Who knows what movie is behind today’s inspiration, can you guess?
Yes, Elf! This is my nod to Buddy the elf’s favorite meal.
If you’ve seen the movie then you’ll, no doubt, remember the dinner scene where Buddy pours syrup all over his spaghetti, and as if that’s not enough, he later makes himself a plate of breakfast that’s strictly based on the elves food pyramid of candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup! If you’re anything like me you probably watch that scene with a mixture of laughter and horror at all the sugar and ridiculously unhealthy toppings he adds. My absolute favorite is when he cracks a chocolate pop-tart on the side for good measure and shovels the whole pile into his mouth…oh, and smiling too. Smiling’s my favorite!
I knew that something from Elf had to make it into my Christmas-movie-food week, but I couldn’t decide what. The thought of making a dessert that looked like spaghetti and meatballs sounded fun, but it’s easy to get the kids to eat something super sugary like that. What’s not easy is getting them to eat dinner. How did the D-word become a bad one and why are kids so impossible to feed sometimes? If anyone has the answer to this age-old mystery let me know.
It seems like every year when we watch Elf, at least one of our family’s youngest will ask if we can really make elf-style spaghetti for them to eat. Last year it was mostly Brock, but this year it’s Sophie. I seem to remember my mom actually letting Chase do it quite a few years ago when he was little, but I also remember that it only took a few bites for him to decide that an elf’s diet wasn’t for him.
The boys didn’t believe me when I said that I had actually put maple in the spaghetti and chocolate in the bread sticks, but yes, I really did. I made a more realistic version of elf spaghetti and everyone loved it. Hey, but wait a minute before you shake your head at me and my audacity. Just ask any true Italian chef or Grandmother, the best spaghetti sauce has a tiny pinch of sugar added! Truth. Hey, even Peter Clemenza adds a little bit o’ sugar to his.
So I probably would have used maple sausage if I still lived in a place that sold it, but since I don’t I used pure maple syrup and ground pork, then added my own seasoning. If you prefer you can use maple sausage instead of the ground pork and syrup. Either way should work. I did want this to be somewhat of a balanced meal so I only added a touch of syrup and then to get the maple flavor without all the sugar I added a few drops of pure maple extract until I could taste it slightly. It’s an optional thing and can basically be added to taste, but I think it’s what really gives this childishly fun flair.
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
- 1 cup lukewarm water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/3 cup cocoa powder
- 3 - 3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 pound extra lean ground beef
- 1 pound ground pork
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup tomato paste
- 1/4 packed fresh basil leaves, chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
- 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, optional
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
- 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- a few drops of pure maple extract to taste (optional)
- 1/4 cup cream
- 16 ounces uncooked spaghetti noodles
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- freshly grated parmesan for serving
- Combine water, yeast, and honey in a large bowl and stir to dissolve the yeast. Let sit for about 5 minutes until the mixture starts to get bubbly then add beaten egg, oil, and salt and stir well. Add cocoa powder and 3 cups of whole wheat flour and stir mixture well. Allow it to rest for 10 to 20 minutes to let the flour start absorbing the liquid then turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes (if the dough is still sticky add a little bit more flour until it pulls away from the work surface.
- Place in an oiled bowl, cover with a damp towel or plastic, and then place in a warm place to rise for 1 to 2 hours until doubled in size. Once it rises, divide the dough into 12 balls and strech each one into a long and skinny rope. Place them about 2 inches apart and a parchment lined baking tray and allow them to rise while you preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 C).
- Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until edges begin to darken. Remove from oven, and if desired, cover with a towel to keep warm until ready to serve.
- Combine ground beef and pork in a large sauce pan over medium high heat. Use a spatula to crumble as it cooks and cook until completely browned. Add garlic and onions and cook for 3 to 4 minutes until starting to soften then pour in water, tomato paste, and maple syrup. Add the fresh basil, all of the dried herbs, salt, and pepper. Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, heat a large pot of salted water to boil, and cook the noodles to al dente. Drain and toss with 1 tablespoon oil.
- Add cream and turn heat back up to medium. Stir until sauce is thickened and hot. Serve noodles topped with your sauce, some grated parm on top, a side of breadsticks, and a dousing of maple syrup......just kidding about that last!