Brenda Stanley
Belle's Pizza Spaghetti.

In the almost 30 years of being a mother, I rarely had an evening that I didn’t fix dinner and have my children sit at the table to eat it. It was part tradition, part necessity. It was healthier and far less expensive to cook at home.

When my children were young, they often felt abused by the fact that they were forced to eat homemade meals rather than enjoy a quick trip to a fast-food place or have a pizza delivered.

During those years children considered "abusive," I searched for ways to combine the flavors they enjoyed into meals that were healthy, delicious and easy to prepare. My pizza spaghetti is a great example. It combines spicy Italian sausage with pepperoni in a marinara sauce. I then add any combination of “toppings” —black olives, mushrooms, green peppers. I then mix the sauce and toppings together with cooked noodles to allow the flavors to soak into the spaghetti.

Woe were they who were forced into conversation with their parents while eating something that wasn’t deep fried or reheated. The effects have been so tragic that now as adults they return each Sunday for more punishment. Often a pile of laundry is brought along, but my Sunday dinners are the highlight of my week, and the incredible aroma of this sauce as it simmers makes the entire house feel warm and inviting. I guess it is working, as there are rarely leftovers!

Belle’s Pizza Spaghetti

½ pound of bulk Italian sausage

1 pound of ground beef

1 small onion, chopped

1 teaspoon of minced garlic

½ cut chopped pepperoni

½ cup sliced black olives, mushrooms, green pepper, or whatever you like

32-ounce jar spaghetti sauce

15-ounce can diced Italian tomatoes

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

½ pound spaghetti, cooked and drained

1 ½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese, for topping

Brown the sausage, ground beef, onion and garlic. Drain off fat and add remaining ingredients, including the cooked noodles. Simmer until hot. This allows the spaghetti to soak up some of the sauce. Serve topped with the mozzarella cheese.

Brenda Stanley is the mother of five children, including two sets of

twins and a grandmother of two. She is a cookbook author and

novelist. Her website is at www.talesofthedinnerbelle.com.