The Invented Meal: Sloppy Macs by Jennifer Jackson Berry

The Sundress Cookbook series brings you meals made by our writers and the stories behind them. In this installment, we have sloppy macs with Jennifer Jackson Berry.

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I always hated this Jackson family meal when my Mom would make it when I was growing up. She continued her mother-in-law’s Depression-era mentality of stretching the sauce to cover 2+ lbs. of pasta, but this needs to be saucy. My revised recipe calls for 1 lb. of pasta to serve 3-4 people, but most days, my husband and I make it with only 2/3 – 3/4 lb. and devour all of it between the two of us. My “to taste” for the listed spices is heavy. I shake them over the pan right from the bottles, but I think it would probably be a good palmful of all three. Yes, even the red pepper flakes; we like this spicy!



Sloppy Macs


1 lb. of bacon, chopped into bite-size pieces

28 oz. can crushed tomatoes

Oregano and onion powder to taste

Red pepper flakes (optional, but highly recommended)

1 lb. elbow macaroni

Parmesan cheese for serving (optional)

Directions:Sloppy Macs

Sauté bacon pieces until crispy in large pan. Add crushed tomatoes without draining any of the rendered bacon fat. Stir until fat is incorporated. Add oregano, onion powder, and red pepper flakes. While the sauce simmers, cook the elbow macaroni according to the box directions. Drain macaroni, then stir it into the sauce. Serve sprinkled with parmesan cheese.


The Invented Meal

Praise the invented meal, the pound of bacon

scissored into bite-size chunks and dropped

into the deep pan. Praise the meal invented

to stretch meat and the ignorance of generations past

as the grease won’t be skimmed off, but stirred in.

Praise the feel of a wooden spoon in fist

as the fat shrinks to crumbles,

as the can of crushed tomatoes is dumped in,

onion powder and oregano added. Praise

the red pepper flakes, heat that sticks like a slap

and steam that rises—elbow mac drained into a colander.

Praise anything that rises, even cholesterol,

because watching what falls is for every other day.

Not days with sauce this red, with bowls this empty.


Jennifer Jackson Berry is the author of The Feeder (YesYes Books, 2016). Her most recent chapbook Bloodfish was published by Seven Kitchens Press in 2019 as part of their Keystone Chapbook Series. Her other chapbooks include When I Was a Girl (Sundress Publications) and Nothing But Candy (Liquid Paper Press). She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


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