Who the heck are you? Are you a Chef? Do you have a restaurant? Why did you make this site? Do you have a cookbook? Are you married?… These are some of the questions I get asked often.
I’m just a guy who loves Italian food and who spent a lot of time in the kitchen with his Italian Grandma and Mom asking a lot of questions and enjoying their cooking and company and now am discovering the joy of doing all that cooking myself for my family! 🙂 I am still amazed how the smells when cooking can take you back in time instantly. Some of my favorite smells from childhood: garlic, anise, sambuca and fennel. 🙂 I am a Christian, Father, Husband, Son, Friend, Brother, Mechanical Engineer, Webmaster, Trail Runner, Percussionist, Lover of Music, Computer Geek and Lover of Italian Food who is having a fun time making a website that allows me to share what I have learned from my Italian grandmother, mom and uncles and my Sicilian mother in-law about Italian-American cooking.
This Italian recipes website started out back in 1998 when I created an extremely detailed recipe for Spaghetti Sauce and Meatballs for my Dad, who always wanted to know how to make his Mother-In-Law’s Sauce. This website is a labor of love that I have created and am still creating, in an effort to keep my Italian Grandmother’s cooking and traditions going on into the next generations. Much more about my grandma Salerno and my Italian relatives here. Spending all day in the kitchen cooking and long hours at the dinner table enjoying good food and good company with family and friends is becoming a lost art and is a very sad thing to see! My hope is that these recipes might help the old Italian-American traditions of good food and love shared at the dinner table come back to the family again! I little more information about me below.
I have a small article I wrote below that will explain a little bit more about this site and why it exists and why it is such a labor of love for me. Happy to share with you!
SpagehttiSauceAndMeatballs.com is an Italian family recipe website that was created to keep my Italian grandmother’s recipes and traditions alive and well into the generations to come. I have written each recipe out in a vary detailed way with lots of love and respect for my families cooking. Spelled out in a way where anybody can learn how to cook the big Sunday Gravy! The Spaghetti Sauce, Meatballs, Braciole with Sausage and pork chops, the whole works! A laborious effort has been taken to take the mystery out of what seemed to be only something grandma could create. This Italian Recipe website is much more than just another website with recipes. It not only offers very detailed instructions for making the secret recipe my Italian grandmother and Mom used to make, but it also strives to explain the Italian-American culture. It’s so much more than just about the food. The magic of real Authentic food is not just about the food, it’s about all the love that is being poured into it, about the family and friends that sit at the table for hours on end enjoying great food and good company, sharing love and laughter at the table and spending all day in the kitchen. These things are becoming a lost art! You can see the passion in a lot of the email correspondence I get from my visitors.
I share a lot of my conversations about food and family in the Sauce Talk section of the site. There is quite a lot of great reading there from many visitors who grew up as I did, in an Italian-American Household where there was an Italian grandma who made amazing food who never did share the secrets of how she made that amazing food and now they are searching how in the world to make the Sunday Gravy, Sausage Bread, or Italian Bread that grandma used to make as well as many other authentic Italian dishes. So many deep dark secrets in old family Italian cooking! I had spent a lot of time working my way through my grandmother’s recipes working out every detail. One thing that is a standard in Italian grandmother’s recipes is they were extremely vague. I had to work with hand written recipes that had instruction s like, add “some flour” or add “some basil” or “cook until done!”, etc… Each recipe on the site has taken a lot of time and love to work out. I have provided hundreds of step by step photos to walk you through the process. Rather than having a site with 100’s and 1,000’s of recipes, I spend much time on each recipe, pouring lots of love into them and spending lots of time getting them just right. In other words, Just Like Grandma Used To Make. When I can make a recipe that brings back the exact texture, taste and look and feel that my grandma made I am instantly taken back to a much simpler time and family and love and just good times! Then I know I nailed it!
The whole concept of the detailed Italian family recipes started from something my Dad (who is no longer with us, I miss him!) asked me one day. My parents got divorced when I was around 8 and my Dad who is Irish/English, loved his Italian mother in-laws sauce and could never find anything that tasted as good anywhere! So I told him I knew how to cook the sauce like grandma did. I spent a lot of time with my grandma Salerno in the kitchen helping her and asking a lot of questions. (You want to make an Italian grandmother very happy? Ask her about her cooking!). I have also had many food conversations with my mom and uncles pulling out the family secrets of the Italian cooking. Well, I spent the time one weekend to work through all the details which was not an easy task because I learned how to do all the Italian cooking by feel like my grandma did. She would always so, you put, you taste, you put some more and you just know when it’s done! So after spelling out “every single” detail of how to make the “Sunday Sauce” like grandma did, I threw the recipe up on the internet and told my Dad where to find it. He found it and followed the recipe and to his astonishment was able to make the same sauce my grandmother made. He was so happy! Anyway, I had forgotten about the page I put up but then started getting a lot of emails about the sauce recipe…. and so started the website.
