Most of us likely have a few generational recipes passed down from our grandparents that have become staples at our holiday dinners and family potlucks. Some of us may even have ones that have become part of our weekly rotation.
While many of the recipes we love to share are delicious pound cakes or homemade spaghetti sauce, sometimes we can forget about the ridiculously simple ones that were just meant to get dinner on the table—like my grandmother’s three-ingredient recipe made with some pretty unlikely household staples.
Raising eight kids on a farm, my grandma had a lot of hungry mouths to feed, which meant sometimes the simple, cheap meal was the way to go. In this case, however, it turns out the simple, cheap meal was actually a delicious one that I still make to this day when I don’t feel like cooking or don’t have a lot of ingredients in my house.
The combo? Egg noodles, a can of tomato soup, and bacon. I’m not sure if you could call it a stew or just a runny “pasta sauce,” but noodles smothered with bacon-packed soup is the budget-friendly meal of dreams.
The method has changed over the years, but, originally, when my grandma—and subsequently my grandpa when she passed away—made the dish, it was four ingredients. That final ingredient was a diced onion, but as kids, my brother and I didn’t like onion, so my mom would omit it when she made it.
My grandma would fry the bacon in a cast iron skillet, then cook the onions in the bacon grease, and finally add the tomato soup and water—which gave the soup so much extra flavor. Then, she’d serve the tomato soup sauce over egg noodles. It really doesn’t get much easier.
Today, I only use the three ingredients—mostly because I didn’t know there was a fourth until I fact-checked the recipe with my parents—and don’t use a cast iron skillet. I like to cook my bacon in the oven because it’s a lot less messy, so I’ll cook the bacon, cut it up, and add it to the pot of prepared tomato soup.
It may sound like a strange dish, but the simple flavors really work together—and it’s a great meal to stretch those last few days before your next grocery run. In other words, don’t knock it ‘til you try it!
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