Food that your family makes usually has a clear home-field advantage: You like it because you love them. But when people in your family make food that’s just clearly, objectively delicious — food that you would finish every bite of, even if you hated their guts — that’s the optimal scenario. That’s when you ask them to write down the recipe so you can keep it forever and whip it out at opportune moments and impress the hell out of everyone you know.
For this collection, BuzzFeed staff members nominated the most delicious signature dishes their moms, dads, grandmothers, and sisters have made over the years. Write these down on index cards (or, you know, bookmark the page) and start spreading the love.
We’ve made a few small edits and notes for clarity. Moms, please know that all meddling is from the editors, not your children.
Is there a more beautiful phrase in the English language than “golden brown and crusty and bubbly on top”? This is a 10000% guaranteed party crowd pleaser if you don’t disclose what’s in it. Just say it’s an old family recipe from my mom to yours. ;) —Katie J.M. Baker
Barbara’s Artichoke Dip
I use Best Foods [sold as Hellman’s on the East Coast] because it’s the richest mayonnaise, but you could try using something else.
1 cup Best Foods mayo
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
2 cups artichoke hearts, well-drained & chopped (press a bit to get the water out)
Mix all together. Put into 1.5-quart casserole dish. Bake 25 minutes at 350 degrees or until golden brown and crusty and bubbly on top. Serve hot with crackers.
2. Birthday Cake from Katherine Miller’s Mom
My mother is a good cook — and an excellent baker. Her repertoire runs the full gamut of desserts (pies from scratch, cakes, Slovak pastries, an untold variety of cookies), but if there’s one that’s the signature item, it’s probably the Birthday Cake. It’s a chocolate cake with white frosting, which sounds sort of basic, but it is so uniformly excellent that it basically has been retired from rotation to preserve the signature status. It’s my grandmother’s recipe, and it is notably fantastic the next day as a breakfast item. The key, according to my mother, is the frosting. —Katherine Miller
The Birthday Cake
3 squares Baker’s unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup water
1 cup sour cream
2 cup sifted cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup butter
2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Melt chocolate with water in a saucepan over very low heat; stir to blend well. Cool thoroughly; stir in sour cream.
Meanwhile, sift or whisk flour with baking soda, salt, and baking powder.
Cream butter and sugars together in a mixer until smooth and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well. Beat in vanilla. Alternate additions of the flour mixture and chocolate mixture, mixing well after each addition.
Pour into two parchment paper-lined, 9-inch layer pans. Bake for 35 minutes. Let cakes cool completely and frost. [Here’s a helpful video if you need some frosting pointers.]
Fluffy Boiled Frosting
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon water
Dash of salt
3 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla
Combine sugar, syrup, salt, and water in a saucepan. Stir over low heat until sugar dissolves. Cook without stirring to 250 degrees or until a little dropped into cold water forms into a soft ball. Remove from heat.
Put egg whites into large Mix-Master bowl [Any electric or stand mixer should work.]; beat on Number 12 speed until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes. Add syrup in a thin stream while beating. Add vanilla; continue beating until fluffy and peaks hold shape, or about 3 minutes. Spread on cake. This fills and frosts 2 (8- or 9-inch layers or a 13 × 9 x 2 inch cake. Decorate with coconut, chopped nuts, or as desired.
This deliciously cheesy and sweet dish comes from my mom’s mom, who moved to New York City from England after World War II. My Nana, as we called her, had a notorious sweet tooth (Godiva remains like kryptonite in the family) and I think this verging-on-dessert-for-dinner dish perfectly captures her passion for deliciousness. (Though you can use low-fat milk and cheese to lighten it up, if you like.) —Miriam Berger
You can read more about the recipe’s story here.
The Big Blintze
1/2 lb. melted margarine
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour, sifted
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 pounds farmer cheese, or 1 pound farmer cheese and 1 pound cottage cheese
1/4 cup sugar
Juice of one lemon
1) Mix the margarine, eggs, sugar, milk, and vanilla. Then add the flour and baking powder. I find it best to make this in a food processor, so that the batter is smooth and fluffy. Pour a little less than half the batter into a greased 9-by-13 inch casserole dish, spreading evenly across the bottom.
