When I was a little kid, around 7 or 8 years old, my parents had a favorite Italian restaurant in Fayetteville, NC – about 90 minutes from our home in Wilson. Every couple of months, Mama, Daddy, my brother Ray (who was 4 years younger), and I would pile into Daddy’s white Chrysler Imperial and venture “up the road” for a family spaghetti luncheon. Luigi’s wasn’t anything fancy. I remember it being old school, much like a diner from the 1960’s. The tabletops were what we now think of as retro – colored Formica with metal edges. Books of matches were placed under a number of the table legs to steady the wobbly dining spaces. Mama and Daddy loved the place. My brother and I, too young to be still for more than a few minutes and already bored from the long drive, entertained ourselves by turning the knobs on the tableside juke boxes and pulling the levers on the cigarette machine. Occasionally, Daddy would give us a quarter so that we could listen to some of the tunes. Back then, twenty-five cents bought five songs and kept two small children quiet for about 30 minutes. Mama and Daddy were on a mission when the Baker family made a trek to Luigi’s. They wanted spaghetti and a blue cheese wedge salad. I still remember the story that Mama told me about one of her much older sister’s boyfriends. He had been stationed in Italy during World War II and had fallen in love with spaghetti – especially the tomato sauce. Mama said that she and her five sisters tried to replicate the soldier’s red sauce description using canned tomatoes from the family cellar. For years, the girls served tomatoes and tomato sauce on spaghetti pasta – and they liked it. It wasn’t until Mama was in college that she tasted the true Italian spaghetti sauce at Luigi’s. While they were dating, she introduced it to my father. They both loved spaghetti for the whole of their lives. Determined to be able to make it herself, and after many more attempts, Mama created her own version of spaghetti sauce. My family and many of our friends adored it. We were served spaghetti several times a month. Mama used to make big pots of sauce and stored it frozen in plastic containers so that we were never without a quart or two to share with friends and neighbors or to bring home to Beaufort after Vince and I were married. These days, I pull out a tomato sauce-stained index card when I crave a taste of home and am missing my family. They’re all three gone now. I’m grateful to have Mama’s delicious recipe and a bunch of happy memories to fill my tummy and warm my heart.


Mama’s Spaghetti Sauce

For an easy and time-saving substitute, replace onion and green pepper with 1 (10-ounce) bag of frozen seasoning blend and 1 (10-ounce) bag of frozen chopped onions. (For a detailed demonstration, please visit the Lowcountry Weekly website or @chefdebbicovington on YouTube or Instagram to watch this short cooking video.)

3½ – 4 pounds lean ground beef

1 large onion, diced

1 medium green pepper, seeded and diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste

2 (28-ounce) cans petite diced tomatoes

2 (10.75-ounce) cans tomato soup

6 (8-ounce) cans tomato sauce

1½ – 2 cups ketchup

4 tablespoons Italian seasoning

3 teaspoons dried oregano

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

3 (13.25-ounce) cans mushrooms stems and pieces, drained and squeezed dry

Spaghetti pasta, cooked according to package directions

Cook beef in a large stock pot until browned and cooked through. Drain thoroughly on paper towels. Discard beef grease. Do not rinse pot. Add onion and bell pepper to the stock pot. Saute until tender. Stir in garlic, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, tomato soup, tomato sauce, ketchup, Italian seasoning, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Cook over medium heat until warmed through, stirring often. Add cooked ground beef and mushrooms to the tomato mixture. Continue cooking until heated through. Remove from heat, cover stock pot with lid and let sauce rest for 45 minutes. Serve sauce over hot cooked spaghetti. Freeze leftover sauce. Makes about 30 cups or 20 servings.


BLT Wedge Salad
A new spin on an old favorite! Crumbled blue cheese and champagne vinaigrette are a light and delicious exchange for the traditional heavy mayonnaise-style dressing.
For the vinaigrette:
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
1½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/8 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Mix all ingredients in a small jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake to combine. Refrigerate any leftovers.
For the salad:
1 large head iceberg lettuce, halved and cut into slices
6 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
¼ pound thick-cut bacon, diced, cooked, and drained on paper towels
36 grape tomatoes, diced
Place lettuce wedges on chilled salad plates and drizzle with the vinaigrette. Top with blue cheese, bacon, and tomatoes. Serves 6.

No Crust Coconut Pie

If you prefer to make individual servings, this recipe makes 4 small pies.

½ cup plus 6 tablespoons sugar

6 tablespoons flour

2 large eggs, beaten

1 cup whole milk

3 tablespoons butter, melted

1½ teaspoons vanilla

1 cup flaked coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and stir until well combined. Spray a 9-inch pie dish with cooking spray. Spread mixture evenly in prepared pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until pie is golden brown. Serves 6.


The writer owns Catering by Debbi Covington and is the author of three cookbooks, Celebrate Beaufort, Celebrate Everything! and Dining Under the Carolina Moon. For more great recipes and to view her cooking demonstrations, visit and subscribe to Debbi’s YouTube channel. Debbi’s website address is www.cateringbydebbicovington.com. She may be reached at 843-525-0350 or by email at dbc@cateringbydebbicovington.com.