Although many restaurants have reopened after taking a pause during the wretched COVID-19 pandemic and Tucsonans are slowly finding themselves in their favorite dining rooms and patios once again, sometimes you just want to eat a good meal from the comfort of your home.
Last year, when restaurants were closed and we couldn't dine out, we gathered up 19 recipes from Tucson's chefs, writers and home cooks so you could make the delicious dishes yourself.
We've included recipes for classic Tucson patty tacos and Rocco's first-ever stuffed Chicago pizza. We even received submissions from beloved Tucson businesses that have closed their doors, like Gordo's Mexicateria and The Fix macaroni and cheese restaurant at Main Gate Square.
🧀 Gordo's Caldo de Queso
Marguerite Brown, Gordo's Mexicateria
This simple Sonoran cheese soup was a specialty of Brown's grandmother, who used to serve the dish at their family restaurant Gordo's Mexicateria. Serves 4-6 people.
- 3 medium potatoes, diced
- 1 medium onion, minced
- 6 Anaheim green chiles, roasted and peeled (can use canned)
- 1/2 pound medium sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- 2 tablespoons tomato sauce
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Pinch of beef bouillon, optional
Fill soup pot with 6 cups of water and add diced potatoes and onion. Bring to a boil and boil until potatoes are soft. Add green chiles, cheese, tomato sauce and salt and pepper. Serve with added cheese for topping.
🥩 Mateo's ribeye guacamole
Mateo Otero, Rollies Mexican Patio
Chef Mateo is always cooking up delicious-looking things on his Instagram page.
- 3 serrano peppers, diced
- 2 tomatoes, diced
- 1/4 red or white onion, diced
- 3 ounces cilantro, chopped
- 6 key limes
- 8 avocados
- 10 ounce ribeye steak, grilled
- Salt to taste
Add diced serranos, tomatoes, onion, cilantro together with lime to make a pico. Smash the avocado and mix it into the pico. Add salt to taste. Garnish with ribeye steak.
🌶️ Chad's smokey chiltepin cheese
Chad Borseth, Sky Island Spice Co.
This local spicemaster makes his own cheese by mixing yogurt with various spices and letting it mature in the fridge for a couple days. If you're worried about heat, he says you can use chile powder or paprika instead of the spicy chiltepin pepper. The key to this recipe is making sure you use sea salt and full-fat yogurt.
In a bowl, blend the yogurt, spices and salt. Mix until well incorporated. Pour this mixture into a colander lined with a clean tea towel or cheesecloth. Let this sit in a larger bowl to drain in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
After 24 hours, you can ball up the cheese in the cloth and squeeze extra moisture out of it. The cheese has taken shape but the flavors spread out more on day two, about 48 hours from the start.
🥣 Spanish garlic soup
Vanessa Moon, Old Pueblo Provisions
This local chef brings us her grandmother's recipe, from the wonderful world of España. "It's a soup that was good to fight the flu, and it was because at that time food was hard to come by," she says.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 3 teaspoons smoked paprika
- Pinch of thyme or oregano
- 2 cups of chicken broth
- 2-3 cups cubed baguette bread, toasted
- 3 eggs
- Salt if needed
Place olive oil in a deep frying pan and heat up to medium. Slice garlic into slivers and cook until just barely starting to brown. Add paprika and thyme and stir for 30 seconds. Pour in chicken broth.
Taste the soup and adjust for salt if needed. Add toasted cubes of bread and cook for 15 minutes. Add raw eggs on top and cover for another 10 minutes. Serve in a clay cazuela or bowl.
🥦 Reilly's Brussels sprouts
Tyler Fenton, Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink
The ugly delicious Brussels sprouts from Reilly Pizza have reached icon status at this point.
- Brussels sprouts
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 pound bag of pecans
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Don’t want to make brittle? Garnish the Brussels with raw sugar or brown sugar instead
Home sherry vinaigrette
- 1 part sherry vinegar
- 2.5 parts oil of your choice
- Salt to taste
- Touch of honey or sugar
(Editor's) cheater note: Use bottled balsamic vinaigrette if you don't feel like making the sherry vinaigrette yourself.
Homemade hot sauce
- 10 ounce jar of Calabrian chiles
- The oil they come in
- Champagne/white wine vinegar to taste
Cheater note: Don’t want to make anything yourself? Hot sauce + lemon juice or splash of any vinegar + raw sugar. It won’t be the same ... but it may be passable.
