You’re gonna love this one!

Mildred Kent is 94. She lives in assisted living just outside Detroit.

This is a delightful lady who happens to be the mother of my brother-in-law and dear friend, Jim. I have known them for more than 40 years as I grew up in Chicago and my wife, Kate, is from Michigan.

Kate is half Italian and prides herself on her pasta sauce. I pride myself on mine. Through all these years, Jim has been telling me about the sauce his mom always made while growing up.

Before I break the secret and give you the recipe, I want to tell you a little about the Kent clan. There are no finer people. The Kents lived in a small home in a city outside Detroit. The father worked for Ford his whole life. Mildred’s mom was from England and lived with them until she passed away, still cleaning and helping until over 100 years old.

Five brothers, two parents and the grandma all shared a tiny three-bedroom home with a basement. And one

Mildred Kent, 94, and son Jim. Photo courtesy of Vic Sirkin
Mildred Kent, 94, and son Jim. Photo courtesy of Vic Sirkin

bathroom, that’s right just one bathroom!

In the years of my early marriage, I visited Michigan often from Chicago to see my wife’s family and to visit with Jim and Kate’s sister. On most visits I would go to the Kents’ home to visit his mom and dad, and younger brother David. Always hearing about this special spaghetti sauce, and despite promises of getting to taste it, it just never came to pass.

About a month ago on a short trip back east in order to eat my way through Detroit and visit Jim and some old haunts, we stopped in to see Mildred where she now lives in a wonderful facility. She’s sharp as a tack and we had a great time. Then I recalled the “sauce.”

After I badgered Jim, he solicited his brothers for info and we finally got the recipe. His brother Ron’s wife, Colleen, had it committed to memory and or notes. Ron said his mom referred to it as “poor man’s spaghetti,” as it was inexpensive, easy to prepare and could feed a tribe of their size without breaking the bank.

Although I regret not having “Millie’s” (as I call her) actual preparation, I have the recipe.

I made it and it was terrific. JP tried it and liked it too, probably with beer. It has a base of Campbell’s soup. Don’t let that concern you, it’s really good. Years ago that soup was a nickel a can. Last week it was on sale at Fairway for 88 cents — still a bargain.

So, here you go.


Mildred Kent’s Spaghetti Sauce


• 1lb. ground chuck or similar

• 2 cans Campbell’s tomato soup (10-oz. cans)

• 1 can tomato sauce (15 oz.)

• 1 medium-size yellow onion, chopped

• ½ medium green bell pepper (cut into 4-5 strips)

• 4-5 cloves garlic, chopped

• ½ cup celery, chopped

• 2 bay leaves

• 1 tsp. black pepper

• 1 Tbs. basil, dried or fresh

• 1 Tbs. oregano

• 1 tsp. sugar

• 1 tsp. butter

• 20 oz. water (more or less to your liking, start with this)



Brown the meat and onion. Stir in remaining ingredients. Bring to boil, then simmer for at least one hour on low to medium heat.

Discard bay leaves and serve with spaghetti or your favorite pasta. Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese if you like.

History can repeat itself with this simple and really great sauce that everyone will love. Let me know how it goes.

And, Millie, I hope you enjoy this article, and I look forward to visiting for your 100th birthday party!