Monday, February 11, 2008

Iowa girl dishes for Kansas City Star

Elk Horn native
also pens nationally
syndicated column

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Some people are in search of money. Some seek fame.

Elk Horn native Mary Pepitone’s quest is a little more, shall way say, homespun, even Iowa-ish.

“One of my goals in life is to find the perfect meatloaf recipe,” Pepitone says. “Talking about food is really a great thing. It’s what binds us now.

And for Pepitone it pays the bills.

Pepitone, who writes the Kansas City Star’s “Come Into My Kitchen” column recently hit the big-time in journalism circles: she is now nationally syndicated.

Universal Press Syndicate, one of the largest in the nation, carries Pepitone’s “Hometouch.” It runs in more than 200 newspapers across the country.
“Come Into My Kitchen” still runs weekly in the KC Star and is the longest running column (and one of the most popular) in the newspaper with a 53-year run.

“We dish about life through food,” Pepitone said. “When I took over the column I told my editor what I wanted to do. You don’t get together and not eat.

So what’s Pepitone’s favorite meal?

“One that I don’t have to make — just kidding,” she said.

While she lives in the Kansas City suburb of Leawood, Kansas, Pepitone is still very much the Iowa girl.

“I really learned to cook at the loving elbow of my mom,” Pepitone said. “It’s that good old Iowa work ethic. It never leaves you.”

She got right to work with some stellar sources for one of her first Hometouch columns on home gyms. Pepitone interviewed Oprah’s trainer, Bob Greene, as well as fitness celebrity Denise Austin.
They talked a little about the pluses and minuses of joining a gym.

“Primarily my focus is the home, how to do it in the home,” Pepitone said.

She added, “I look at things from a very consumer-driven standpoint.”

Pepitone, 40, is a 1985 graduate of Elk Horn-Kimballton High School and a 1989 graduate of Briar Cliff University, where she majored in broadcast journalism and psychology.

She started her journalism career with KCAU-TV in Sioux City as a reporter and producer. In July of 1989 Pepitone covered the crash of United Flight 232 in Sioux City.
Later, she served as the communications director for the Madison, Wisc., Convention & Visitors Bureau.

“I was always writing and dealing with the media with that,” Pepitone said.
Pepitone and her husband, John, a television reporter with Fox in Kansas City, have three girls: Paige, 11; Gina, 8; and Mariel, 5.

Here is one of her favorite recipes with a lead-in as it appeared in the Kansas City Star:

“I’m a country girl from southwestern Iowa who mastered the meat-n-potatoes farm fare at the loving elbow of my mother, Joanne Greving. I have canned more tomatoes, baked more pies and peeled more potatoes than I care to admit.

“Since my culinary debut in the fourth grade, when I made an entire meal for ten (my family), I have adroitly prepared many cuts from a side of beef. A side of spaghetti, however, was another matter altogether.

“My husband of 16 years, John Pepitone, was born in Chicago and raised on pasta. His mother shared her “gravy” recipe with me, which was inspired by many different sauces, including Great-Aunt Rose’s Sicilian sugo.”

Grandma Pepitone’s Spaghetti Sauce with Meatballs and Italian Sausage

1 1/4 pound of ground round
1 large onion chopped
3 six-ounce cans of tomato paste
1 29-ounce can of Italian-style crushed tomatoes
1 29-ounce can of tomato sauce

4 cloves crushed garlic
4 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 bunch of fresh parsley, stems removed, chopped finely, reserving 3 Tablespoons for meatballs

1 8 oz. package fresh sliced mushrooms

2 pounds mild Italian sausage links, browned in separate skillet

In a large pot, sauté chopped onion in oil until just brown around the edges. Add one-half pound of the ground round and cook until the meat is no longer pink.

Add tomato paste. Fill each can twice with water (total six cans) and add to pot. Add tomato sauce, followed by one-quarter can of water. Pour in crushed tomatoes and add one-quarter of can filled with water.

Stir in garlic, cheese, salt, sugar, basil, oregano, parsley and mushrooms.

Brown meatballs (recipe follows) and Italian sausage links in separate skillets. Add meatballs and Italian sausages to the sauce and simmer over low heat for four hours, stirring periodically to avoid sticking or scorching. Skim fat off the top of the sauce as it cooks. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley before serving over cooked spaghetti noodles.

Meatballs for sauce

3/4 pound ground round

1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 egg
End pieces of a loaf of bread or 1/3-cup plain bread crumbs

If using end pieces of bread, wet the slices in water and crumble into a bowl. Mix all ingredients and form the meatballs. Brown the meatballs in a skillet using a little cooking oil.

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