Start by making the pecan brittle: Combine sugar, water and honey in a pan over medium heat and bring it to 300 degrees. The liquid should be deep caramel in color and almost starting to smoke. Take the pan off the heat and add the nuts, stirring them in. Then add the baking soda and give it a quick few stirs. You don’t want to over stir at this point or you will negate the effect of the baking soda. The color will lighten. Spread out nuts on an oiled baking sheet and season fairly aggressively with salt. Allow to cool completely.
To prepare the sherry vinaigrette: Put all ingredients in a mason jar and shake that bad boy real hard for like a minute.
To prepare the hot sauce: In a blender, blend the chiles with 2x their volume in vinegar. Once smooth, stream in the half that amount in oil. Season to taste with salt. Blend those ingredients, adjusting amounts until they taste good to you.
To make the Brussels: Cut Brussels sprouts in half. Cook your preferred method ... at the restaurant we fry them, which is not highly recommended to do at home. I’d suggest pan roasting them in a cast iron, cooking them until they are deeply charred on the cut side and then flipping and getting a nice char on the other side as well. You could also roast them in a hot oven, whatever you are comfortable with. Once you have the cooked Brussels, dress them in equal parts sherry vinaigrette and the hot sauce. Garnish with chopped up pecan brittle.
🌮 Tucson-style ground beef patty tacos
Jackie Alpers, cookbook author
This recipe is an outtake from Jackie's book "Taste of Tucson: Sonoran-Style Recipes Inspired by the Rich Culture of Southern Arizona." These classic beef patty tacos were inspired by Teresa Matias of Teresa’s Mosaic Cafe, who would cook up patty tacos in a pinch to feed her kids.
For each taco you will need:
- About 1/4 cup lean ground beef
- 1 corn tortilla
- Salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste
- Canola or neutral flavored vegetable oil, for frying
- Shredded Mexican blend or cheddar cheese
- Shredded iceberg or romaine lettuce
- Diced tomatoes
Spread a thin layer of ground beef over half of each corn tortilla so that the meat is about 1/4-inch thick. Sprinkle the beef with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Using tongs, carefully lay the open-faced tortilla meat-side-up in the oil. Fold the other side of the tortilla over the meat and gently press down.
Fry for about 2 minutes, then flip the taco with the tongs and cook until until the tortilla is crispy and the meat is cooked, about two minutes longer. Remove the taco from the oil, turning it on its side over the oil to drain. Transfer to a paper towel. Top with shredded cheese, lettuce and diced tomatoes.
🐟 Beer battered fish tacos
Danny Perez, Westin La Paloma
- Filet of cod, cut into two ounce strips
- 4 ounces plain yogurt
- 1 teaspoon chipotle purée
- 4 ounces shredded cabbage
- 2 ounces red onion, cut into slivers
- 1 ounce cilantro
- 1 apple, cut into slivers
- 3 ounces lime juice
- 3 corn tortillas
For the batter
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 tablespoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon chile lime salt or Tajin
- 12 ounces Mexican beer, you can add more as needed depending on how thin you'd like the batter
- 1/4 cup pickle juice (yes pickle juice!)
Lightly toss the fish in corn starch, then dip in batter and fry in canola oil until golden brown. Mix yogurt and chipotle together in a bowl. In a separate bowl, toss cabbage, onion, cilantro and apples with lime juice and salt and pepper.
Lightly fry the corn tortilla in oil. Then build the tacos with three strips of cod each, and then top with slaw and chipotle yogurt mix. And serve.
✡️ Passover pantry kugel (AKA Quarantine Kugel)
Lori Riegel, PhD with a specialty in Jewish Education
Kugel is a traditional holiday staple during Passover, and this savory potato kugel is 100 percent vegan. "I was determined to create a dish that did not involve a trip to the grocery store, hence the use of cashews as a binding agent. Most of the vegan recipes I consulted called for potato starch as a binder, which I did not have on hand. I looked through my pantry, and thought through what I use for other dishes. Soaked cashews are a vegan go-to for thickening sauces. The cashews worked perfectly!" she says.
- 1 cup of raw unsalted cashews
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 6 russet potatoes, grated
- 3 carrots, peeled and grated
- 3/4 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/3 cup finely chopped green onions
- 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh herbs (I used 1/4 cup fresh dill and 1/4 cup fresh parsley. Use what you have on hand: cilantro and basil would work well too.)
- Salt and pepper to taste (generous)
Soak cashews in hot or boiling water for two to three hours. When ready to assemble recipe, pour water off, leaving two tablespoons. of the soaking water in the softened cashews. Puree cashews and remaining water in food processor or blender until consistency of thick tahini or apple sauce.
