“Over the river and through the woods…

…to Grandmother’s house we go” –to taste the flavors of the season! 

 In this LifetimeWriter Author’s Forum blog post, I’d like to encourage all to share a recipe with a theme –a traditional dish we each inherited from a beloved relative and we have updated with some personal flavors or a regional flair.

Julianne’s story…

Mama

Mama Julia Parisi, the best Italian cook in the world!

In my youth, we called our grandmother “Mama,” and “Italian” was the cuisine.  Mama’s Christmas day feast began with antipasto plates brimming with meats and cheeses, tomatoes and onions dotted with exotic olives and peperoncino so hot they made me cry. The kids waited patiently while aunts and uncles plowed through the prelude to a feast we waited for all year long.

Soon Mama appeared with the fish and the chicken, and the kids waited some more.

Another hour or so passed and it looked like everyone was sated, but no! Miraculously, we all saved room in our tummies for the best of the best.  In no time at all, we spied Mama in the kitchen, balancing the platters on her petite but strong arms, and we all ran to help her.  She announced in a voice that sounded a bit like St. Nick: “Mangiare! Pasta and sauce for all and to all a good meal!”

Mama’s pasta sauce was a labor of love and she took all day to make it.  She used only the freshest ingredients from Dad’s garden, and she took such care to wash every piece of meat, stirring the pot constantly, gradually coaxing the flavors to blend. My hungry eyes were fixed on Mama as she added the ripe plum tomatoes, onions and garlic.  She sautéed them in only the very best extra virgin olive oil, which she bought in gallon containers. Before introducing the meat to the sauce, she washed and dried each piece of beef neck bone and lamb, and then hand-grated imported cheeses too. Red wine was her “secret” ingredient and no one really knows how much wine Mama added, but her sheepish grin revealed that maybe she had a sip or two while stirring!

And now, my sweet Mama is long gone from this life, but her recipe lives on with me and my cousins who think of her every time we add her signature sauce to lasagna, baked ziti, ravioli, spaghetti and manicotti for Christmas, New Year’s Day and many other feasts.

So that’s where this traditional recipe originated, and now, in 2017, I’ve changed it up a bit, and I wonder: Have you done the same with recipes handed down generation after generation in your family? If so, share them here!  

See below for Mama’s recipe and my personal adaptations:

Mama’s recipe Julianne’s update – see in red
Tomato Sauce for Pasta Dishes
Ingredients: 

2 large Cans of Whole Italian Plum Tomatoes1 small can of Tomato Paste

Water, add until you have the desired consistency

Olive Oil, enough to cover onions

1/2 onion, sliced very thin

2-4 large cloves of garlic, diced

1 Tbsp. each: basil and parsley

1 Bay Leaf

1 Tbsp. ground pepper

1 Tbsp. salt

¼ cup any dry red wine. Mama used Fortissimo

½ cup block Locatelli Cheese

1 Package of beef neck bones or lamb

12 Ground Beef Meatballs

Prep:

Wash and dry meat, set aside.

Open all cans, set aside.

Strain whole plum tomatoes to remove seeds.

Slice onion very thin.

Dice garlic, set aside.

If using fresh basil and flat leaf parsley, coarse chop, set aside.

Grate Locatelli Cheese

Cook slowly, simmering on top of stove, low heat:

Place sliced onions in a large, heavy pot and add olive oil just until it covers onions.

Cook onions on low heat until transparent.

Add meat. Brown on all sides, increasing burner heat slightly.

When meat is browned, add wine.

Cover and simmer until liquid is reduced by ½.

Add plum tomatoes and tomato paste.

Stir well.

Add seasonings (basil, parsley, pepper, bay leaf)

Cook for 2-4 hours on low heat until tomatoes and paste and liquid is combined.

Add water a little at a time, until desired consistency is achieved.

Add salt, grated cheese, and garlic.

While the sauce is simmering, taste often to check for the need to add seasonings. Be careful not to salt too heavily.

Make meatballs, brown them, add to sauce.

Serve over pasta of choice with grated cheese on the side.

Serve meat on a separate platter.

 

 

Tomato Sauce for Pasta Dishes
Ingredients:2 large Cans of Crushed Italian Plum Tomatoes or Puree

1 small can of Tomato Paste

Water, add until you have the desired consistency

Olive Oil, enough to cover onions

1/2 onion, sliced very thin

2-4 large cloves of garlic, diced

1 Tbsp. each: basil and parsley

1 Bay Leaf

1 Tbsp. ground pepper

1 Tbsp. salt

¼ cup any dry red wine. I use a good cabernet or chianti if I can’t find Fortissimo.

½ cup grated Locatelli Cheese

1 Package of Short Ribs

12 Turkey meatballs

or add no meat at all, as desired.

Prep:

Wash and dry meat, set aside.

Open all cans, set aside.

Slice onion very thin.

Dice garlic set aside.

If using fresh basil and flat leaf parsley, coarse chop, set aside.

