Italian From a Jar
I use Prego Spaghetti Sauce because that's what the person I cook for prefers. It wasn't the pasta sauce of his childhood because he was well past his youth by the time Prego was introduced in 1981. Besides, his mother cooked everything from scratch (although it appears from her old recipes and his sister's cooking that Velveeta cheese and evaporated milk may have been the exception to that rule).
I like the original style Prego well enough, better than a lot of the other jar sauces that I've tried over the years. It seems a bit sweeter than some of the others and the spices aren't too spicy.
My sister prepares an elaborate, time-consuming sauce from a recipe she got from Maria, her Italian mother-in-law. It takes her the good part of a day to make it. It tastes good to me but all that effort would be wasted around here.
I guess opinions vary from one Italian to another. Maria would die before she served her five boys sauce from a jar. In the early eighties I worked for an Italian man who advised me that Prego, with the addition of a little extra chopped onion and garlic, tasted just as good as his mother's recipe. While I'm equally happy to eat sauce from Maria's recipe (that someone else has prepared), I'm partial to just taking Pete's word for it when I pour that Prego out of the jar into the pan.
If I ever make it to Italy, I'll be able to form my own opinion in the matter, that is, if I can tear myself away from the Italian leather shoes and purses long enough to eat.
Prego Easy Italian Recipes (1994, 92 pages) is one of those cookbooks you get from the supermarket checkout line. It contains 60 recipes that are easy enough for the beginning cook. They're similar to the recipes one might find on the jar labels. Most of them can be prepared in less than 30 minutes.
There are $4.45 worth of coupons inside for Prego and other products made by the Campbell Soup Company. Sometimes I find coupons with no expiration dates inside these older cookbooks, but these expired in December of 1996. Back then, at least around here, the intense competition between supermarkets meant they were tripling coupons every day. That means these coupons would have been worth $13.35. If you actually used all these products in your cooking, you could have made money by purchasing this cookbook. Nothing wrong with that.
Besides using all varieties of Prego Spaghetti Sauces, some of the recipes also call for other Campbell's products: Campbell's Soups, Marie's Dressing and Dip, Pepperidge Farm Stuffing Mix, Swanson Chunk Chicken, Vlasic Peppers and Vlasic or Early California Olives.
I sell quite a few of the Campbell's Soup cookbooks. If you're a person who likes those, then you would probably like this Prego cookbook too.
Here's a recipe for Baked Ziti from the cookbook that's similar to the recipe I use. This is one of the few recipes in the cookbook that take more than 30 minutes.
I had never fixed Ziti before watching the Sopranos and hearing Bobby going on about Karen's last ziti. (I could see myself doing something like that.) One day, during a mental block in preparing my shopping list, I remembered Karen's ziti and decided to see what all the fuss was about.
1 jar (28 ounces) PREGO Traditional Spaghetti Sauce (3 cups)
1-1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (6 ounces)
5 cups hot cooked ziti macaroni (about 3 cups dry)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
In large bowl, combine spaghetti sauce, 1 cup mozzarella cheese and macaroni. Spoon into 2-quart oblong baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese.
Bake at 350°F. for 30 minutes or until hot and bubbling. If desired, garnish with tomato slices and fresh basil.
Makes about 6 cups or 4 main-dish servings.
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Make-ahead tip: To freeze, prepare ziti but do not bake. Cover tightly with foil and freeze. Bake frozen ziti, uncovered, at 350°F. for 1 hour or until hot and bubbling. Or, refrigerate 24 hours to thaw. Bake thawed ziti, uncovered, at 350°F. for 45 minutes or until hot and bubbling.
BAKED ZITI SUPREME
In 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, cook 1 pound ground beef and 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup), until beef is browned and onion is tender; stirring to separate meat. Spoon off fat. Stir in spaghetti sauce, 1 cup mozzarella cheese and macaroni. Spoon into 3-quart oblong baking dish. Sprinkle with cheeses and bake as directed. Makes 6 main-dish servings.
Sometimes, depending upon the price, I purchase Prego in larger jars than I need. I use the extra as a dipping sauce for Toasted Ravioli, or heated up straight out of the jar and served over a side dish of spaghetti when I make Pork Schnitzels topped with ham and Swiss cheese.