Preheat oven to 375. Heat oil and coconut oil. Heat sliced onions over low to medium heat to caramelize, for about 15 minutes. Remove from pan.
Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and stir well for a uniform mixture. Season with salt and pepper, generously. Pour the mixture into a greased 9 x 12 glass baking dish, or six small individual baking tins. Bake at 375 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes, until firm and golden on top.
NOTE: I generally do not peel potatoes before grating, but feel free to. Leaving the peel on results in a darker brown finished product.
🍕 Giappo's stuffed pan pizza
Submitted by Rocco DiGrazia of Rocco's Little Chicago
Rocco adapted this recipe from the former Giappo's, "the ONLY pizzeria that actually sold pan pizza in my South Side neighborhood," he says. "This was the first stuffed pizza I ever ate, and it's as good as any of the other storied places, for sure. It tastes and smells just right. I'm eating a piece right now!"
For the pan sauce
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- 28 ounces whole peeled tomatoes
- 8 ounces tomato sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon sweet basil
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon oregano
For the dough
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon sugar to be used later
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 4 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups warm water
To make the dough: Add one teaspoon of sugar to 1 1/2 cups warm water. Then add dry yeast and let set for a half an hour. When yeast is active, combine all other ingredients for the dough. Let dough rise. Then punch to let air out and let dough rise a second time.
To make the pizza: Reserve a third of the dough for the top. Roll out the other two thirds. This will be used for the bottom. Butter a 12" cake pan and press the dough into bottom and side of the pan, making sure there are no air pockets. Add sauce (save some sauce for the top) and any other ingredients (sausage, mushrooms, etc.). Add cheese to your liking. Roll out the last third of the dough and place on top, then add the rest of the sauce. Cook in a preheated 375-degree oven for about 40 minutes, till the center cheese is melted.
🍝 Pasta e Fagioli
Tyler Fenton, Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink
In addition to the Brussels sprouts, Tyler also shared a simple Italian recipe for pasta and beans. "This isn’t so much a recipe as a guideline," he says. "This is a classic peasant dish, which makes it a perfect fit for these quarantine times. Amounts are not given because it depends on what you’ve got. Don’t have greens? Don’t sweat it. Only have dried herbs? Totally fine. The only two things you 100 percent need are pasta and beans. That is the name of the dish after all."
- Beans, whatever you’ve got, canned or dried
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- Cooking greens, kale, collards, mustards, etc
- 1 teaspoon miso, if you’ve got it
- Herbs, fresh or dried. Oregano, bay leaf, rosemary are some good ones
- Tomato product, canned, paste, fresh
- Red wine or a wine vinegar
- Dried pasta, preferably a short cut like orecchiette, fusilli or even elbows
- Cheese: pecorino, parm, or nutritional yeast
- Black pepper, freshly cracked and a lot
For the beans: If you are using dry beans, soak them overnight, drain and put in a pot and cover with water. Add some onion, garlic, herbs if you’ve got it. If not, no worries. Cook until they’re tender.
For the pasta: In a pot, heat some olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until softened. Increase heat to medium high. If using greens, add them now. You want them to wilt and slightly char. Now add about a teaspoon of miso, if using, and some herbs to lightly bloom. If using tomato paste, add now and stir and toast until it’s more of a brick red rather than bright red. If using canned tomato or tomato sauce, first add a splash of wine or wine vinegar to deglaze the pan and reduce slightly.
Allow to reduce for a few minutes and then add some water to make it brothy. If you used tomato paste it will take more water than if you used sauce. Add your beans, if using canned drain and rinse first. Allow to simmer together for 20 minutes or longer if you’ve got time. Taste and season accordingly.
Cook your pasta for two to three minutes less than the package. Transfer pasta to brothy sauce, adding pasta water to keep it brothy as it reduces together. Now you get to decide how thin/thick you want your dish to be. I like mine almost like risotto, so somewhere between loose pasta and a tight soup. But you can go full soup or full pasta vibes, up to you. Once your pasta is nicely cooked, kill the heat and stir in a nice glug of extra virgin olive oil, some freshly grated cheese and a bunch of black pepper. Stir to emulsify that all in. Taste for final seasoning adjustments. Plate it up and garnish with some more oil, cheese and pepper. Enjoy.
