The Art of Home Cooking

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My daughter prepares to stir the homemade pasta sauce in the tradition of our family.  The torch has been passed! -tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

It is no secret among those who know me well that I love to cook. This culinary love affair began when I was a child. My mother created magic in the kitchen, and the food she served up was not only tantalizing, but also made with love. She delighted in the culinary arts, though in later years she complained that it would have been nice if she could have convinced my father to dine out with her once a week. No such luck, however, for over 60 years of marriage and kitchen wizardry had spoiled him so that he refused to believe any restaurant’s food could compare with hers.  He had a point.

Hanging around the kitchen as my mother cut, sliced, sautéed, roasted, for whatever the evening’s menu was, found her giving me tasks to assist. I learned how to measure ingredients, how to slice onions and not weep all over them, and how to gauge enough pasta for our family with enough left in case another family member or friend dropped by during dinner. One of the most vital dishes I learned at her side was how to make our family’s pasta sauce. The olive oil my father’s sisters sent us from Italy was a key ingredient, for he had purchased olive groves for them. I fetched two quarts of Mama’s home canned tomato juice from the cellar shelves for this splendid feast. Usually, Mama had a thick cut of chuck roast, which I learned to sprinkle with onions, garlic and oregano, salt, and pepper browning in the fragrant olive oil. She would then pour the home canned tomato juice over the meat. I like to toss in the big bay leaf. The sauce would then be brought to a boil, stirred, and then allowed to simmer for hours.

The shape of the pasta was usually spaghetti or linguine. My personal favorites were rigatoni and rotini. While my maternal grandfather was still living, he and my late grandmother dined with us every evening and Sunday afternoon. Grandfather preferred spaghetti pasta, so that is what we usually ate on Thursdays and Sundays. Always Daddy’s homemade ultra-dry red wine made from California grapes sat on the table. That is how I learned to drink wine: with dinner, with family, not in a bar. To this day I generally have a glass of dry red wine with my dinner, unless I am eating fish, in which case I imbibe a glass of crisp, dry white wine.

While I relish eating Indian, Japanese, and Vietnamese food, I cook none of those cuisines, for I enjoy eating these entrees at particular restaurants with friends. I cook Italian food, fresh, healthy, and made with my mother’s elusive, key ingredient: Love.

Ciao for now.

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