The Indy Maven Team Shares Their Most Beloved Family Recipes

And we’re hoping you will let us in on yours too.

If you’re anything like us, a gathering (virtual or otherwise) often leads to a discussion of food. After one recent staff meeting, we had the fun idea to gather together our favorite family recipes—you know, the ones that get passed down from generation to generation and are attached to so many lovely memories, they can never feel dated. 

But we’re always looking for new ones, so we hope you will share yours with us too, be it on Facebook, Instagram, or emailing them to so we can put them together for other Mavens out there looking for something to whip up with a little bit of love and history.

Apologies in advance if we leave you with a pasta craving…

Leslie Bailey, Linguine with Clam Sauce

A lot of kids grow up with spaghetti night but in our house it was linguine with clam sauce. My mom loved to cook and taught me how to make this. It was the first dish I learned to make without a recipe and it’s perfect because it’s most pantry staples—I keep canned clams on hand just for this when I don’t know what else to make or miss my mom who passed away a few years ago. I love to make it for my family, even my 3-year-old eats it. It’s also easy to make it a bit fancier for guests by adding fresh clams to the sauce. 

  • 1 pound linguine 
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2-5 garlic cloves (depending on your preference), minced
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1-1.5 (10-ounce) cans chopped or whole baby clams per person, juice reserved
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup chopped parsley
  • Baguette or crusty bread (optional but why wouldn’t you?)
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil which always takes longer than you think it will. Add the pasta and cook according to package instructions.
  2. While the pasta cooks, make your sauce…
  3. Strain the cans of clams and reserve the liquid. Pick through the clams to make sure there aren’t any pieces of shell. 
  4. Heat the oil and butter in a deep-sided 12-inch skillet over medium. Add the garlic and saute for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the wine and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the clam juice and simmer 1 minute more. Stir in the clams with their juices and cook until just warmed through, 1 to 2 minutes. 
  5. Stir in half the parsley.
  6. Pour the sauce over the pasta (we do individual portions vs family style on this one) and the remaining parsley. 
  7. Serve with baguette—I usually slice it, top with butter, garlic powder, and parmesan cheese and put under the broiler for a few minutes. 
  8. Enjoy!

Amanda Kingsbury, Jan hagel

When my brother, sister, and I were little, my mom worked full time at a bank while also going to nursing school. My dad, a fifth-grade teacher/sports coach, had several side jobs. So we ate a lot of frozen and boxed meals.  

But I do remember my mom making Jan Hagel for an easy, inexpensive dessert when she had the time. Jan Hagel is a Dutch treat—and I’d love to have a great story about this recipe being important to my heritage, but I am not Dutch. The wife of a bank loan officer shared the recipe with my mom. P.S. My now-retired mom is a fabulous cook.


1 cup butter

1 cup sugar

1 egg yolk

In separate bowl, mix together:

2 cups flour

1-2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ teaspoon almond extract

Egg white for brushing top

½ cup sliced almonds

  1. Cream together the butter, sugar and egg yolk until they are a pale yellow color.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour and cinnamon. Add to butter mixture and stir in vanilla and almond extract.
  3. Grease a cookie sheet. Press mixture into pan.
  4. Brush with egg white and top with sliced almonds.
  5. Bake at 300º F for 20 to 25 minutes.

Abby Gardner, Meat sauce

My mom was an excellent cook (though I’ve been told she didn’t start out that way!!), so it was difficult to pick just one of her recipes—though shout out to my aunt for gathering them into one huge binder for each of us. In the end, I had to go with the first thing she properly taught me to make, the one I can make without a physical recipe (I’m still not much of a home chef!), and the dish that makes my whole apartment smell like the home she made for us for all those years. This is also a favorite dish of any roommate or boyfriend I’ve had over the years…even in all its simplicity.

Sometimes I don’t even make pasta to go with this meat sauce. And, I must add that she almost always served it with what we kids called “special toast”—which was really just buttered bread browned to perfection in the broiler. I highly recommend it, too.