I just kept adding recipes and secret details to all my grandmother’s recipes and I have had a blast doing it. It is so much fun to get emails from people who never knew how to make their grandmother Pasta sauce, or Sunday gravy, there are many names for this, and now they can. I get many emails that go into family history describing the good times in the kitchen and at the table when growing up in an Italian home. It’s hard to describe a 5 hour dinner with multiple courses to someone who has not grown up in that Italian-American culture. You see, it’s a lot more then just about the food. There is so much love and good times shared through all the cooking and eating and well, there really is just nothing like it! So with these recipes I hope to keep those traditions going and get the family to stay at home, cook a nice meal and spend time with each other just enjoying the good things in life!
One thing I have seen in this fast food world we live in now is the tradition of cooking all day and having long dinners at the table, sharing love with family and friends is disappearing from our society. I have created these detailed recipes to take the mystery out of the all day cooking meals and make it fun and enjoyable. Hopefully these recipes will inspire you to take some time with your family, make some great food and share some wonderful times creating memories that will last a life time!
I recently had an interview with Matthew Wade Author of: “Pastastic – The Recipe Book”. In this interview we discussed much about Italian-American culture and my love for my Italian grandma’s cooking and the labor of love it takes to nail down the recipes like grandma used to make them and why I created and maintain this website. My answers to his questions will explain even more why I have created this website. Chef Chat: Anthony Baker of Spaghetti Sauce And Meatballs
A full list of recipes is on this page here: Italian Family Recipes.
* I was also recently interviewed by a nice Italian-Australia guy who was doing some research on Nonna’s. He asked me some wonderful questions. I am placing his questions with my answers here because I share a lot about growing up Italian and it might help you better understand that passion I have for Italian food, growing up Italian and why I created this website.
1.) Obviously, your nonna has had a massive influence in your life. What would you pinpoint as her greatest quality, or what is the thing that you loved most about her?
Well, one interesting note about this. I simply called my Italian grandmother, Grandma Salerno, but we called my great grandmother Nona My Mom called her grandmother Nona, so I think the Nona name is first generation Italian. I am second generation Italian so the Nonna name stuck with my great grandmother. Hope that makes sense. What I loved most about my grandmother is the love she had for her family. Especially her own kids and her grand kids. The way she showed that love the most was in her cooking. She would cook all day for us and the joy on her face as we would make groaning sounds of enjoyment from her food was priceless. I learned to “always” take at least two plates full of food. If I had only one plateful she would say… ” What, you no like-a my cooking? Your skin and bones… Here let me get you another plate.” And another plate would come regardless as to how much you said you were full. The trick to this was to not take so much the first round, so you always had room for a second plate! One more important thing I remembered. She smiled a LOT! I always liked that about her! I miss her much!
2.) What is your fondest memory about your nonna’s cooking? It can be a single moment or more of a ritual aspect.
I always remembered that she would have a “full” mason jar full of fresh grated Parmesan cheese. ALWAYS! It was like magic! Have you ever tried to grate a block of fresh Parmesan cheese? (no cheating, you gotta use the small holes). It ain’t easy. It’s down right hard work! Also, my Italian grandparents on my moms side (that is the Italian side). They did not have that much money, but their fridge was always stuffed to the gills with glorious food. Tons of fruit. Always some incredible Italian leftovers. Always so much food!!!
3.) How often would you visit your nonna as a child? Was it her cooking that brought everyone together?
I would visit her in the weekends. Often my brother and I would spend entire weekends there while my parents were off enjoying time off from the kids. I think we were there more during the summer than winter. Hard to nail down how often but it seemed like a lot in my memory.
4.) Did you spend a lot of time with her in the kitchen, or was it more of an observer or a taster (like I was)?
Yes, a LOT of time in the kitchen. She lived in a very small house and there was a small dining room open to the kitchen and a small living room where you could still see the kitchen from one side of it. So most of the time when I was in the house it was time shared in the kitchen. I watched her cook a lot.
5.) How would she react to the dreaded words “Sorry, I’m not hungry” or “I really can’t eat anymore”?
