My grandma and her sister (my great aunt) lived on opposite sides of a duplex house, so when we were kids and would spend time at my grandma’s, we also would spend a good bit of it over on my aunt’s side of the house as well. My great aunt was famous for a few of her specialty items – poor man’s cookies, broccoli casserole, and, my favorite, sloppy joes. There was nothing terribly fancy about it – a can of Manwich and some ground meat, but there was something about eating such a messy sandwich I just loved. It must be a kid thing ;-)
A while ago, sloppy joes popped into my head out of nowhere; I hadn’t had them in at least 10 years, but I suddenly was on a quest to make a version from scratch. I remembered there sometimes being onion and green pepper in my aunt’s recipe, and then went from there. This is a simple tomato sauce made with a combination of ketchup, tomato puree and some simple seasonings. My original intention was to use tomato sauce and tomato paste as a thickener, but when I got into my pantry I realized I was out of tomato sauce, but had puree, and it worked great. I love a thicker sauce, and the tomato puree was perfect.
I ate this everyday for lunch for four days straight, and I loved every single bite of it. I’m always totally enamored with a nostalgic taste that can be replicated from scratch. Sloppy joes will always remind me of hanging out at my grandma’s with my cousins and crowding around my aunt’s dining room table for more servings.
Here’s to favorite kid flavors and homemade replications!
Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the onion and pepper and sauté until soft and translucent, 5 to 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper while cooking. Add the minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds longer. Remove from the pan to a bowl.
Add the ground beef to the pan, increase the heat to medium-high and cook until the beef is completely browned, breaking it up with a wooden spoon as it cooks. If the beef has released a lot of fat, drain off most of it.
Add the vegetables back to the pan and stir in the tomato puree, ketchup, brown sugar and chili powder. Season with salt and pepper and simmer until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and serve on hamburger buns. Leftovers can be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.