1 1/5 lbs ground beef or ground turkey (or a meat substitute if you want!)

1 can 15 oz tomato sauce

1 can 8 oz tomato sauce

1 can 6 1/2 oz tomato paste

1/2-3/4 chopped onion

3 garlic cloves or 1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp basil

1 bay leaf

  1. Brown the hamburger with onion and garlic.
  2. Drain thoroughly.
  3. Add tomato sauce, paste, seasonings. You may need to add a little water if it’s simmering a long time.
  4. Simmer at least 1 1/2-2 hours.


Rachel Hickey, German Potato Salad

My grandpa put together a cookbook in 2002 with our family recipes, and there are two dishes that always remind me of our family get-togethers: my grandma’s green beans and potato salad. The German Potato Salad is a recipe from my great-grandmother and it was one of my favorites in the summertime. There is something about the mustard and vinegar combination that makes it the perfect side dish for a backyard barbecue!


1 can condensed chicken broth

½ cup minced onion

¼ cup wine vinegar

3 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp mustard

¼ tsp salt

1/8 tsp pepper

5 cups cubed potatoes

1 cup sour cream

2 tbsp chopped parsley

  1. Combine all ingredients, except potatoes, sour cream, and parsley, in a large skillet.
  2. Add potatoes and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat and simmer 25 minutes or until done. Let stand 30 minutes.
  4. Blend sour cream and parsley in a bowl; toss with potatoes mixture. Serves four.

Kylie stine, meatballs and red sauce

My mom’s maternal grandmother is from Italy, and whenever all the women on her side of the family get together, we spend all day in the kitchen making homemade meatballs, red sauce, ravioli, and more! This is one of my favorite traditions that we’ve kept since I was a toddler … and I’m 22 now! I can’t wait for us to get together this summer and do this again.

Meatballs Sauce
2 lb ground beef

⅔ cup Italian bread crumbs

½ cup grated parmesan cheese

2 eggs

1 tbsp dried parsley

⅓ cup minced onions

3 cloves of minced garlic

1 tsp Italian seasoning

1 tbsp worcestershire sauce

½ tsp garlic powder

Little bit of milk (to soak bread crumbs)

Salt & pepper to taste

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp minced garlic

1/2 tsp dried basil

¼ tsp dried oregano

¼ tsp fennel seeds

¼ tsp red pepper flakes

1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes

1 tbsp dry red wine

1 tsp sugar

Salt & pepper to taste




  1. In a large bowl, combine meat, cheese, soaked bread crumbs, onion, eggs, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper, Italian seasoning and worcestershire sauce.
  2. Form meat into balls and brown them in a stock pot drizzled with olive oil. Do not drain the liquid at the bottom.


  1. In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, add garlic and cook, stirring for 30 seconds. 
  2. Add the herbs, seeds, salt, and black and red peppers and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds.
  3. Add the tomatoes, wine and sugar.
  4. Transfer the sauce to the stock pan with the meatballs. Bring to a boil, then let simmer for an hour on low.

Amy Bartner, Mom’s (and Bubbe Lichtenstein’s) Matzo Ball Soup

My mom took this recipe from her grandmother and worked to perfect it. She would make it every year for Passover, and I’ve made it a few times, trying to recreate it. I’ve failed to make it perfect, but maybe you can do better.

As with any of my mom’s recipes, I also had to fill in some hilarious holes with my own guesses because all the women making this just “knew” what to do and didn’t need to write it all down (example: This recipe originally said “celery and tops cut in small pieces.” How much celery, mom? And then no instructions for what to actually do to all those ingredients in the soup. I think it’s all just a ploy for me to call her, which I did to make sure this was right!).