2) Mix together ingredients for the filling, and spread evenly over the bottom layer of batter.
3) Now comes the hard part: covering the filling with the remaining batter. I find it works to place small blobs of the batter gently on the filling, then try to smooth them together with a small spatula or butter knife. (That’s why it’s best to have a little more batter to work with on top.)
4) Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes. Let cool completely before serving; if you can, refrigerate the casserole. It tastes especially yummy when it’s firm and cold.
4. Carrot Pudding from Adam Davis’s Grandma
The signature dish in my family is carrot pudding, although I have no idea why it’s called that, given that it is in no way an actual pudding. More like a…cake? Bread? It’s very unclear what a more accurate name would be, but my family loves it anyway. My grandma and great aunt used to make it when my mom was little, and my mom would always make it for special occasions and family get-togethers when I was growing up.
Apparently, back in the day, they had to grate the carrots by hand, which was a time-consuming process and thus why the dish became a special-occasions-only kind of thing. Most people who try it think it sounds weird at first because, well, pudding, but when they see what it actually is and try it, it’s always a big hit. —Adam Davis
Ida’s Carrot Pudding
3/4 cup Crisco
1/2 to 3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon water
1 egg, beaten
1 1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups grated carrots
Using an electric mixer, beat the Crisco and brown sugar for several minutes until fluffy. Beat water into egg separately, then add to the mixture. Sift together the dry ingredients and add to the batter. Fold in grated carrots.
Bake one hour at 300 degrees in a greased 8×8 pan. Can be doubled, and baked in a 9×13 pan.
My sister has not one, not two, not three, but FOUR CHILDREN. Her recipes have to be about speed, because the second she looks away from the kids, they are pouring boxes of Cheerios on the floor. She’s also the wife of a rabbi, so she ~obviously~ makes her own challah. These challahs can be made super quickly, with minimal work, and the best part? You can make four, use two this Shabbos, and save the other two in the freezer for next week. Genius. —Deena Shanker
Elisa Shanker Huff’s Easy Bread Machine Challah
5 eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups of warm water
1/3 cup oil
1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons of sugar
1 -1/8 tsp salt
5 cups of flour
2 tablespoons of yeast
Add egg yolks to the bread machine, followed by the warm water, oil, sugar, salt, and flour. (Save egg whites to baste challah before you bake it.)
Stick your index finger to make hole in middle of flour at the end and add yeast to the hole.
Put on dough setting in bread machine. Once done you can let rise for 1/2 hour if you have time; if not it’s fine.
Braid challah and brush the egg white on top. (My kids like to stuff chocolate chips in challah strands when braiding or add rainbow sprinkles to the top.)
Bake at 350 for around 1/2 hour. Don’t overcook! Freezes amazingly!
My dad didn’t do a ton of cooking when I was growing up, but when he did, it was usually pretty good. He is from the South, but this was in California, and it felt very exciting and exotic to me to turn cast-off animal parts into a tasty snack. And it was always a special occasion: He usually only did it when my mom was traveling or we were on our own for some reason or another, probably because fried chicken gizzards make everything smell like fried chicken gizzards. —Shani O. Hilton
TGO’s (The Great One’s) Chicken Gizzards
Some flour [about 1/2 to 1 cup flour, depending on how many gizzards you have]
Some black pepper
Mix of chicken gizzards and hearts
Half inch of canola or peanut oil in a cast iron skillet
Beat the egg and set aside in a bowl. In another bowl, mix flour, salt, and pepper. Rinse the gizzards and hearts. Feed a couple of raw gizzards to the dog, then dip the rest in the egg wash. Roll in the flour. Fry until golden brown. Eat on wheat bread or by themselves. Pair with a glass of Dr. Pepper with peanuts in it.
SO easy to make, and quite the crowd-pleaser. —Sam Stryker
Valerie’s Chocolate Chip Cake
1 Box Duncan Hines Yellow Cake Mix
1 package instant vanilla (or French vanilla) pudding
1 cup water
1/2 cup oil
1 bar German sweet chocolate bar – grated
6-oz. package chocolate chips
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
Grease a 9 × 13 pan and heat oven to 350 degrees.
