UT prez’s secret sauce could be secret weapon

University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro serving guests the best spaghetti this side of Italy.

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!

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.

Meanwhile, Dr. Joe was opening some wonderful Zinfandel. We would switch to Chianti for dinner.

Guest Jon Roach approved.

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.

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.

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 raised in Abruzzo withiin 25 miles of each other.

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 Jack, a Sheltie.

Polly Fisher and Daryl Johnson visiting with Karma.

Deb with all three dogs, Jack, Karma and Luna.

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.

Meet Luna, an Australian shepherd. Deb joked about her name. “It’s short for lunatic,” she laughed.

Dr. Joe with Jack.

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.

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!

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!

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

More sauce went on top.

And Parmesan cheese.

And Parmesan cheese.

Toss, toss, toss.

Toss, toss, toss.

While Dr. Joe tossed the pasta, Sarah Kiely of the UT Culinary Institute added more sauce.

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.

More cheese.

More cheese.

Perfection!

Perfection!

As Dr. Joe brought the pasta to the table, Sarah brought the meatballs and steak rolls.

As Dr. Joe brought the pasta to the table, Sarah brought the meatballs and steak rolls.

Here's a better look at them.

Here’s a better look at them.

We all eagerly passed our plates to be filled up.

After a salad course, we all eagerly passed our dinner plates to be filled up.

Yep. That's what I'm talking about.

Yep. That’s what I’m talking about.

Holy cow! Deb made an Italian creme cake!

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.

“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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

 

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16 Responses to UT prez’s secret sauce could be secret weapon

  1. Monique Anderson, on February 20th, 2017 at 1:40 pm said:

    What? No picture of Alan eating the dessert?

  2. Cynthia Moxley, on February 20th, 2017 at 1:41 pm said:

    He was too fast for me!

  3. Maria Cornelius, on February 20th, 2017 at 1:52 pm said:

    Luna is so not sorry. Love it! Woof. (Love people who love dogs and make them part of the family.)

  4. Mickey Mallonee, on February 20th, 2017 at 2:08 pm said:

    I love how colorful everything is.

  5. Alan Carmichael, on February 20th, 2017 at 2:48 pm said:

    It was a beautiful evening with great pasta and meatballs and Italian cream cake.The dogs were fun!

  6. Deborah Sams, on February 20th, 2017 at 2:48 pm said:

    Delightful to read. Will look for this type of auction item.

  7. Bill Horton, on February 20th, 2017 at 3:16 pm said:

    Sounds like a wonderful dinner. I want to find one of those aprons!

  8. Cynthia Moxley, on February 20th, 2017 at 3:18 pm said:

    Bill: You NEED one of those aprons!

    Mickey: I loved how colorful everything was, too.

    Maria: I wondered how sorry they were!

    Deborah: You will love it if you get it!

  9. Georgiana Vines, on February 20th, 2017 at 3:33 pm said:

    Now I’m hungry for spaghetti. Of course, the pasta has to be gluten-free but the products have improved since 2007 when I was diagnosed with celiac disease.

  10. Deb DiPietro, on February 20th, 2017 at 3:58 pm said:

    Thanks, Cynthia, for the lovely compliments on the dinner. We and the dogs enjoyed the evening and everyone’s company very much. We’ve never had a group so smitten with the dogs, which earns you extra points as favored guests. Thanks for your support of UT!

  11. Cynthia Moxley, on February 20th, 2017 at 4:21 pm said:

    Georgiana: I forgot about that. Do they even make gluten free pasta?

    Deb: We had the best time! Thanks so much for putting up with us. We adored your doggies!

  12. Keith Carver, on February 20th, 2017 at 7:59 pm said:

    Cynthia: thanks for the great write-up and photos from your evening with Joe D! It appears that a good time was had by all. I appreciate the Blue Streak and enjoy keeping up with “all things Knoxville” through the blog. You guys are simply the best. Take care! Keith

  13. M. Janice Mitchell, on February 20th, 2017 at 8:09 pm said:

    What a great story! Made me wish for Italian immediately! Love the dogs were included as family. Everything looked wonderful and by your descriptions, I could almost taste it , too!!!

  14. Cynthia Moxley, on February 20th, 2017 at 9:11 pm said:

    Keith: Thanks for reading the Blue Streak! I keep up with you on Facebook.

    Janice: It was like being in a private Italian home. The dogs were wonderful.

  15. Pamela Cannella Treacy, on February 20th, 2017 at 9:27 pm said:

    This was a great story. I grew up eating pasta on Wednesday and Sunday. And the sauce was called gravy.

  16. Carolyn Lawrencs, on March 7th, 2017 at 5:37 pm said:

    What a wonderful event! I would love to attend this next year. Maybe this will be offered in the future. Love all the pictures and your great coverage of a wonderful evening

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