Chicken soup


1 large onion, diced

3-4 stalks celery and “all the good leafy tops” from the entire head (the leafy parts are the most important, listen to my mother), chopped

3 big carrots, sliced (or more, until “it looks right”)

Salt and pepper to taste

2 large chickens

16-quart pot filled with water to cover chicken

  1. Bring water to a boil.
  2. Place chicken in a mesh lingerie bag and into boiling water (I informed my mom that they now make actual mesh soup bags. “Ooh, okay, I didn’t know that, that’s fine, whatever”).
  3. Add all the vegetables, salt and pepper.
  4. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover, cook until chicken is boiled through (how long does this take? You may never know. Or call my mom, she’ll tell you 6-8 hours), then remove chicken and clean.
  5. Shred meat with a fork or chop lightly, and put back into the soup broth.

 Matzo balls


2 tablespoons of rendered chicken fat (schmaltz—you can buy this or make it on your own)

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1/2 cup of matzo meal (you can typically find in any international section of the grocery store)

1 teaspoon of salt

1-2 tablespoons of soup or water

  1. Mix fat and eggs together.
  2. Mix matzo meal and salt, then add to fat and egg mixture. When blended, add soup stock or water.
  3. Cover the mixing bowl and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.
  4. Using a 2- or 3-quart pot, bring salt and water to a boil.
  5. Roll matzo ball mixture into 1 ¾- to 2-inch balls.
  6. Reduce heat on boiling water until water is slightly bubbling water, then drop the balls in.
  7. Cover the pot and cook for 30 to 40 minutes, then serve one or two with soup.

Ellie Allen, Rigatoni with tomato sauce

This recipe is from my grandma, but it was modified from a sauce that was created by my great great grandmother known as “noni.” We often eat pasta at family gatherings and when my mom was little, Noni used to make her rigatoni every Christmas. Eating this dish reminds me of my Italian heritage, and it tastes great!


2 tbs oil

½ cup chopped onion

1 clove garlic, minced

2 cups water

1 14 ½ oz. can diced tomatoes

1 can tomato paste

1 green pepper

1 red pepper, diced

1 ½ cups mushrooms, sliced

1 tbs sugar

2 tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

1 tsp oregano

½ tsp basil

2 tsp parsley

1 16 oz pkg Rigatoni

  1. On medium heat saute onion and garlic in oil.
  2. Add all remaining ingredients except noodles.
  3. Add additional water if sauce is too thick.
  4. Cover. Reduce heat and simmer 1 to 1 ½ hours on low heat.
  5. Cook noodles as directed on package.
  6. Combine sauce and noodles.
  7. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.

Adrienne Harlow, Grandma’s German Chocolate cake

Chocolate Ingredients

4 oz sweet (German) chocolate, coarsely chopped 115 grams

1/2 cup boiling water or brewed coffee 4.15 ounces/120 grams

2 tsp vanilla extract

Batter Ingredients

2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour or 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted 9 ounces/250 grams

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 cup unsalted butter or vegetable shortening, softened (65 to 67°F) 2 sticks/8 ounces/225 grams

2 cups granulated sugar or 1 cup granulated sugar and 1 cup packed light brown sugar (14 ounces/400 grams)

4 large egg yolks ¼ cup + 2 teaspoons/2.5 ounces/75 grams

1 cup buttermilk or sour milk (1 tablespoon white vinegar or lemon juice plus milk to equal 1 cup) 8.25 ounces/240 grams

4 large egg whites ½ cup/4.25 ounces/120 grams

Coconut-Pecan Frosting Ingredients

1 cup evaporated milk or heavy cream 8.5 ounces/245 grams

1 cup granulated sugar 7 ounces/200 grams

1/2 cup unsalted butter 1 stick/4 ounces/115 grams

3 large egg yolks, lightly beaten 3½ tablespoons/2 ounces/60 grams

1/8 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/3 cups grated coconut 3.5 ounces/100 grams

1 cup pecans, lightly toasted and finely chopped 4 ounces/115 grams

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