Spaghetti Pie, Defending Betty Crocker

My mother always told me that if I couldn't say something nice not to say anything at all.

So I won't divulge the name of the blog I'm quoting….

I doubt that the author is alone in this opinion, however.

I decided someone had to come to the defense of Betty Crocker.

The blogger found a box of Betty Crocker recipe cards, circa 1971 on which said opinion is based.

I have 'Betty Crocker's Cookbok', copyright 1972 which will be the basis for my defense.

The assertion is made that nothing is made from scratch 'back then', with recipes calling for Cream of Mushroom Soup, packaged pie-crust and so on. 

I'll go along with the Mushroom Soup being less than desirable….. I never liked it.  Try to remember, though, that this was the beginning of the era of convenience foods.  Try to think of the canned soups as being the bottled salsa of the day: both convenience products, both better made from scratch.

As to the packaged pie-crust…. Does packaged pizza crust sound more familiar, perhaps?

I looked through my 'Cookbook' and almost all of the recipes in it were made from scratch, with the addition of one or two prepared foods – like canned soup or canned tomatoes or canned beans or canned tuna.  Sound familiar? 

A comment leads us to believe that every recipe started with '1 lb of ground beef, 1 onion and 1 green pepper'.  

A lot of them did….

They also fed 4 – 6 people. That's less than 4 (or 2.6) ounces of beef per person.  

Hmmmm.  The problem with that escapes me.

As to vegetables, apparently that section was missing or damaged in the recipe cards.  The implication was that all vegetables were frozen or canned, none were ever 'seasoned' and all were boiled.

My 'Cookbook' has 40 pages of recipes using fresh vegetables, including detailed instructions on how to prepare the more unusual ones (for the times)…. like artichokes, as well as more challenging recipes, like Spinach Souffle – using fresh spinach, I might add. 

Not all 'Retro Food', to use the current term, is / was good. I don't think Tater Tot Hot Dish has any redeeming qualities…. but I didn't like it then, either.

And using canned Tomato Soup to make spaghetti sauce should have been banned in all 49 50 states.  

Oh, wait…. My 'Betty Crocker Cookbook for Boys and Girls' had a great spaghetti sauce recipe, made much the same as I would make it now.

It's fun to laugh at how ignorant the cooks from the '70's apparently were: making towering Jell-O cakes and using Velveeta in the mac and cheese….

Before you start giggling again, remember this:

In the '70's most people ate dinner at home, at the table with the family and the food had been prepared in their very own kitchen.

They weren't eating McDonalds or pizza at the mall.

And they weren't fat.

Think about that one when you're laughing at all the meat and cheese and pie crust recipes from that decade.

The majority of Americans were not obese in the '70's.

Today, over 68% of Americans are obese.

If we are what we eat, maybe the cooks of the '70's were on to something.

They weren't overly concerned about the pedigree of their groceries…. But they did manage to successfully feed an entire generation that produced the generation that now looks down their noses at them.

And they weren't fat.

Maybe Betty Crocker knew her stuff after all.

As for Retro Food – here's an oldie for you….

You could make it in a springform pan and unmold it for a fancier (1970's) presentation. 

Spaghetti Pie

Spaghetti Pie

12oz ground beef (350gr mince) 
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
1 tbs olive oil 
2 cups tomato sauce (16oz, 450gr)
8oz frozen spinach 
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil 
1 tsp Balsamic vinegar 
3.5oz (100gr) spaghetti
1 cup ricotta
1 egg 
1/4 cup (1oz, 30gr) grated Parmesan 
bit more oil 

Cook pasta according to package directions. 
While pasta cooks: Thaw spinach and squeeze dry. Chop onion and mince garlic. Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until tender. Add garlic and beef and sauté until meat is done, breaking it up as it browns. Stir in herbs, vinegar and tomato sauce. Cover and simmer until needed. 
In large bowl lightly whisk the egg. Add 2 tbs of the ricotta and whisk. 
To assemble: When pasta is done, drain well. Toss to cool a bit (do not rinse) then add to the egg mixture. Mix well and put into an oiled, glass baking dish. Pat into place. 
Fluff the spinach a bit with your fingers and sprinkle it over the pasta. Drop the ricotta by small spoonfuls evenly over the top and spread out a bit. Spread the meat sauce evenly over the ricotta. Sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake, covered with foil (or lid) at 400 F (200C) for 20 minutes. Remove foil (or lid) and bake 5 minutes longer. Cut into wedges and serve.

So there!

The defense rests.

