choices, Vegan, Vegetarian, Meat eater…everyone is happy! Also love the serendipitious sequence of the books!
      Thank you, must get.

      Sweet Bohemian Life

    4. MJH DesignArts
      1 Apr ’14 at 3:13 pm

      Hi Rhonda, So interesting. Last week a friend mentioned to me that he really disliked Sundays……..I hadn’t thought about my own memories of childhood Sundays…..not the best. I attempt to pull the entire family (we are now numerous) together at least one Sunday a month with good simple child-friendly dinners with good wine and plenty of love. Love this recipe–baking soda? I’ll try it.
      xoxo Mary

    5. lissy parker
      1 Apr ’14 at 3:16 pm

      What a wonderful idea for Sunday evenings. I too hate getting ready for the week to come.
      Thanks for the inspiration.
      xo, lissy

    6. Maureen Sullivan Stemberg, Interiors
      1 Apr ’14 at 4:24 pm

      Great article on Nan Kempner.
      She is and always will be a true
      icon. Speaking of food Nan, had
      everyday… Peanut Butter , honey
      and a banana for breakfast!