Beat eggs, water, and oil together – add to cake mix and instant pudding. Beat 5 minutes. Fold in half of the grated chocolate bar and half of the chocolate chips. Put into the pan. Sprinkle remaining chocolate chips on top of batter. Bake for 45 minutes (may need a little longer depending on oven). While baking, mix remaining grated chocolate with confectioner’s sugar. Sprinkle on top of cake immediately when it comes out of the oven.
The secret of my mom’s grasshopper pie is that she doubles the regular recipe, making it big enough to make it in a springform pan instead of a regular pie plate. The result is a giant, minty, Oreo-y monster that she always makes at Christmas. This will usually make some extra; you can make a second small pie on the side after the big springform. —Katie Notopoulos
Janet Notopoulos’ Grasshopper Pie
For the crust:
70 Oreos (2 packages)
1/2 cup butter (my mom uses margarine; I use butter)
For the filling:
Two 7-oz. jars of Marshmallow Fluff
4 cups of heavy cream
1/2 cup green Creme de Menthe liqueur (or to taste)
1/4 cup of Creme de Cacao liqueur (or however much tastes good to you, I use about half of whatever I use for the menthe)
Crush up the Oreos in a food processor. If you don’t have one, seal them in a large Ziploc and crush them all up with a rolling pin.
Melt the butter or margarine and mix it into the crushed Oreos. Press the crumbs into the bottom of a springform pan and up the sides, saving some to put on the top.
Whip cream [like this, minus the sugar]. Fold in Marshmallow Fluff. Gradually add creme de menthe and creme de cacao. Spoon filling into crust and add remaining Oreo crumbs to the top.
Cover tightly and freeze a few hours or overnight before serving. Can be kept frozen for 1 month.
Easy as pie — “Moooo!”
9. Lasagna from Sami Main’s Family Cookbook
Lasagna has been one of my go-to comfort food meals for essentially my whole life. Even if you ask me today, when I don’t eat a lot of dairy and can’t eat gluten and shouldn’t have too many tomatoes and don’t eat meat, I will still list lasagna as my favorite food.
As a kid, I didn’t really like a lot (or hardly any) cheese on my food — just the bare minimum was fine. That’s why I can hardly believe that I used all of the cheese in the recipe. This must’ve been written around the time that I started “experimenting” in cooking. My dad cooked dinner for all three of us most nights, so I’m sure the first time I cooked this, it was mostly just me doing a suitable job of helping/directing the show. —Sami Main
Sami’s Lickety-Split Lasagna
Recipe adapted from Better Homes & Gardens New Junior Cookbook
12 oz. ground beef
2 1/2 cups spaghetti sauce
6 lasagna noodles
1 1/2 cups cottage cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Preheat oven to 350. Brown the ground beef over medium-high heat in a skillet. Drain.
Spoon 1/2 cup spaghetti sauce in the bottom of a 2-quart rectangular baking dish. Stir remaining spaghetti sauce into meat. Cook until hot, stirring occasionally.
Place 2 uncooked noodles on sauce in bottom of dish. Spread one-third of the meat mixture on top of the noodles. Spread 3/4 cup of the cottage cheese over meat. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the mozzarella cheese over the cottage cheese.
Add another layer of 2 uncooked noodles, one-third of the meat mixture, the rest of the cottage cheese, and 1/2 cup of the mozzarella cheese. Layer remaining uncooked noodles, meat mixture, and mozzarella cheese. Finally, sprinkle Parmesan cheese over top, if you like.
Cover baking dish with foil. Put covered dish in oven, bake for 1 hour. Remove from oven and let stand, covered, for 15 minutes.
10. Magic Cookie Bars from Sami Main’s Mom
THESE ARE THE BEST. They’re basically 7-layer cookie/bars and they are made of ACTUAL heaven. They are all sugar. The only thing REMOTELY healthy in this is the coconut, and that doesn’t even count. They will heal whatever ails you, and when we reach the last of the pan, it’s a sad day. (I also have NO memory of ever actually adding the walnuts, which makes sense because I come from a family that keeps nuts far away from their desserts.) —Sami Main
Tamara Main’s Magic Cookie Bars
If preferred, use all chocolate or all butterscotch chips.
