Cooks’ Exchange: Memories inspire Italian recipes

December 5, 2018 GMT

Reading about Roundy Coughlin recently stirred countless memories from the past. Coughlin became a sports columnist for the State Journal in 1924. That same year, my father played neighborhood football games at Brittingham Park with his Greenbush friends and others from Central High where he excelled as their left halfback and made the 1924 All City Football team. Coughlin commented that Knute Rockne would make a star out of Mike Tripalin (Tripolino).

Following high school graduation, Daddy spent his first semester at UW-Madison as a member of their football team until being told by their coach that he was too small for the conference. Like a gift in disguise, he suddenly received a scholarship to attend Jefferson College, a Jesuit learning institution in Convent, Louisiana, where their head football coach happened to be Rod Shaughnessy from Madison, Wisconsin. Previously, and expertly trained as Rockne’s assistant coach, Shaughnessy worked wonders with his Jefferson team and the “too small” shifty half-back from Central High who achieved accolades as being one of the Four Horsemen of the South.


Many years later, as a youngster who would learn so much more from Daddy about what a good person his friend Roundy Coughlin was, I decided to sell some of my favorite books and donate the proceeds to the Empty Stocking Club, which Coughlin supported with his own Rounder’s Club. Books propped on the front steps of our house on Talmadge Street were sold to neighbors and friends throughout a weekend of good weather. Having no recollection today of how much money was made, I do remember how very proud I was of my intentions and many years later, continue to give to the Empty Stocking Club in memory of my parents, Mike and Mary Tripalin.

I don’t happen to have a Roundy Coughlin recipe, but do have a food-related memory from two of my Greenbush cookbooks describing how often Roundy stopped by Sam Amato’s Holiday House Restaurant at 515 S. Park Street for his favorite spaghetti dinner… passing up their delicious homemade Sicilian meat sauce to, instead, smother his spaghetti with ketchup. Deciding to check with Sam’s son, Nino Amato, as to whether that sauce recipe was still available, here it is from Roundy’s favorite Italian restaurant in town.

Amato’s Holiday House Sicilian meat sauce

1 pound lean ground beef

1 pound ground Italian sausage

1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes


1 15-ounce can tomato sauce

1 6-ounce can tomato paste

2 tablespoons sugar

1 ½ teaspoons each of dried basil and oregano

1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning

½ teaspoon fennel seeds

1 bay leaf

½ teaspoons each of salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cooked spaghetti, Vermicelli a good choice

½ cup freshly grated Romano cheese

In a large heavy kettle, brown meat on all sides. When meat is brown, add chopped onion and saute until soft, having added chopped garlic in the meantime. Add canned tomato ingredients, bring to a boil, and turn down to simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes. Add seasonings, cover and continue cooking for about 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally. Serve with pasta, al dente, with grated Romano cheese.

Serve 12-16

Note: If there seems to be too much grease after browning the meat, you may want to reduce the amount, leaving just enough to saute the chopped onions.

Unfortunately, Amato Holiday House closed after nearly 50 years of serving the Madison community, yet memories and recipes have delicious ways of lasting forever.

As long as we are remembering Italian food, here are a few of my own favorites to enjoy any time of the year, beginning with an Italian chili. Not sure where I initially found this, but it is excellent any time of the year.

Italian chili

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

1 large green pepper, coarsely chopped

1 pound bulk Italian sausage or links, casing removed

20-ounce can Italian tomatoes, cut up

15-ounce can of Contadina thick and zesty tomato sauce

15-ounce can of water

½ cup Burgundy or Chianti wine

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained

½ cup freshly grated Romano or Parmesan, or mix of both

Brown sausage, onion and green pepper in oil, adding garlic near the end. Drain. Stir in remaining ingredients except for beans and cheese. Cover and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in beans and cheese. Cover and heat through. Serve with salad and Italian bread. Excellent reheated. Serves 6-8.

While in the mood for Italian food, here is a recipe Roundy may have enjoyed, and certainly one my grandson, Nate, will be served some weekend when he returns from college in La Crosse.

Macaroni and cheese

½ pound elbow macaroni

1 ½ to 2 cups canned crushed tomatoes

Favorite seasonings

2 tablespoons oil

½ pound mozzarella cheese

¼ cup seasoned bread crumbs

Cook elbow macaroni in boiling salted water until firm. Mix tomatoes with oil and season to taste with salt and pepper and any other favorite herbs such as basil, oregano, and Italian parsley. Put a small amount of tomato mixture on the bottom of a well-greased baking dish. Add a layer of macaroni, tomato mixture, and sliced cheese. Repeat until all ingredients are used, ending with a layer of tomatoes and cheese. Top with bread crumbs. Bake, covered, at 350 degrees, for 20 minutes.

Serves 4

Good memories continue to make our world go round and a few weeks ago, after sharing my husband’s first Thanksgiving in Madison with my family back in 1962, Judie Urso Heiman shared a memory about her late husband, Fred, spending his first Thanksgiving with Judie at her grandmother Rose Urso’s home with all the relatives appreciating and enjoying homemade pasta. Fred took Judy aside and mentioned that “no one has spaghetti on Thanksgiving Day and…where is the turkey?” The Urso family had many good laughs through the years about that moment in time while also celebrating how much Fred ended up loving Italian food even though he never got used to seeing them eating and enjoying snails, octopus, and burdock picked along the railroad tracks during the spring.

And such is life at times with plenty of chuckles and sweet memories to go around.