19 Family Recipes From Big Martha, Martha's Mother

pierogis on pan
Photo: Simon Brown

Martha's love and mastery of all things food came from a very important person in her life: her mother, Martha Kostyra, also known as "Big Martha." Mrs. Kostyra lived to be 93, and the family matriarch often appeared with her daughter on TV.

The recipes that Martha learned from her mother include traditional Polish dishes like kielbasa, stuffed cabbage, and several different pierogi recipes, both savory and sweet. There are also comfort food classics including roast loin of pork, meatloaf, and stuffed peppers. Big Martha's dessert recipes, from lemon meringue cake to blueberry buckle, are equally mouthwatering.

We're sharing these family recipes so you can make some of Martha's mom's favorite dishes.

01 of 19

Country Cheesecake

slices of cheesecake on plates
Bryan Gardner

Rather than the usual cream cheese-filling and graham cracker crust, the cheesecake Martha's mom made pairs a filling of tangy farmer cheese and plump golden raisins with a piecrust-like pastry.

02 of 19

BIg Martha's Mashed Potatoes

mashed potatoes with cream cheese
Johnny Miller

Another dish Mrs. Kostyra was renowned for was her mashed potatoes. What makes them so rich and delicious? The secret ingredient is cream cheese, but they also contain butter, cream, and milk.

03 of 19

Grandma's Mac and Cheese


Martha's grandmother made mac and cheese with some unusual ingredients such tomato soup and sour cream. When Mrs. Kostyra and Martha made the recipe, they tweaked it slightly to use more traditional ingredients such as elbow macaroni and two cheeses.

04 of 19

Stollen Wreath Bread


Mrs. Kostyra's stollen was a Christmas treat everyone, including Martha, looked forward to. It's a sweet, rich yeast dough accented with dried fruits and nuts, shaped into a wreath, and baked until golden brown.

05 of 19

Mrs. Kostyra's Basic Pierogi


Pierogi are an incredibly versatile food. They are also Martha's favorite comfort food. She always uses her mother's recipes, like this one, when she makes pierogi.

06 of 19

Mrs. Kostyra's Blueberry Buckle

blueberry buckle
Con Poulos

This streusel-topped, fruit-filled dessert is a crowd pleaser, perfect for a family celebration.

07 of 19

Mrs. Kostyra's Borscht


Packed with beets, mushrooms, and fresh herbs, Mrs. Kostyra's borscht is guaranteed to warm your heart.

08 of 19

Mrs. Kostyra's Meatloaf


Although many meatloaf recipes use just beef, adding veal and pork produces a more tender, juicier loaf. Mrs. Kostyra's recipe calls for an ample amount of breadcrumbs to give the meatloaf its distinctive texture and prevent it from becoming too dense.

09 of 19

Mrs. Kostyra's Meringue-Topped Rice Pudding


The key to good rice pudding is its texture. For the best result, cook it slowly—and top the pudding with an airy crown of meringue, like Mrs. Kostyra did!

10 of 19

Pierogies with Cabbage Filling and Clarified Butter

Simon Brown

Follow Martha's recipe for making pierogi just like her mom did. Adding cream cheese to the filling slightly softens the cabbage and gives each bite a tender crunch.

11 of 19

Mrs. Kostyra's Stuffed Peppers


Choose firm, plump peppers with a glossy surface, and avoid blemishes or soft spots for Mrs. Kostyra's Stuffed Peppers. Substitute green peppers for the yellow ones in this recipe if you prefer more bite.

12 of 19

Mrs. Kostyra's Kielbasa


Sharing her special way of cooking kielbasa, which ensures a crispy skin, Mrs. Kostyra noted it is important to pierce the sausage casing so that it doesn't crack while cooking.

13 of 19

Mrs. Kostyra's Perfect White Cake


Topped with Italian meringue buttercream, Mrs. Kostyra's white cake is a sweet ending for any birthday or celebration.

14 of 19

Mrs. Kostyra's Stuffed Cabbage


When Martha was growing up in Nutley, N.J., her grandmother often made a Polish version of stuffed cabbage leaves, called golabki. The filling is a simple one—rice and meat with onions, garlic, celery, cloves, and green apple—but the dish is as tasty as it is comforting.

15 of 19

Pierogi with Potato Filling and Brown Butter

pierogis with sauce
Simon Brown

Make hearty potato pierogi creamy with the natural buttery flavor of Yukon Golds and a drizzle of nutty brown butter.

16 of 19

Mrs. Kostyra's Spice Cupcakes


These spiced cupcakes are adapted from a recipe by Mrs. Kostyra, who was an avid baker. They're topped with topped with an orange glaze.

17 of 19

Mrs. Kostyra's Lemon Meringue Cake


This light, airy cake is the perfect finish to any meal.

18 of 19

Mrs. Kostyra's Roast Loin of Pork


This savory pork dish was one of Mrs. Kostyra's favorite recipes to prepare—and has been one of Martha's favorites since childhood.

19 of 19

Pierogi with Italian Plum Filling and Spiced Sour Cream

fruit pirogis
Simon Brown

Martha and her mother, Big Martha, often made pierogi together. For this recipe, be sure to use seasonal fruit, such as plump blueberries or Italian plums.

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