After preparing this dish, you may wonder, “Why did I make this and actually put it in my mouth?” I’ve come to expect criticisms over the 40 years that I’ve eaten and made this meal, but it’s now my newsroom election-night staple.
It dates back to the mid-1970s when my family lived in Wellsville, an Ohio River town outside Pittsburgh. Our landlords became family friends and an important part of our lives for three decades. Occasionally, my dad and the husband of the landlord couple, Martin Thorn, would be left to take care of us and make dinner. One of my first memories is watching Martin, a WWII vet and burly steelworker with injured fingers from a mill accident, prepare this dish.
The knife and hot dogs looked small in his hands as he fumbled to cut them up. He would boil the hot dogs and pasta together to “let that good flavor soak into them noodles.” It was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. In the years I lived away from Pittsburgh, I would make this because it tasted like home, even though some have claimed it’s more reminiscent of feet.
- 1 lb. pasta
- 2 packs all-beef hot dogs
- 2 cans cream of mushroom soup
- 16 oz. Velveeta cheese, cubed
- 1 tbsp. garlic powder
- 1 tbsp. pepper
- ¾ cup milk
Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Whack up hot dogs with abandon. It gives it a crazed, rustic look. Cube the Velveeta. When the water comes to a rolling boil, add your pasta. (I prefer shells, because some of the hot dogs will get stuck in the shell and they look like WWII Marines taking Normandy Beach.) Cook pasta and hot dogs together until the pasta is al dente. Drain water and return pasta to pot. Over medium heat, add milk, soup, cheese, garlic powder and pepper. Stir constantly, because as Martin always said, “That shit will stick to the bottom of the pan, and if it does, you’re eating it, not me.” Eat it right away, before it “seizes up on ya.”