Cook slowly, simmering on top of stove, low heat:

Place sliced onions in a large, heavy pot and add olive oil just until it covers onions.

Cook onions on low heat until transparent.

Add meat. Brown on all sides, increasing burner heat slightly.

When meat is browned, add wine.

Cover and simmer until liquid is reduced by ½.

If using short ribs, and they have released a lot of fat, remove and strain off the grease, then return to pot.

Add plum tomatoes and tomato paste.

Stir well.

Add seasonings (basil, parsley, pepper, bay leaf)

Cook for 2-4 hours on low heat until tomatoes and paste and liquid is combined.

Add water, a little at a time, until desired consistency is achieved.

Add salt, grated cheese, and garlic.

While the sauce is simmering, taste often to check for the need to add seasonings. Be careful not to salt too heavily.

Make meatballs, brown them, add to sauce.

Remove Bay Leaf. (My husband hated finding this leaf in his food!) Ha!

Serve over pasta of choice with grated cheese on the side.  Serve meat on a separate platter.

 “Hurrah for fun; the pudding’s done; Hurrah for the pumpkin pie.”

 

In Loving Memory – May Weller

May 27, 1963 – November 27, 2017

May WellerA beautiful Thai butterfly named “May,” left us on November 27th this year, and she will be deeply missed by all who knew and loved her. Throughout her short life, May Weller had many roles to play. She was wife, mother, sister, Buddhist, businesswoman, community contributor, world traveler, nature-lover and gardener and so much more. Although May’s life was cut short by cancer at age 54, she packed more living into those meager years than most of us would ever attempt. May’s husband, Roger, and their friends and family describe her as a nurturing woman – one who cared for others effusively and unselfishly. May was foremost a spiritual woman, deeply connected with nature, inspired by Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism.

A native of Thailand, May was born in Bangkok in May of 1963, one of seven siblings. Although her family was poor in material possessions, she was blessed with natural skills and abilities and a personality that glowed with energy and personal magnetism. May was destined to rise above any difficulties and make an extraordinary difference in the world. To know May was to be captivated by her enthusiasm and infectious smile.

From age thirteen through college, May worked in a school-sponsored food kiosk managed by her parents. She continued her learning and involvement in the food industry with Thai Airway International. Very early in her life, May’s ambition exceeded the opportunity offered in her native Thailand, so she became enamored of the American dream. The tremendous opportunity this country represented gave her the courage to come to the United States alone, with determined confidence.

Upon her arrival in 2002, May traveled the United States from the mid-West to the East, from Kentucky to Georgia, to Washington DC, Niagara Falls, NY, Atlantic City, NJ, Indianapolis, Indiana, and she made her home in Ashville, North Carolina. There she met Roger at a chance meeting at a Thai restaurant where she worked. This encounter would usher in a time of fulfillment of all of her dreams, and allow her to apply her skills and talents for the benefit of her family and community. May became a U.S. citizen in 2009.

May’s career in retail began on her journey with Roger, who owned The CW Moose store in Black Mountain, NC. She and Roger made a great team and in a short time, they fell in love and were married.  As co-owner, May took on more and more responsibility at the store: selling, ordering, organizing, setting up displays, and traveling worldwide to trade shows as a buyer.  She returned from these trips to stock the shelves with unique jewelry and other exotic, handcrafted specialty items like quilts and handbags.  More recently, the couple owned and operated the New River Trading Company.

In their marriage and with their move to Florida, Roger and May made the most of their May and Roger Welleryears together by traveling to Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Nova Scotia and Bar Harbor, Maine, visiting much of the United States that May missed on her travels when she first arrived here. May also made several trips back to her beloved Thailand, where her son and daughter still live. Here in Sarasota County, May became intimately involved with her Buddhist Temple, the Sarasota Forest Monastery, working tirelessly to help build their following and manage paperwork and the process to attain a tax exempt status. At home, May focused much of her boundless energy on her garden, fulfilling her calling and connection to nature.  Roger welcomes neighbors to drive by his home at 462 Rubens Drive East to watch May’s garden grow!

May's gardenIn addition to working a part-time job at Costco, May was a Thai Chef, quilter, and photographer. She participated in a golf league and played tennis. And with all of this, May still found time to design extraordinary gardens, as she coaxed from the earth an amazing confluence of flowers, tropical specimens, Thai herbs and edible plants of all varieties and species.

We created a slideshow of May’s garden on YouTube, so please take a look to enjoy May’s creative spirit through these photos and video. Here’s the link: https://youtu.be/WtNYalVTpD0

Roger’s grief over the loss of May is bearable only with his humble acceptance of God’s will and his feeling of being blessed with May’s gifts. Her vibrant gardens grow heartily and surround his home in peace, recalling May’s beauty and love, which will remain in Roger’s heart and in the minds and hearts of our community forever.

Donations in May’s honor may be made to the Sarasota Forest Monastery, 2828 S. McCall Road, PMB 10, Englewood, Florida 34224.