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My sister was browsing through her Joy of Cooking (the 1975 edition, her copy printed November 1983) and found several recipes that call for things like "1 can spaghetti: 24 oz." or "2 1/2 cups canned spaghetti". We can't for the life of us figure out what this means.

For example, here's a recipe for "Quick Spaghetti Meat Pie" (page 217):

4 servings
Preheat oven to 375°
Sauté lightly:
  2 cups cubed or ground cooked meat
  2 teaspoons grated onion
in:
  2 tablespoons butter
Add:
  1/4 cup cream
Season it with:
  Salt and pepper
  (1/2 teaspoon basil)
Place in a greased baking dish:
  1 can spaghetti: 24 oz.
Make a depression in the center. Place the meat in it. Sprinkle the top with:
  Au Gratin III, 553
Bake about 25 minutes.

When we ask our friend Mr. Google to show us what "canned spaghetti" looks like, he shows us pictures of spaghetti sauce. Is "canned spaghetti" something that (thankfully) died out sometime in the intervening 40 years since this recipe was written?

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    "When we ask our friend Mr. Google to show us what "canned spaghetti" looks like, he shows us pictures of spaghetti sauce." I'm always amazed at the differences localization and personalization can have in Google results. When I search for "canned spaghetti", the first things that come up are images of and shopping links for canned spaghetti. Aug 8, 2015 at 19:38
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    watties.co.nz/Our-Products/Beans-Spaghetti/Spaghetti - a staple where I come from. The page claims it's the "Spaghettiest Spaghetti around", and it's hard to disagree. Aug 8, 2015 at 23:12
  • In the UK, Heinz make several varieties of tinned spaghetti in a tomato sauce (with "tinned" being British English for "canned"), usually aimed at children (e.g. "spaghetti hoops", and "alphabet spaghetti") - see heinz.co.uk/en/Products/Pasta
    – Alnitak
    Aug 9, 2015 at 9:47
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    Foreign readers unfamiliar with the product may note that the fact they're called "spaghetti hoops" and not, for example, "anellini", is a good indicator of the care and respect offered to traditional Italian pasta-making ;-) Aug 9, 2015 at 11:09
  • Those are called Spaghetti-O's. Canned Spaghetti is long and skinny, like spaghetti.
    – Tim Nevins
    Apr 17, 2019 at 21:33

2 Answers 2

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Canned spaghetti unfortunately is still something that can be bought at supermarkets. A common brand for canned pasta is Chef Boyardee. They have ravioli, spaghetti and sometimes even canned meatballs inside the spaghetti.

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These spaghetti will have a very very soft texture similar to what you would expect the spaghetti texture to be if you overcook it by at least 10 minutes.

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    Make that thirty, IMHO... ^_^
    – Stephie
    Aug 8, 2015 at 19:13
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    Chef Boyardee, the savior of college students everywhere!
    – GdD
    Aug 8, 2015 at 19:13
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    A reason I will never buy the cookbook.
    – Cindy
    Aug 8, 2015 at 19:16
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    @GdD honestly, if you look at their prices, it would be cheaper to just boil your own spaghetti. Instant ramen however is the actual savior of college students ;)
    – Jay
    Aug 8, 2015 at 19:18
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    @Cindy: every cookbook is a product of its times. The 1975 edition of Joy is no exception. This doesn't make it a bad cookbook. If you object to these sorts of recipes, get the newest edition (2007? something like that). Of course, 40 years from now, a new generation will be scratching its heads at something in that edition... still doesn't make it a bad cookbook. Basically, if an ingredient exists and you want to cook with it, Joy of Cooking will give you at least one method to do so.
    – Marti
    Aug 9, 2015 at 2:25
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My name is Megan Scott and I work, along with my husband John Becker, for the Joy of Cooking. The short answer is that this is one of the many reasons we revise the cookbook every 10 years or so! We don't know exactly what this recipe is referring to (and can't ask Marion Becker, who died right after the 1975 edition came out), although we assume it means a can of spaghetti in sauce, which is a horrifying thought. JoC has moved away from calling for canned goods (with notable exceptions, such as canned tomatoes), and in our next edition, which we are currently writing, we hope to get rid of them altogether. I will say, however, we don't have anything quite so heinous in the most recent edition. Just think of it as a sign of the times. Hope this helps!

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  • That is a pretty heinous recipe. I don't know when my JoC was published but it had be be pre-1975.
    – Tim Nevins
    Apr 17, 2019 at 21:40

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