🍺 Chelada beer cocktail
Jackie Alpers, cookbook author
Another outtake from Alpers' book "Taste of Tucson," this simple chelada recipe is perfect for a pool party of one (or two or three, depending on how big your family is.) "It’s kinda like a beer margarita. I love it because it’s a big drink that lasts a long time and it has considerably less sugar and calories than a margarita," she says.
- One lime, preferably Mexican
- Sea salt or chile/salt blend such as Tajín for the glass rim
- 1 tablespoon Rose’s lime juice
- 1 12-ounce bottle of Mexican amber or lager beer such as Dos Equis
- Slice of jalapeno for garnish, optional
Wash the lime, cut it in half, squeeze some of the juice onto a plate, then dunk the rim of the glass into the lime juice and swirl to coat. Pour about a tablespoon of salt or Tajín or salt onto a small plate then swirl the wet rim of the glass in the salt to coat.
Fill the glass with ice. Squeeze the remaining lime into the glass and pour in the Rosa’s lime juice. Garnish with the lime slice with the slit in it that you used to wet the rim of the glass. You can also garnish with a jalapeño slice. Pour in the beer and enjoy.
🍹 The Government's Teat cocktail
Ryne Hoffman, Portal Cocktails
This cocktail is made with strawberry jelly and topped with "government cheese," aka shredded coconut. "I liked this one a lot, tasted like a strawberry jelly doughnut," he says.
- 1 1/2 ounces vanilla vodka OR regular vodka with 2 drops of vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 ounces almond milk
- 1/2 ounce coconut cream or Coco Lopez
- 1 small spoonful of strawberry jam
- small pinch of cinnamon or Chinese five spice powder
- shredded coconut to taste
Shake all together in a tin with ice, then dump into closest vessel of choice. Top with shredded coconut
Breakast foods and drinks:
🍳 Ghini's Eggs Provencale
Coralie Satta, Ghini's French Caffe
"This dish originated in my mother and grandmother’s kitchen, but it was made in the oven, baked slowly with the garlic & thyme at the end," Satta says. "Of course that is not practical in the fast-paced breakfast atmosphere at the restaurant, so we gave it a little twist and put it in a saute pan. ... Eat this dish with caution; it is very addictive."
- 1 tomato
- olive oil to taste
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
- 2 eggs
- fresh thyme, to taste
- crusty baguette
Take your favorite kind of tomato, ripe, and slice off both ends. Slice your tomato once in half and place the cut sides down in your saute pan. Salt, pepper and olive oil lightly your tomatoes and start to cook them on medium heat, covered with a lid. Cook for 5 minutes or until softened, flip the tomatoes over and add fresh garlic between the tomatoes. Let the garlic cook for about half a minute and add two eggs any way you like them.
Add thyme to the top of the entire dish and continue to cook until the eggs are cooked to your liking. Serve with a nice crusty baguette from La Baguette Bakery.
🐖 Helene Berlin's ham and eggs
Andi Berlin, food writer
My mom is an outstanding cook, but all this alone time makes me crave comfort food. So I've been making one of her simpler recipes, ham and eggs, several times a week. Growing up, she would always make sure we had breakfast on the table before school, and I loved most of all when she made us a scramble.
- tablespoon of butter
- handful of green bell peppers, or green chiles if you like it spicy (optional)
- 3 eggs
- a few slices of deli ham
- whatever kind of cheese you have, probably yellow cheese
Melt the butter in a pan. Add the bell peppers and cook until soft. Add the eggs. (I've been scrambling them in the pan, but if you're diligent you can get out a bowl.) Add the ham and the cheese and cook until done. Pair with toast and decaf coffee, yeah I'm old now ...
🍌 Tru’s favorite banana bread
Irene McKisson, editor #ThisIsTucson
Irene's family favorite is based off of Mrs. Myers Banana Bread, which she found after searching on Pinterest. "My kids ate a lot of bananas as toddlers and that meant we always had some on their way south. Black and squishy, it always seems like a waste," she says. "I don’t know Mrs. Myers but her banana bread is about perfect. My version has fewer eggs and more cinnamon and it’s the favorite food of my son, Truman. He requested it for his preschool birthday treat when he was 4 and now he helps me make it when we’ve gathered enough black squishy bananas."
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 2 cups sugar
- 3 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 5-8 overripe bananas, mashed (aiming for 4 cups total)
Preheat oven to 350. Generously grease two loaf pans. In a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
With the mixer on low, add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add the vanilla, buttermilk and bananas. It might curdle up a bit, it’s fine. Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Divide batter between the two greased pans. Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Remove from oven and turn loaves out onto cooling rack immediately. Let cool.
