If ever there was one reason that my life’s passion is cooking, it might be my genes. Man, do I have great food genes. Grandma Rosie, who miraculously always had a full meal ready to go when we just happened to stop by and visit (stuffed peppers, sausage). My Aunt Jamie, a talented caterer of Italian foods in the PIttsburgh area, whose biscotti recipe I converted to gluten-free dairy-free and still get rave reviews. My late “Gram Fam” (dad’s mother, Fammartino) who regularly squashed what seemed like 40 people into her tiny kitchen on holidays, tables and all, and made my Wella (Spanish great grandma)’s delicious Thanksgiving stuffing with chestnuts, olives, peppers, and veal. She made a mean Spanish chicken and peppers dish when she babysat us, too. There were sheet trays of empanadas. Stuffed shells from my Aunt Tina. Big salads and hosts of side dishes made by everyone. There were the summer pig roasts and basement wine made by my godfather Mark and late Uncle Louie. My Aunt Joni’s Italian Christmas cookies were the ones we awaited each year. There was the pizzelle iron my mom pulled out each holiday season and made batches of the snowflake shaped, anise-scented wafer cookie, much to my delight. My cousin Emil’s restaurant and my aunt Pam’s secret olive tapenade recipe. My grandpa’s (I will devote a whole post to him coming soon, stay tuned) whole narrative surrounded food, and the people connected to food in his life. My nana with her homemade raviolis.On either side of my family, there are talented cooks and in general, a great respect and high prioritization of food.
A qualification: really good tasting food. Shared with loved ones.
And there was the sauce that held us altogether. This sauce. Average by appearance, since the magic is in the making, and the love that goes into it is what makes it taste so good. Each of us, my sisters included, have our own version of this famous sauce.
To my family, I hope that it is ok to post my gluten-free dairy-free version (it is quite different, but rooted in our original recipe). You can brown the meatballs like my Nana, add a little more sugar to make it slightly sweet, like my aunt Jamie, or omit the water to make it thick, like my sister Kristy does.
This is a sacred thing I am sharing. I want to offer you something to cook with that is truly my soul food. Cook with your soul in mind, and you will be nourished.
No, this is NOT a recipe I make weekly. Nor should you! As a family we ate sauce, meatballs, and rigatoni every Sunday of my life growing up. (No it was not gluten-free and dairy-free) However, I don’t typically eat a lot of tomatoes because they are nightshades and acidic, and I don’t eat a lot of red meat or pork. But let’s be honest. Sometimes you crave the food of your childhood. Your roots. So I keep this recipe for special occasions now, when my soul needs a good boost. When I am yearning for the flavor of my past. To connect to my story. I eat this, and it’s like a big hug from all my relatives, living and past, and I feel full…of love.
MEATBALLS AND SAUCE
For the sauce (10-15 minutes cook time)
Brown 1 lb. Sausage, cut into 2 inch pieces
Brown 3 cloves garlic in sausage oil
Add 28 ounces tomato puree
Add 60 ounces crushed tomatoes (6 in 1 brand) and 8 ounces of water
Dissolve 6 ounces tomato paste in hot water and add to the pot
Bring to a boil
Add salt, pepper, 1 T (coconut) sugar, 1 handful chopped fresh basil
*While the sauce comes to a boil, make the meatballs
Meatballs (5 minutes to mix, 10 min to drop into sauce)
1 ½ pounds combination of ground beef and pork
1 cup gluten free breadcrumbs or almond meal
1 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 t. oregano
2 T. fresh basil, finely chopped or 1 t. dried basil
1 t. garlic powder
½ t. onion powder
1 t. salt
½ t. pepper
2 cloves fresh garlic
1-2 T. hot water, to bind
Combine above ingredients.
Use a medium ice cream scoop to portion out (or similar size) then roll with hands to create smooth meatballs.
Drop meatballs gently into the sauce to cook, 1 hour minimum.
Serve with gluten free pasta of choice. YUM.