13 thoughts on “Spaghetti Pie, Defending Betty Crocker”

  1. Loved it! I have a Betty Crocker Cookbook (a more updated one) but all the recipes are made from scratch with veggie dishes, instructions and even options for lightening up each dish. I use many of them as a base for many of my recipes – they’re great, basic, well explained recipes that you can easily modify with a little imagination. It and the the Joy of Cooking are my two most used cookbooks.

  2. I think I actually remember this Spaghetti Pie recipe!!!! My biggest thrill was getting a tour of the Betty Crocker kitchens way back when….. In high school I also received the Betty Crocker Homemaker of the Year award and still have that cutesy pin of a fireplace hearth on a pin that is heart shaped. sigh….. Betty Crocker still rules in this house!! Susan

  3. Convenience foods brought many housewives into the kitchen who would otherwise not have enjoyed cooking because of the time involved. They have their place even today. As for the spaghetti pie, I am loving it.

  4. Betty Crocker still is one of my favorite cookbooks. You can tell just by looking at it…the cookbook looks like it’s been a battle or two.

  5. So many of us grew up with Betty Crocker . . . not just her recipes, but learning how to actually cook and bake using her recipes. The flip side, to me, is the over-indulgence of ingredients today–many just bizarre and unobtainable unless you live in a major city. P.S. I LOVE Campbell’s Mushroom Soup–sometimes I eat it right out of the can . . .hahahaha!

  6. When I was growing up and read American magazines ! always saw Betty Crocker products advertised and so yearned for them to be on the shelves here in Australia. She seemed to be such an icon. I cook from scratch but am not averse to buying the odd one or two of her cakes mixes a year . She introduced me to brownies a very, very long time ago !!

  7. It’s easy to be critical of something mainstream. I have three Betty Crocker cookbooks, from three different decades, and I turn to one or the other of them when I want the proportions for some “comfort food” meal, or just new ideas for chicken or ground beef, using the oddball array of what’s in my refrigerator the day before a trip to the grocery. Yes, some of the recipes do use a prepared product, but most are from scratch, and reliable. I have yet to have any of the cakes or cookies not be good–and baking isn’t my thing.
    Also, we do need to remember that the cookbook is from the same company that sells cake mixes, etc., so it’s no surprise that prepared foods slip in.
    It may be that the cards were designed for the non-cook–simple recipes that “anyone” could make, or just plain ideas for the less inspired cooking nights. I think about the day I saw one of those “news” promos for “5 quick meals to make your week easier” and printed off a “chuck wagon chili mac” recipe that uses mostly prepared items–it’s just thing some nights–meat from the freezer, everything else from the pantry. Also something my kids can cook while I do another task or errand. We eat that, but wouldn’t dream of eating boxed mac and cheese by itself.

  8. Sorry, I don’t know who Betty Crocker is… but I’m loving your spaghetti pie. And I agree so with the first sentence 😀

  9. My husband’s Mother lived by that creed also. So far I haven’t been able to live up to her example, but I try. And he reminds me all of the time. Betty Crocker was my first cookbook as a bride and I still like her recipe for snickerdoodle cookies. Cooking trends come and go but the key is to be in the kitchen cooking instead of ordering out all of the time; except maybe for Thai food.

  10. I’m sure the next generation will be turning up their noses at our style of cooking, too. That’s what evolution is all about. I’m okay with that – à chacun son gout, n’est-ce pas?

  11. Melissa, I agree with you – even my old version is good…. and so what if there is the occasional reference to Bisquick LOL
    Susan, ah yes, the Future Homemakers of America…. Congrats ;-)) My cook book is so ratty it’s held together with tape.
    Val, I remember getting frozen chicken pot pies as a treat…. (We lived in a very small town, took awhile for that new stuff to get there)
    Meredith, as does mine. The section on ‘Cooking for a Crowd has been invaluable for entertaining – made the baked beans for our first French village picnic (they were tasted very cautiously)
    Gary, I always substituted the Cream of Chicken or Cream of Celery. Something about those mushrooms…..
    manningroad, I wish I could buy her cake mixes…. and Blueberry Muffin mix LOL
    Klmchi, easy ti prepare foods and convenience foods have a place…. and helping kids learn to cook using them is a great idea. Too many ‘foodies’ are food snobs… I even like a Big Mac now and then (oops, did I just admit that?)
    Nuria, she’s a fake spokesperson / cookbook author and food icon in the US. She was never real and has been around for 60 or 70 years as the perfect housewife ;-))
    Penny, wow – I forgot…. I have a Betty Crocker Cookie Book…. nothing but cookies. I love it!
    Zoomie, I don’t mind the change…. that’s is good. I do mind when people don’t take the time to learn the history, though.
    Jayne, Betty was a big part of mine, too…

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