Nanno learned to make this dish when she was a nanny in Baltimore sometime in the mid 1930s. An Italian neighbor, Caspar V., taught her how to make spaghetti using a modern convenience, Campbell's Tomato Soup. No meat, just lots of cheese. And onions. And garlic. And pepper. Lovely simplicity. Caspar used a lot of different kinds of cheeses, most of which were not readily available to Nanno when she moved back home and married, so she used what she had. And it was delicious. Comfort food at its finest. Best enjoyed with a cold glass of milk. Ask my husband or my kids. They'll agree.
There isn't really a recipe, just a basic method. That's the beauty of it. Here's how to do it.
- Gently saute a large chopped onion and as much minced garlic as you like in a large pan with some olive oil.
- Add a large can of tomato soup and stir until combined.
- Add lots of cheese. Really. A cup or more. (I like more.) Whatever you have on hand. If it's not shredded already, break it up into small pieces and stir until it melts. I usually try to include Parmesan, cheddar, Italian, American slices even...whatever I have on hand. It's a great recipe for using up all of those bits of different cheeses that end up in the refrigerator.
- Season to taste with lots of pepper- black, cayenne and white. The white pepper is important. It gives it a zing that the others don't. Add salt if you think it needs it. (Some cheeses are saltier than others.)
- Cook some angel hair pasta until it's nearly done. Drain and add to the sauce. Let the pasta and sauce slowly simmer until pasta is cooked. And that's it.
Grab a glass of cold milk and you're good to go. That's how Nanno would have wanted you to enjoy it.