Cary Cook of the Week finds fresh gives best flavor

  • John Klodnicki uses his Sicilian grandmother's recipe to make meatballs and Italian sausage pasta sauce in his Cary kitchen.

    John Klodnicki uses his Sicilian grandmother's recipe to make meatballs and Italian sausage pasta sauce in his Cary kitchen. photos by John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • John Klodnicki uses ground chuck because it's more flavorful than ground beef, he says. He's careful to lightly pack his meatballs to keep them moist as they simmer for two and half hours in his pasta sauce.

    John Klodnicki uses ground chuck because it's more flavorful than ground beef, he says. He's careful to lightly pack his meatballs to keep them moist as they simmer for two and half hours in his pasta sauce. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • John Klodnicki simmers his pasta sauce for 2½ hours in his Cary kitchen.

    John Klodnicki simmers his pasta sauce for 2½ hours in his Cary kitchen. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • John Klodnicki hand-makes huge meatballs with ground chuck, and adds large pieces of Italian sausage to his pasta sauce recipe.

    John Klodnicki hand-makes huge meatballs with ground chuck, and adds large pieces of Italian sausage to his pasta sauce recipe. John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
By Sally Eyre
Daily Herald Correspondent
Posted6/23/2015 6:00 AM

Come to John Klodnicki's house in Cary for spaghetti dinner and you'll likely see meatballs the size of baseballs and taste a liberal amount of garlic.

"We do eat a lot of garlic around here," admits John Klodnicki, who was influenced by an Italian stepfather and his grandmother.

 

John does the majority of cooking for his family of five, eight if you include the three dogs.

"I enjoy doing the cooking, they all look to me when it's, 'What's for dinner dad?'"

But in the past seven years, John has stepped his cooking up a notch by trying to "up the flavor" in recipes.

"I began to watch cooking shows like Hell's Kitchen, and saw people who couldn't do anything and I thought, 'I can do better than that.'"

With John, upping the flavor always means using the freshest foods he can find. He grows his own herbs and tomatoes, and visits the farmers market weekly.

"I prefer to use fresh ingredients; I can smell the difference. Fifty years ago food had a better taste to it. I'm starting to do more organic now -- we don't know what is in our food. I stay away from anything processed. It's just not good for you."

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John's weekly visits are preceded by getting requests from the family.

"I take ideas from them and then plan a menu. I pick stuff up; sometimes I have to mix and match. I try to make things differently all the time."

John likes to cook a variety of foods: stuffed pork chops, shrimp scampi and the famous homemade spaghetti and meatballs that he demonstrates for us today for our online video. John loves putting together various soups. He makes a Mexican soup using pork shoulder, red pepper, chili pepper, homily, cabbage and onions. When the family is in a real Mexican mood however, his wife, who is Hispanic, pitches in by making homemade tortillas while John makes fajitas with plenty of red, yellow and green peppers.

The Klodnicki's like to entertain, especially in the summer, when they take their boat out and anchor on a beach to grill out with friends.

"I've got a nice grill set up on the boat. It's more challenging because I have to cook smaller portions, so I do kebabs -- I plan to try lamb chops this year."

John's schedule brings him home early enough to prep for the evening meal.

"I like preparing everything. I like doing the chopping, or making sauces, it's therapeutic for me." John has recently been experimenting with using Bourbon in sauces, and in burgers.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"It adds a very rich, almost smokey taste," he says.

One thing John doesn't do, however, is desserts, though one of his kids enjoys baking.

"I don't eat sweets. I just don't care for them. If I do bake for other people I usually don't eat it. My kids all work out. Me, I don't work out, so I have to eat healthy."

To suggest someone to be profiled here, send the cook's name, address and phone number to food@dailyherald.com.

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