Sloppy Joes: Updating a 1970s favorite

As with many kids of the ’70s, one of my dinner favorites was sloppy Joes. I liked them better than burgers.

I remember the first time Dad made them, flavored with those little packets of dried spices, onions and such. Dad, who worked days, had dinner duty most nights, as mom worked afternoons.

I remember he was excited to have us try this new thing. We were suspicious of the new food, and I remember all four of us eating them with trepidation.

But we liked them and had them often. Which is why being served sloppy Joes now as an adult is a nostalgia-inducing happy treat. There were smiles all around when my friend Ginna made them (without the spice packet) for the gang a while back, as we gathered for a weekly “Top Chef” viewing.

But her sandwiches had an Italian twist and she dubbed them sloppy Giuseppes. Well, my Italian-born mom used to call me Giuseppe, and I can be kind of sloppy, so of course I loved them all the more.

This play on Ginna’s idea is simpler. Not much to point them in an Italian direction, except the oregano, until we get to the toppings: provolone cheese and a generous helping of jarred giardiniera (pickled vegetables). Green peppers, standard in regular sloppy Joes, would do well here. And you could definitely crank up the spices, if you prefer stronger flavors.

Served with a big red wine or a beer, they’re definitely for grownups.

Sloppy Giuseppes

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

½ teaspoon salt

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 pound ground beef

½ cup red wine

1 can (14.5 ounces) Italian pear tomatoes, chopped

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1½ teaspoons dried oregano

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

6 hamburger or other rolls, toasted

6 slices provolone cheese

Giardiniera

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion; season with ¼ teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften. Stir in the garlic; cook, 1 minute.

Add the ground beef, stirring it into the onions and breaking it up; cook until browned. Stir in the wine, tomatoes and paste, oregano, red pepper flakes and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened. Taste for seasonings.

Serve on rolls, topped with a slice of provolone and a generous helping of giardiniera.

Makes 6 servings. Per serving: 514 calories, 20 g fat, 9 g saturated fat, 116 mg cholesterol, 61 g carbohydrates, 19 g protein, 689 mg sodium, 2 g fiber.

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