1 stick butter
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 can Eagle brand sweetened condensed milk
1 (6-oz.) package semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 (6-oz.) package butterscotch chips
1 cup flaked sweetened coconut
1 cup chopped walnuts
Melt butter in a 9×13” baking dish.
Sprinkle graham cracker crumbs evenly over melted butter. Drizzle condensed milk over crumbs. Sprinkle chocolate and butterscotch chips over milk. Sprinkle coconut over chips. Sprinkle with nuts.
Bake at 350 for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly browned. While still warm, press down lightly.
From my mom: “I used to make it on all the holidays. Ellen and I once had a cook-off. Recipe is out of my head.” (Ellen is her best friend). The recipe came from her mother, and she says it’s “like comfort food.” —Rachel Zarrell [who, for the record, came up with the idea for this recipe project]
2 large onions
1 package mushrooms
1 package of wide egg noodles
Saalt and pepper
1/2 cup vegetable oil
Fry the onions until they are brown. [Heat a large skillet over medium heat, add a glug of oil, and sauté until the onions are soft and have turned golden-brown.] Add the mushrooms to the onions and cook together.
Cook the noodles till al dente. Put the noodles, onions, mushrooms, and eggs (probably 2 eggs will work) in a large bowl. Add lots of salt and pepper and mix.
Use a large frying pan and put in about 1/2 cup of vegetable oil. When the oil is hot, pour in the noodle mixture and cook over medium heat. The bottom has to get very brown. You cannot touch it until it is brown and has set.
Now the hard part!!! Take a plate or large cover and place it over the frying pan. Hold the frying pan over the sink (the oil is hot) and flip the pan over so that the kugel slides onto the plate. Then slide it back into the frying pan and cook the other side.
My mom is a spectacular cook — even though she was born and raised in India, she worked hard to learn how to cook a ton of different cuisines after moving here: Italian, Mexican, American…you name it. But we always had Indian food for half our meals, and my favorite was always palak paneer. Whenever I come home for a weekend or my mom comes to visit, I can look forward to this taste of home. —Sapna Maheshwari
Madhu Maheshwari’s Amazing Palak Paneer
1 medium-sized onion
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
3 packs of frozen spinach
1/2 cup of tomato puree
1 package paneer cheese, cut into small cubes (found at Indian food stores)
6 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon salt
1. Heat oil in a pan (medium heat).
2. Add chopped onion.
3. Sauté onion until translucent (lightly brown).
4. Add turmeric and chili powder.
5. Add tomato puree.
6. Mix up for a minute then add spinach.
7. Add salt.
8. Bring heat to medium-high.
9. Mix well.
10. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
11. Uncover, add cheese cubes, and cover and simmer again for an additional 15 minutes.
12. At the end check for completeness and salt to taste.
13. Pesto from Rachel Sanders’ Dad
As a kid, something I looked forward to all summer was helping my dad fire up The Sanders Pesto Factory. We’d go out to the garden, fill up bags with huge bunches of home-grown basil and parsley, and then I’d help measure out the ingredients for each batch into our grumbly old Cuisinart. There were many batches, which we’d freeze in lots of small containers and use all year; feel free to halve this recipe if you’re just making it to eat right away.
The recipe, which my dad claims dates from “the dawn of time,” is a little more complex than your average basil-only pesto, thanks to the parsley. It also calls for a daring amount of fresh garlic. My dad has some advice on the garlic front (see below) but in my experience, even if your clove sizes are wildly irregular, it’ll still be delicious. —Rachel Sanders
David Sanders’ Dawn of Time Pesto
Of course one of the endemic problems is deciding what constitutes a “clove” of garlic, since some are in fact many times the size of others. I generally make clusters that in my estimation equal, say, 8 “normal-sized” cloves.
2 cups fresh basil
1 cup fresh parsley
1 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
1/2 cup nuts (presumably pine nuts, but substitutions are allowed)
8 garlic cloves
1 cup olive oil
Put everything in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Use right away or freeze.
