This Mother's Day, honor Mom by making your favorite dish from childhood. Just what did she do to make these recipes taste so much better? We asked our food writers to tell you why their mom's specialty dishes are so memorable to them.
Easy ground beef goulash recipe
By Claire Gallam
When I describe my childhood, the only word I can really think of is "lucky." I grew up with one of the most incredible cooks and bakers any child can hope to. Almost every night, my mom would make us a beautiful dinner, and we'd eat together as a family. Even at the age of 8, I devoured everything. I loved the smell of roasted asparagus and the strong, pungent taste of blue cheese. I fell in love with food the way most kids fall in love with Disney World or video games. Watching my mom cook and bake was always romantic and enchanting. Even on her hardest days, when the four of us were terrorizing her and tearing apart the house, she always had a smile on her face when she was in the kitchen. And now, as the cook of my house, I catch myself with that same smile.
Even though she made so many amazing dishes, one of my favorites growing up was goulash. Now, it's not glamorous or fancy, but it's delicious. It's a dish my great-grandmother used to make for her as a kid, and she made it for us, just the way I'll make it for my kids. It uses everyday, simple ingredients and can be made in less than an hour. It's comfort food to me, and every bite reminds me of those family dinners I had growing up. In fact, I always volunteered to clean up after so I could sneak a few more forkfuls of goulash while my brothers watched TV. This dish is everything my mom is to me — comforting and absolutely incredible.
- 1 (16 ounce) box elbow macaroni
- 1 (28 ounce) jar stewed tomatoes, drained and chopped
- 1 (14.5 ounce) jar diced tomatoes, drained
- 8 ounces marinara sauce
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing the pot
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 8 slices bacon, cooked and chopped
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- Fresh parsley, chopped
- Salt and pepper
- Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil. Add a dash of salt. Toss in the noodles, and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a large Dutch oven with olive oil.
- In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, and cook until softened, about 8 minutes. Stir in the ground beef, and break it apart using your spatula. Cook until the beef is browned, about 6 to 8 minutes. Drain the fat from the pan.
- Add the noodles, ground beef mixture and bacon to the Dutch oven. Stir in the stewed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, marinara sauce and tomato paste. Mix well until all of the mixture is fully combined. Stir in some fresh parsley and salt and pepper, to taste.
- Cover the Dutch oven, and bake for about 30 minutes. Uncover, and bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until the top is just a bit crispy. Serve with more fresh parsley and cracked pepper.
Skinny strawberry fluff salad recipe
By Chelsea Lords
This is my mom's all-time favorite salad that she would make for us. She made it every single Sunday, sometimes changing out the strawberries for mandarin oranges and the strawberry Jell-O for orange Jell-O. When we were little, she would let us kids drain the pineapple and drink the leftover pineapple juice. We loved that! She would always let us help stir everything together and sneak a few bites. Sometimes we would make this strawberry fluff salad and serve it over waffles or pancakes.
One of the reasons I have such a love for baking and creating dishes is the wonderful memories I have of cooking with my mom. This salad, although simple, holds great memories for me. My mom was never worried about food taking longer to prepare or if we made a mess as we tried to help. She wanted us to have fun and to love creating meals. She spent hours teaching me various tricks in the kitchen and ways to bake better.
Now that I live halfway across the country, I always think about my mom when I make this salad. It's also become a tradition in my home to make waffles with this strawberry fluff salad for Saturday mornings. Whenever I make it, I think about the memories I have of making it with my mom and enjoying it with my family. Food brings people together, but it was my mom that instilled in me a passion and a love for cooking and good food. And whenever I think of good food and my mom's favorite signature dish, it's this salad that brings the greatest memories to me.
- 1 (8 ounce) container light frozen whipped topping, completely thawed
- 1 (3.4 ounce) package sugar-free strawberry Jell-O
- 1 (20 ounce) can crushed pineapple
- 1 cup chopped strawberries
- Drain the crushed pineapple well.
- Pour the dry Jell-O mix into the whipped topping, and mix until combined. Be careful not to overmix or to beat the whipped topping.
- In a medium-size bowl, combine the strawberries and pineapple. Gently mix the whipped topping with the fruit.
- Store the fluff salad in the fridge, or serve it immediately.
Simple Swiss chard tomato sauté recipe
By Gina Matsoukas
I'm betting when most people think of their kitchen and food memories of Mom, they think of mac and cheese, soup or something equally comforting. Sure, my mom made all those things, but that's not what first comes to mind. Almost all of my childhood food memories can be traced back to our small summer backyard garden. Fresh basil, Swiss chard and copious amounts of tomatoes in August are the things that make me think of her.
This dish is a perfect example of what we'd eat night after night in the summer when we had more fresh garden veggies than any family of four could consume. It's a simple Swiss chard and tomato dish studded with fresh basil. It comes together in minutes, and I can't make it without thinking back to my mom in old jeans, picking weeds from the garden while my brother and I played soccer in the backyard.
