I come from a tradition of good cooks. My dad’s mother used to sell pizzas on the side for extra money to supplement a coal miner’s salary. The local church used to ask her to come and cook for them, because they knew that if grandma Rose was cooking, people would show up to eat and they would make money!
My mom’s side of the family were not known for their cooking, but being from the Piemonte region of Italy, they were, of course, amazing sausage makers. The Bracco sausage was locally famous and people came from miles away to get some.. There is a standard chili sausage, a salami sausage, but most famous is a sweet – style (no, it is not really sweet) piemontese sausage called “sautissa”. The butcher shop closed long ago, but people still ask my parents about that famous northern Italian sausage and wonder if they might get still be able to get a pound or two of it.
Mom learned her cooking from grandma, and over time, she became an excellent cook, and in some ways, surpassed her teacher. Our childhood was filled with amazing smells, Sunday dinners, holidays with a ridiculous amount of food, and friends and family. Maybe it was all of those days spent around the kitchen table with foods from a variety of cooks all blessed with talent and a passion for food that instilled my deep passion for food. The memories are profound.
Aunt Rosalie and Aunt Grace with mounds of traditional Italian cookies at Christmas. Mrs. Amato and her cardoons breaded and fried, Grandma’s pie crust, Mom’s ravioli’s…food was a celebration of our family and our heritage. I can still remember mom and Aunt Rosalie painstakingly rolling out home made pasta and letting it dry on table cloths spread out on the beds to dry. The amount of work they would do to watch it all consumed in less than hour was almost comical when you think about. That is, until you realize it was a labor of love.
I have become an exellent cook in my own right, and to some degree, I too have surpassed those who came before me. In these pages, I am trying to capture those recipes from then and now, so that the next generation can celebrate their own heritage and their own families with traditional foods passed down from through the generations. Most of the recipes are original as mom gave them to me. Some have my own twist on them. All of them are good and all of them are ours.
I encourage you to learn them, embrace them, and then modify them to suit your own needs. Keep some of the old traditions and start some new ones. Remember your heritage and celebrate it with food and friends.