Holy Mostaccioli!

Here’s a delicious way to use some of those summer veggies

Fill ’em up: Donna’s Holy Mostaccioli is guaranteed to satisfy six to eight hungry tummies as a main course.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have a “brown thumb.” Even my lucky bamboo is on a losing streak. With a 9-year-old daughter, 4-month-old baby boy and a job, I’m surprised I find time to feed and water the cats.

We just moved into a new home last year and were barely able to lay sod before winter came. So when my husband, Mark, decided to install a garden for me this year, I kind of went, “Uh, well, OK,” and felt a twinge of panic. Sure it would be great, but when would I find time to weed and water and fertilize? “Don’t worry!” he said with gusto, and within a few weeks he had created a beautiful flower bed, a real working fountain he made himself from oak wine barrels and, yes, vegetables. We’ve got tomato plants up the wazoo, three kinds of melons, squash (yuck) and my favorite—red bell peppers.

Keenly aware of my gardening disability, he included an automatic drip system. So now all I have to do is pluck the occasional weed and enjoy the fruits and vegetables of his labor. Thanks, sweetie.

Now one thing I can do half decently is cook, provided I have a good recipe. That’s where Mark’s mom comes in. My mother-in-law, Donna, has a quick wit and a mean spatula. Her partner in crime, Mike (a nurseryman who procured our plants—thanks, Mike), is of Italian heritage, and Italian food is one of Donna’s specialties.

Most of our extended family prefers being invited to Donna’s for dinner over restaurant dining any day. It’s cheaper and the food tastes better—although she takes great care to insult every dish she makes. Fortunately, I’m her only daughter-in-law, so she enjoys passing recipes on to me. In her blunt verbiage, “Somebody needs to know how to make this when I croak.”

She’s an old-school cook who doesn’t believe in skimping on the oil, butter or sour cream, and I have to promise that I won’t substitute inferior ingredients. “Honey, don’t use any of that low-fat sh**!” she warns, “It doesn’t taste right.”

Anyway, she invited us over for dinner the other night for one of my favorite dishes. It’s sort of an Italian-Polish hybrid because of the sausage, but it’s very tasty and a great way to use the plethora of peppers I expect from my garden. While Donna is retired and can spend all day fussing over a pot of homemade spaghetti sauce, I prefer recipes with few ingredients that can be made quickly. This is one of them.

She said I could share the recipe, but should you decide to use low-fat sausage, well, that’s your business.

Donna’s Holy Mostaccioli
to ¾ loop of Polish sausage, sliced into diagonal coins
1 large whole onion, thinly sliced
3 large bell peppers, sliced (using green, red and yellow peppers makes a colorful dish)
A leaf or two of chopped fresh basil (optional—Donna doesn’t use it)
1 large and one medium can diced tomatoes, undrained
1-lb. box of mostaccioli
Olive oil or butter to taste

Cook and drain mostaccioli according to package directions. In a large pan, sauté the sausage in a little butter or olive oil until slightly browned. Remove from pan. Add more olive oil or butter to skillet and sauté the onion, peppers and basil until soft. Add both cans of diced tomatoes and the sausage to pan and heat through. Put mostaccioli in a large bowl and toss with the warm vegetable and sausage mixture. Serve immediately with fresh grated Parmesan.