- 1 large bunch Swiss chard
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- Dash red pepper flakes
- Salt and pepper
- 1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes (or the equivalent amount of diced fresh tomatoes)
- 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Separate the leaves from the stems of the Swiss chard, and chop the stems into 1-inch pieces.
- In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
- Add the shallots, garlic and red pepper flakes, and sauté for 1 minute.
- Add the Swiss chard stems, and cook for about 3 minutes, until they begin to soften.
- Add the diced tomatoes and their juices, and cook for another 3 minutes.
- Add the Swiss chard leaves, and season with salt and pepper. Toss the leaves with tongs so that they get coated with the juice from the tomatoes. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the leaves wilt down.
- Turn off the heat, add the basil leaves, and toss to combine.
- Plate the Swiss chard, and top with the grated Parmesan.
Porcupine meatballs recipe
By Karen Miner
Deciding on a dish that most reminds me of Mom is easy, because there are only a handful to choose from. Not because she was stuck in a rut, making the same recipes week after week, but because my mom wasn't the cook of the family… That task fell to my dad. So when Mom was in the kitchen, you knew you could count on certain dishes coming out. And the dish I wished for with all my heart was porcupines — super-simple meatballs with rice poking out, cooked in a super-simple sauce.
To this day, the smell of classic Campbell's condensed tomato soup instantly transports me back in time. What is it about this simple meal that I fell so hard for? There are minimal ingredients, none of them fancy, and nothing especially extraordinary about this dish. Except that my mom made it, which makes all the difference.
Even now, 25 years later, though I am tempted to modify any and all recipes I come across, I make this one as written. And for my money, I'll take my mom's version over mine any day. Because doesn't it just taste better when it's made by Mom, no matter how old you are?
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1/4 cup white rice, uncooked
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- 1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 (10-3/4 ounce) can condensed tomato soup
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- Shaved Parmesan cheese
- Chopped fresh basil or parsley
- In a large bowl, combine the beef, rice, egg, parsley, onion, salt, pepper and 1/4 of the soup.
- Shape into approximately 18 small balls, and place them in a large skillet with a lid.
- In a small bowl, combine the remaining soup, water and Worcestershire sauce. Pour over the meatballs in the skillet.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover the skillet, and cook for 35 to 40 minutes, until the rice is fully cooked, shaking the pan occasionally to coat the meatballs with sauce.
- Serve with sauce over rice or spaghetti, or enjoy it plain. Garnish with Parmesan cheese and fresh herbs, if desired.
Asparagus frittata recipe
By Patricia Conte
My mom is Italian, and when she immigrated to America, she couldn't bring many possessions with her. What she did bring was her passion to cook Italian specialties for her family and friends. I have a hard time recreating many of her dishes no matter how many times I try or how closely I follow her instructions. I've come to reason that it's simply the special touch of a mother. One of her recipes I enjoy is this asparagus frittata.
Asparagus frittata is a simple dish that my mom has made for years, especially during the spring, when asparagus is in season. Growing up in a state with long, snowy winters, this was a welcome dish for my family and a sure sign of a warmer season ahead.
There is one thing about this recipe I haven't perfected: For the prep method, my mom flips her frittata using a plate and finishes cooking it in the pan on the stove top. I typically finish mine without flipping it and place it (in the pan) under the oven broiler.
Mother's Day is the perfect time of year to enjoy an asparagus frittata. When I do, I can't help but think of my mom and the special touch she brings to her cooking.
- 1 small bunch thin asparagus (about 3/4 pound), ends trimmed, blanched, drained and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 4 eggs
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped and divided (or use your favorite fresh herb)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated, plus extra for garnish
- Ensure the asparagus is well drained, and use a paper towel to gently squeeze out any remaining moisture.
- In a large bowl, combine the eggs, salt, pepper and 1/2 the fresh thyme. Beat with a whisk.
- To a 10-inch ovenproof sauté pan over medium heat, add the butter and olive oil. When the butter has melted and the mixture is hot, pour in the eggs, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes.
- When the eggs are slightly set, spread the asparagus evenly across the egg mixture. Run a rubber spatula around the edges of the frittata as it cooks so the edges don't stick and burn. After 1 to 2 minutes, spread the remaining thyme over the top, followed by the Parmesan cheese.
- Remove the pan from the heat, and place it in the oven set to broil. The broiler will allow the top portion of the egg mixture to set fully and cook thoroughly. Keep a close watch so the frittata doesn't burn.
- After a few minutes, when the eggs have set completely and begun to turn golden, carefully remove the pan from the oven.
- Run a rubber spatula around the edges and underside of the frittata, and slide it onto a round serving plate.
- Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of Parmesan cheese, slice, and serve warm or at room temperature.
: Instead of using the broiler to finish cooking the frittata, you could flip it and finish it on the stove top. To flip it, first run a spatula around the edges and underside of the frittata. Place a kitchen plate (the same size as the pan) upside down over the top of the pan. Take the pan off the stove top. Hold onto the center of the plate with one hand, and carefully flip the pan upside down so you end up holding the plate with the frittata on it. Slide the frittata back into the pan, and finish cooking it for about 3 minutes.
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