A family affair

Traditions are a big part of many families. In my family, food has always been a part of those traditions. We had the same thing for dinner on Christmas Eve, Christmas and Easter growing up. My brothers insisted on the same birthday cake every year. We only recently introduced a new side dish at Thanksgiving (mashed potatoes, which Eric so skillfully makes). Whenever my mom deviated from those food traditions, someone in my family would pitch a fit. However the tradition that is called upon the most is one that has been passed down through three generations so far — our family pasta sauce recipe.

The sauce in action, served alongside homemade meatballs and garlic bread.
The sauce in action, served alongside homemade meatballs and garlic bread.

My dad’s side of the family is Italian and having a family recipe for sauce (or gravy as some people call it) is usually a given. When my parents got married, my grandpa taught my mom how to make it and she has since taught me and my older brother how to make it. It isn’t the most complicated of recipes. It doesn’t have the most ingredients. But it is probably my most favorite thing to make, mostly for the memories it brings back.

We’d always had sauce on Sundays. The smell of it slow cooking on the stove is what stands out the most to me. The combination of the onions and olive oil and the tomatoes and the spices, all mixing together to fill up the entire house. It is making my mouth water now just thinking about it. My mom would make a big batch of sauce one week and then freeze it for use in the time that followed. We’d have pasta one night, baked ziti another, then chicken parmesan. That sauce was the star of so many things. It would even add a little special touch to the holidays — lasagna on Christmas and tortellini on Easter. To me whenever I eat that sauce now, it just tastes like home.

Now of course I’m not going to share with you the specifics of making the sauce. That would defeat the purpose of the secret family recipe. And truth be told, there isn’t even a set recipe. It’s mostly a feel and a look sort of thing, eyeballing how much of what goes in and the proportions. And as sappy as it sounds, the most important thing that gets put in to the sauce is love.

I’ve made some tweaks in terms of the specific seasonings I use over the years. I personally think my sauce is pretty good…as good as my mom’s? I’ll probably never be able to say that for sure. But I have loved sharing the sauce with Eric over the past years and plenty of other friends and family. I can’t wait to share it with our future children and teach them the methods that I’ve been taught. And eat some delicious pasta.


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