14. Runzas from Andrew Gauthier’s Mom
This is my absolute favorite thing in the whole world to eat: Runzas. In Nebraska — where my mom is from — it’s actually a fast food chain. They basically taste like if you took a handful of White Castle sliders and made them into a calzone (delicious). —Andrew Gauthier
For the crust:
1 package yeast
2 cups warm water
1/2 cup sugar
7 cups flour (regular all-purpose, unbleached)
3 tablespoons melted shortening or oil
1 teaspoon salt
1. Add yeast to lukewarm water. Let stand 5 minutes, stir to dissolve. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, blend in sugar and 2 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Add eggs, oil, salt. Blend in remaining flour. Beat 5 minutes. This will be a soft dough. Can use the dough hook for the last few minutes.
2. Place in large greased bowl. Cover, let rise until double. Punch down. [Ed note: Rising to double the size will probably take a few hours, so now’s a good time to make the filling, if you haven’t yet.]
3. Turn onto lightly greased surface. Knead for a few seconds. Cut into 12 pieces. Cover with plastic wrap. Work with one piece at a time.
4. Roll each piece into a 8” x 6” rectangle. Add 2/3 cup filling (see below). Fold edges up and pinch to seal. Place on greased baking sheet. You can let them sit for 15-20 minutes before baking.
5. Bake in 400⁰ oven for about 20 minutes. Transfer to rack and brush with butter.
For the filling:
2 lbs ground beef
2 cups finely chopped onion
4 cups finely shredded cabbage
1 teaspoon oil
2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon savory
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon Accent
1 teaspoon Seasoned Salt
2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1. Brown hamburger. Drain fat.
2. Steam onion, cabbage, oil, water in large covered pan for about 10 minutes. Drain.
3. Combine hamburger, cabbage, onions in large bowl.
4. Combine all dry seasonings. Sprinkle over mixture. Sprinkle on Worcestershire.
5. Mix well. Let cool.
Serve with ketchup and A1.
My mom is an absolutely excellent cook, so it was really difficult to pick the “BEST” thing. Her strawberry shortcake, though, is a definitive favorite and always a crowd-pleaser. It’s really amazing how something seemingly so simple can feel so decadent.
Last year for my birthday, that’s all I wanted and she made it for a bunch of my friends. It makes the entire house smell like shortcake and there is literally nothing better in the world than smelling that while you hear the whipped cream getting made. You can taste the love in every bite when something like this is made from scratch, and with so much care. It’s basically my mom’s personality in a dessert: thoughtful, joyful, and full of love. —Chelsea Marshall
Chelsea’s Mama’s Strawberry Shortcake
2 cups sifted unbleached flour
4 tablespoons of sugar, divided
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup, (one stick) cold unsalted butter cut into small pieces
1 beaten egg
2/3 cup light cream
4 cups (1 quart) fresh strawberries, hulled
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup real whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon real vanilla
2 1/2” biscuit cutter
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
For the shortcakes:
Mix dry ingredients together with one teaspoon of the sugar, then either in a food processor, or by hand, cut the cold butter into the mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Put mixture in a large bowl.
Combine the beaten egg with the light cream. Add to the dry mixture all at once, mixing with a fork just enough to moisten.
Pour dough onto a floured surface and knead gently. Pat or roll the dough to 1/2-inch thickness. Cut into biscuits and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Chill for 10 minutes in freezer.
Bake at 450 for 8-10 minutes until light golden brown and the biscuits feel dry when tapped. Remove from oven and keep warm.
For the strawberries:
Place the hulled strawberries in a large bowl, setting aside 6 small strawberries for the top of the shortcakes. Mash the rest of the strawberries with 1-2 tablespoons of sugar and the lemon juice to taste. Let stand and chill.
For the whipped cream:
Put the cream, vanilla, and 1 tablespoon sugar in a bowl and whip until it holds its shape. Do not over-whip. Keep chilled.
Take each warm shortcake and gently split it using a fork so you have two halves, like an English muffin. Place the first half split-side up on your dessert plate or bowl. Spoon 2-3 tablespoons of the mashed strawberries over the shortcake and top with 2-3 tablespoons of whipped cream.
Place the second half on top of the whipped cream and repeat, adding two tablespoons of the mashed strawberries and topping it with 2 tablespoons of whipped cream. Top the shortcake with a whole strawberry and serve.
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