☕ Cold brew shaken with chocolate, vanilla and oat milk
David Perreira, Yellow Brick Coffee
David recommends making this drink with Yellow Brick's Guatemala: Finca San Sur. And if it's one of THOSE DAYS, you can also substitute the oat milk with coconut milk and pour in some rum.
- 12 ounces of cold brew, preferably Yellow Brick Coffee’s Guatemala: Finca San Sur
- 25 grams dark chocolate syrup
- 1 tablespoon vanilla syrup
- milk of choice, oat milk works best
To make the cold brew: This is a 24-hour process, so prepare the day before. We prefer to use Yellow Brick's Guatemala. Make a simple syrup with honey. Dissolve 25 grams of honey in 100 ml of hot water. We use our coffee blossom honey, but any delicious honey works. Add vanilla extract to taste. Place in refrigerator to cool.
To make the final drink: Dilute dark chocolate syrup with hot water so that it becomes slightly watery but not runny. Place a couple of large ice cubes in a cocktail shaker and add cold brew, two tablespoons of chocolate sauce, one tablespoon of vanilla and a splash of oat milk or whichever milk you prefer. Shake vigorously for five seconds and pour through a cocktail strainer, over ice.
🥜 Vietnamese peanut sauce
Jackie Tran, food writer
Jackie gave us his go-to dip that he pairs with "... rice noodles, lettuce wraps, tofu skewers, chicken nuggets, a new car, whatever your heart desires." And yes, it's even vegan! "That addictive peanut sauce that comes with your Vietnamese take-out is actually one of the easiest sauces to make. All you need is five parts hoisin sauce and one part peanut butter, then thin it out to your liking," he says.
- 3 cloves of minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon of canola oil
- 2 tablespoons of peanut butter (I like extra chunky)
- 10 tablespoons of hoisin sauce
- 1/2 cup of coconut milk
Heat a small saucepan to low heat. Add garlic and oil immediately and stir until aromatic and barely golden brown. Stir in the peanut butter and let it melt, then stir in the hoisin sauce. Lastly, stir in coconut milk to reach your desired consistency.
🍝 The Fix's Alfredo sauce
Michael Lanz, The Fix
This Main Gate Square mac and cheese joint may have closed up shop in 2019, but owner Michael Lanz was kind enough to share his devilish recipe for Alfredo Sauce. The Fix paired this sauce with macaroni creations like the Lobster Alfredo and the Pit Boss with pulled pork and hash browns. But if you're not that adventurous, just boil up some pasta and dig in!
- 6 cups whole milk
- 1 cup butter
- 16 ounces cream cheese
- 2 cups grated parmesan (Supremo Italiano is what this recipe is based upon)
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 teaspoons salt
Assemble utensils and all ingredients. Pour milk into pot and add butter and cream cheese. Bring contents to a boil; whisk frequently to prevent boiling over or scalding the milk. Once butter and cream cheese are melted and thoroughly mixed, add parmesan cheese and whisk until melted, creamy and lump free.
Turn off heat and add salt and pepper. Whisk until spices are evenly distributed.
🍅 Chef Maria's everything sauce
Maria Mazon, Boca Tacos y Tequila
The culinary world has recognized Chef Maria's talent for sauces. "This sauce is good for all your cooking needs," she says. It's "in my pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce, enchilada sauce, etc. etc. Like I said, everything with a Mexican twist."
- 4 tablespoons of oil
- 5 to 10 medium tomatoes, cut in half
- 1/2 white onion, chopped
- 2 Anaheim peppers, chopped
- 4 cups of tomato puree
- 1 cup of red wine (optional)
- 4 cups of vegetable stock (any type of stock will do or even water)
- 2 guajillo chiles, dry
- 2 pasilla chiles, dry
- 1 chipotle pepper, from a can
- 1 cilantro bunch
- 3 tablespoons of dry Mexican oregano
- 5 garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon of fresh-ground black pepper
- Salt, to taste
In a large pot on medium heat, add the oil, tomatoes, Anaheim peppers and onion, sauté them until they become a puree. Then add the liquids and the rest of the ingredients. I let it go for about two hours in a very low heat. I stir and add the salt during the 2 hours, little by little, because no one likes a salty sauce.
After all of this, I start blending all the ingredients. If you're in the mood, grab a strainer and strain for a smoother sauce. You can even add butter at the end or even goat cheese, but this is totally optional.