Hahah!!! See above comment. Let’s just say it’s something you would not say until at least the second plate is done. But I can understand this. I am keeping these traditions going. I have spent ALL day in the kitchen and have had family and friends over and I want them to enjoy the food! If they just have one small plate of food I am left wondering if they really liked it. If they really enjoyed the food I labored all day to make! One thing that really bugs me is people who don’t add sauce to their food. A proper Italian table will always have one or two gravy bowls full of the Sunday sauce so you can add more sauce to the plat.! You have to add more. I like to think of it like pancakes and syrup. When you eat pancakes you almost always need more syrup halfway through the eating. They dry out you need more syrup. Well, it’s like that with sauce as well. I made this video to try and explain this: The correct way to put the sauce on the pasta. I think it explains it well. 🙂 There are some people who add no sauce at all to their pasta. So I’m thinking.. What? I cook all day making this amazing sauce (best ever in my opinion) and your going to add NONE to your pasta… humph!!! Where was I.. Did I answer that question? I think I got off on a tangent. Oh, well.. Onto the next 😉
6.) And the question that had to be asked, what is your favorite recipe of hers? It can be either your favorite to cook yourself or purely to eat.
This is funny, it’s probably the most simple she ever made. Fried Dough. Pizza Freet we used to call it. LOVED that stuff! I used to drive my mother crazy and put butter and jelly on mine. Still drives her crazy to this day. “That’s just wrong”, she would say… 😉 The second would have to be her Onion Tomato bread. I have that recipe on the site here: Onion Bread.
7.) Now just a few quick questions about your site. What was the major motivation behind taking your project to the web? Was it more of an added self-motivation to document your progress in recreating your nonna’s cooking, or was it more about sharing your food discoveries with the world?
Well, it’s an interesting story really. I started the site because my dad always loved his mother in-laws (my grandmother) sauce. I knew how to cook it and he was wanting to make it. My parents got divorced when I was younger and we lived several states away from where my dad was. So, I took the time one day to actually pay attention to what I was putting in the sauce and I wrote down all the steps, made a small web page up back in 2001 and sent my dad the web address. He checked it out, followed all the steps and made my grandmothers sauce! Amazing! He was quite excited about it. Well, I kind of forgot about the page but then started to noticed and bunch of traffic coming in from that page so I started adding to the site at that point. Then from that point on it was as you said “…more about sharing your food discoveries with the world”.
8.) On your About page, you speak a lot about the importance of home-made cooking as a catalyst for bringing people together. Obviously, this is a vital part of the Italian tradition, but just how important is this for society in the modern world?
It’s VITALLY important! It’s missing in many families and we are paying for it as a society! Relationships are built around the table. Great conversation, good times, and fun, (laughter and love) are shared in the kitchen and at the table! This is also called “fellowship”. It’s so important as a family to spend time together cooking and eating and just sharing your day with each other. Otherwise important things get missed along the way in this busy life we all have now. This is something we are loosing if have not already lost as a society. I for one am going to fight hard to keep this going. I cannot stress how important this is for families!
9.) Undoubtedly, the contemporary family framework has changed a lot since the old days, and families are much more different and varied than what they used to be, not to mention how busy everyone seems to be in this non-stop world. Do you see these cooking traditions as still being able to adapt to these changing circumstances, or does this just reinforce the importance of these traditions?
Certainly, these traditions of spending time in the kitchen making good homemade food and then spending time “together” at the table sharing the good food and sharing about your day, your dreams or generally what is interesting to you is still very doable. It’s really all about priorities. You may hear many saying I don’t have the time for this. Well actually, what is is, is they don’t “make” time for it. There is always time for it if you make it a priority. In this world of fast times and fast foods and media overload, yes, a family can still cook and eat and converse together. Really it CAN be done 🙂
10.) Your Sauce Talk page is absolutely huge and you receive such an enormous amount of feedback from your audience. How rewarding is it to see not only your hard work, but your nonna’s legacy making a difference to people all over the world?
It’s priceless! I’m having a wonderful time with the website and conversing with people about their families, memories and talking about the good times and wonderful food. Really, it’s been amazing and hope it keeps oncoming. Great fun!
11.) And finally, how has your site made a difference to your own life and your own family? Do you see these traditions continuing to be passed down from your children throughout the future generations?
Well, it’s constantly a battle to make sure the TV is off and we are actually sitting at the table and talking to each other. I have two teenage boys, we home school and yes, life is extremely busy. I loose this battle sometimes but my wife and I do manage to get the family at the table eating and talking together at least three to four times a week and in today’s environment I would say that is victorious 🙂 Will it be passed onto into my boys future families. I certainly hope so. Hopefully we are making special memories that stick with them enough to want to make those kind of memories for their own families and put forth the effort to do so. One thing I can have comfort in is that I will have a website up with detailed instruction showing them how to cook some nice homemade Italian meals for their families and that makes me happy!
Here is a throw back from the old website design I had for this site years ago for nostalgic purposes 🙂
…and here is a link to one of the pages on The Way Back Machine which goes back in time and give you a snapshot of old website sites. Again, for nostalgic purposes. I put countless hours in to the design. Had a lot of fun with it. I had to change it to blog format for time saving purposes.