By Terri Peters
David, a medical laboratory scientist who posts to Reddit as orestes77, was pulling down some old pegboard in his Denver, Colorado garage when he found an envelope with “spaghetti recipe” written across the front hidden behind the wall.
“From the spot it was placed and the way it was worded, I am certain it was left there for a future owner to find one day,” David told TODAY Food.
David shared a photo for the recipe in the Old_Recipes subreddit recently, and his fellow vintage recipe enthusiasts were wowed by the ingredients list, which includes a gallon of chopped onions, five pounds of ground beef and a half cup of salt.
“It’s interesting that it makes so much,” David said. “Was it for a restaurant?”
Even more interesting is the painstaking detail the recipe writer, someone named Bill Engleman, takes with his instructions, giving specific directions to the market where he suggests purchasing tomato puree and leaving a phone number to call “if there is anything you don’t understand.”
David said his home was built in 1947. And though he’s not sure exactly when the garage on his property was built, he’s certain the recipe sat behind the pegboard for a very long time.
“I don’t know anything about the original owner of the house and Google searches came up empty,” said David. “I’ve tried to track down the market mentioned, ‘Parnelli’s just off 15th and Market,’ but have had no luck so far. I’ve always wanted to try to track down more info and see if I can share the recipe with the descendants of the author on Ancestry.com or email it to them.”
David said he hasn’t tried making the recipe yet, as the volume of ingredients has seemed overwhelming. However, now that a fellow Redditor has scaled down the ingredients to make three quarts of the sauce, he said he might give it a try.
Using the revised version of the mammoth spaghetti sauce recipe, I tried making the sauce in my own kitchen. I was surprised by the use of spices like celery salt, dry mustard and paprika, but overall, the recipe was similar to many sauces I’ve made in the past: Tomatoes, onion, ground beef, salt, oregano and other basic tomato sauce ingredients are included in addition to the not-so-typical seasonings.
After letting the sauce simmer on my stove for a few hours, I served it over pasta with a side of garlic bread and topped it with Parmesan cheese, just as the recipe creator suggests.
The sauce was flavorful and had a unique taste: I could definitely pick up hints of the celery salt, which made it different than spaghetti sauce I’d had in the past. The ratio of meat to sauce made it very light, a sauce I think would make a great addition to lasagna or meatball subs, but it didn’t seem quite substantial enough to stand alone on top of pasta.
It reminded me of my favorite sauce I’ve made from the Old_Recipes subreddit, a hearty, potato-filled red sauce from a Sicilian nonna, whose fresh manicotti I once recreated at home.
Bill Engleman’s sauce was different — but still delicious.
Plus, any time I can freeze several more jars of a pasta sauce to use later, I am happy.
David said he’s enjoyed sharing a piece of his home’s history with the world.
“I think people really liked the recipe because it had so many personal notes about preparation, like where to get the tomato sauce and the number to call with questions,” he said, adding that the number, GL 0843, leads him to believe it’s a business phone number from the ’40s. “It’s like the recipe was written to a friend, but then tucked away for a random stranger to find in the future.