Do You Have a “Go To” Recipe?

It is always good to have a “Go To” recipe. A Recipe that is tried, true and that you know will be a hit with guests. Having a menu and recipes that you know people will like is great for a supper club or any dinner party.

My mother in law Helen had her ITALIAN Spaghetti and chocolate cake menu that was always a crowd pleaser. To this day her children and grandchildren remember her ITALIAN spaghetti fondly. It didn’t matter if we went to Helen’s for Christmas, Easter or Thanksgiving we all wanted her to make her ITALIAN Spaghetti and chocolate cake .

I always loved that Helen’s sauce wasn’t Spaghetti Sauce it was ITALIAN Spaghetti Sauce. Somehow this was an oxymoron for me. This recipe originally came from Aunt Marian who was Helen’s sister in law. Marian was Italian and worked in the A&P Grocery store so she was REAL ITALIAN. Hence the family always calls it ITALIAN Spaghetti Sauce.

ITALIAN Spaghetti Recipe

Helen was a special lady. She was a single mom that raised three children on her own. Helen had a career with IBM and made real sacrifices along the way. Her children and grandchildren were simply the most important things in her life. She worked hard and made sure that she did the right things for her children.

I will never forget the first time I met her. It was at the hospital. Susan and I had just started dating and she had gotten food poisoning from something Helen’s boyfriend had made. To this day she won’t eat venison on a bet. I met Helen at the hospital and when the patient was recovering we went out to dinner. All I remember from the conversation that night was her stories about Susan’s old boy friend that was a millionaire and looked like Paul Newman. How I lasted against that guy I still don’t know.

Along with ITALIAN Spaghetti Helen usually had chocolate cake. There was no magic to her recipe. She made the cake with Duncan Heinz yellow cake mix and she made the icing following the recipe on the Baker’s Unsweetened Chocolate box.

Fast forward 20 years and I am running the Baker’s Ingredient Chocolate business. Helen has passed and I had a team of food scientists trying to replicate Helen’s chocolate cake. Helen’s cake was special in that the icing was hard. At times it was like a helmet, but boy was it good. The scientists tried different fat systems and formula tweaks to no avail. We fell upon the answer when Susan inherited her mom’s Tupperware cake carrier. Helen would put cake/carrier in the refrigerator and voila that special texture. Legendary!

Past her legendary ITALIAN Spaghetti and Chocolate Cake, Nana is remembered for her focus on her children. No mater what life through at them they had the “Go To” unconditional love of their mother. Helen is gone, but Susan is now Nana and her grandchildren love Nana’s chocolate cake.

If you enjoy this blog and similar other stories/supper club lessons subscribe to get future blogs at and be on the look out for my book Impromptu Friday Nights a Guide to Supper Clubs. Morgan James Publishing published the Kindle-Version on September 5, 2017 and the hard copy coming out January 30, 2018.

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