Belinda’s Surprise

November 27th, 2006

Lyn Jank, who died in 1991, had been a screen writer turning out spaghetti westerns in Italy, before she spent Labor Day at Ruidoso Downs, New Mexico in 1975. A native Texan, Jank fell in love with Quarter Horse racing that day and became good friends with Ralph Shebester, the breeder and owner of Bugs Alive In 75, who won the celebrated All American Futurity at Ruidoso Downs that Labor Day.

As a writer, Jank made her subjects come alive. An article that she wrote about Three Bars for Speedhorse magazine was just a prelude to a book that she had planned with the working title “Brave Dust.” It would have rivaled Laura Hillenbrand’s “Seabiscuit.”

The first time I met Lyn, she had invited me and my husband to dinner at her home. The meal was delicious and I asked her for the recipe. I am used to jotting down recipes on file cards and scrap paper. But Lyn’s recipe was a narrative, as delicious to read as to eat. It’s the only recipe I’ve ever received in paragraph form. Belinda, in honor of whom the recipe was named, was a race horse.

Belinda’s Surprise

  • 1 pound bulk hot sausage
  • 1 large white or yellow onion
  • 1 green pepper
  • 2 cans stewed tomatoes (20 ounces)
  • 1 package shell pasta
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 or 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • (Optional: 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 cup sour cream)

The sauce can be prepared in advance and kept for several days in the refrigerator. You can also freeze it.

Peel and mash garlic cloves. Finely chop onion and pepper. Slowly saute with vegetable oil in skillet until onions are transparent. Do not allow them to brown. Easy does it – about 15 minutes.

While onions, pepper and garlic are cooking, crumble sausage and slowly brown. Drain off all grease. Use fork, potato masher or anything else that is handy to break up any lumps in the sausage. Set aside.

Use a paper towel to wipe out the skillet in which you cooked sausage. Use a blender or potato masher to crush tomatoes. Pour them, with juice, into the skillet, add sugar and, if you like, chili powder. Bring to a simmer, stirring once or twice. Add onion, pepper, garlic mixture.

Stir and bring to a simmer. Add sausage, stir, bring to a simmer and stir again.
20-25 minutes after you put the tomatoes in the skillet, your sauce will be done. If you want the option of sour cream, add it five minutes before the sauce is done.

Stir well. At this point you can set the sauce aside until the pasta is done.
Add salt to about three quarts of water and bring to a rapid boil. Add pasta. If you are absent-minded, use a timer. The worst sin in the world is to overcook pasta. If directions on the pasta package say 12 minutes, set your timer for 10, take a taste and go the whole 12 minutes, but only if necessary.

Drain. Return pasta to same pot. Add your sauce (naturally, you’ll have thawed it and heated it if you had in the freezer). Stir well and serve immediately.

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