University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro serving guests the best spaghetti this side of Italy.
The University of Tennessee has a secret weapon for making friends and influencing folks. I think it even would work on members of the Tennessee General Assembly.
What is it? UT President Joe DiPietro’s famous spaghetti with a tantalizing sauce made from a long-held family recipe. I’m serious. This stuff is magical.
At an auction last year benefiting the UT Gardens, Alan and I purchased a spaghetti dinner for six at the home of Dr. Joe and Deb DiPietro. We redeemed it last weekend with four friends.
The relaxed evening at their comfortable Old Kent Drive home was a delight. And that sauce! It’s hard to describe, but it was tomato based and very smooth with a little something-something that was hard to put your finger on.
Dr. Joe said the “secret” had something to do with cloves. But it sure was subtle. And delicious. Even the following morning, I could taste a hint of the enchanting elixir.
Another thing that made the evening so much fun was the presence of the DiPietro’s three sweet — and award-winning — show dogs. Two Australian shepherds and one Sheltie definitely are part of the family — and all activities. We loved getting to know them.
So, I have two pieces of advice. One is for you. If you see this auction item offered again, grab it! The other is for UT. Make use of this amazing resource!
Deb DiPietro, right, showing Polly Fisher the latest ribbons her dogs have secured. Look above their heads!
Meanwhile, Dr. Joe was opening some wonderful Zinfandel. We would switch to Chianti for dinner.
Guest Jon Roach approved.
This sculpture is called “The Winebacker!” It was a gift from Keith Carver, Dr. DiPietro’s former executive assistant who recently accepted the position of chancellor at the University of Tennessee-Martin.
Joe DiPietro’s family is from Abruzzo in southern Italy. He showed us this pasta-making instrument that belonged to his grandmother. That’s Mintha Roach at left.
This classic pasta maker is called a chitarra. The spaghetti it produces is square, Dr. DiPietro said. All four of his grandparents were peasant farmers in Abruzzo within 25 miles of each other.
Polly Fisher and Daryl Johnson visiting with Karma.
Deb with all three dogs, Jack, Karma and Luna.
Meet Luna, an Australian shepherd. Deb joked about her name. “It’s short for lunatic,” she laughed.
Dr. Joe with Karma. Dr. DiPietro is by training a veterinarian. “When you are a veterinarian, you deal with solving problems,” he noted. “That’s what I do now. I solve problems. It’s just a different set of problems.”
Alan and Luna.
Notice that there are three big hunks of cheese on this plate. This is significant because, soon, there were only two hunks of cheese – Luna had grabbed one off the plate!
Deb had a stern conversation with the dogs after that happened!
Soon, it was time to sit down. Doesn’t this just look like a table in an Italian farmhouse?
Dr. Joe stepped into the kitchen to put pasta into boiling water. He used angel hair pasta. The cooking took just three to four minutes.
In no time at all, it was coming out of the water into a serving bowl of the magical sauce.
Dr. Joe said that, when he was growing up, his family had this spaghetti dish twice a week — on Wednesdays and Sundays. On Sundays, it was accompanied by roast beef or roasted chicken.
More sauce went on top.
And Parmesan cheese.
Toss, toss, toss.
While Dr. Joe tossed the pasta, Sarah Kiely of the UT Culinary Institute added more sauce.
I asked Sarah if she helped with the cooking. “No,” she said. “He does the cooking. I help with the serving.” UT has a great culinary program, by the way.
As Dr. Joe brought the pasta to the table, Sarah brought the meatballs and steak rolls.
Here’s a better look at them.
After a salad course, we all eagerly passed our dinner plates to be filled up.
Yep. That’s what I’m talking about.
Holy cow! Deb made an Italian cream cake!
But first, we had espresso.
“Dark as the night. Strong as a horse. Sweet as my wife,” Dr. Joe said. Aww.
Here’s that cake. I’m not much of a dessert eater, but I ate every bit.
But dinner was not over. Dr. Joe offered after dinner drinks. “Are you going to have one?” I asked. “Of course!” he replied. So, of course, so did the rest of us.
I love this picture of Polly during the toast.
Before we left, everyone took a moment for a photo. From left, Alan Carmichael, Mintha Roach, Deb DiPietro, Jon Roach, Dr. Joe DiPietro, Daryl Johnson and Polly Fisher.
And, to top off the evening, they sent us home with goodie bags that contained biscotti, amaretto and gourmet chocolates.
P.S. I know I said you should bid on this auction item, but you are going to be bidding against me!