Sauce Talk 02

More discussions about Italian food and family. Good times at the table and in the kitchen.

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Hi Anthony, Love your site, recipes and the genuine love you have for family. My Uncle is coming down tommorrow to show me how my grandmother made her gravy. I am so excited, I love my Italian heritage. My great grandparents were from Albruzzia and Alberone Italy. My grandparents were born in this country after their parents immigrated to the US and settled in Orange, NJ. I was born in Orange Memorial but my family eventually moved to Maryland. I married a man from the country who dosen’t really like cheese or pasta. When I make gravy he’s like Italian food again! Don’t get me wrong he loves the sense of family, my heritage, and will eat macaroni with lots of meat and very little cheese. I know he would just rather have fried chicken, mashed potaoes and corn. Although he has always loved the Italian rolls my G.G. would bring down when he visited. We always had meatballs, porkchops and sausage in our gravy. My Uncle says my grandmother used to make braciole, but I don’t remember this as a child. Another favorite was pot cheese, which I haven’t heard you mention. I still have the handmade wooden board, which would be attatched to a counter, when my grandmother would make homemade pasta (long before I was born). I always remember her using Celentano Ravioli in the little plastic trays and always having a contest to see who could eat the most ravioli. So tommorrow we will be making braciole and gravy my grandmothers style. I have printed off your version and will be making your style next. I have developed my own style gravy but will gladly give it up for an authenic Italian Grandmom style. I have 2 daughters who love their Italian heritage. They love the smell of garlic and oil cooking in the kitchen. A memory I treasure from my grandmothers house, The youngest loves to cook the meal and the oldest loves to sit at the table and enjoy the conversation. We love to visit Little Italy in New York and see the restaurants my family regulary ate at and to see the bakery and meat shops my grandmother would insist on buying her food from. I have to agree with the sentiment when people ask you what you are and you reply Italian. I know i’m American but Italian just seems to come out. Thank you for having this site. It really does flood one with memories ie. my grandmothers hands smelling like garlic. I didn’t figure it out till I started making my own gravy, slicing the garlic by hand, and then it happens. You get a whiff of your hands and a visual of your grandmother pops in your head. Before you know it your standing in her kitchen on the floors she scrubbed that morning on her hands and knees, like she did every morning. Looking at the realistic plastic grapes hanging from a marble and iron stand on her kitchen table. Then you go farther in and my grandfather is kicked back in his recliner watching t.v. in his white tank top and house shorts. Next to him on my childhood play table and chairs is a bowl of sour balls that we were always allowed to eat. Oh I better stop I realize your a busy man. Thanks for letting me reminesce. I did check out a few pictures and I don’t think your gingerbread cookie apron does you justice. I hope to make you a more suitable apron, as my husband would say ” a manly apron” in the near future . Keep up the good work and I will try to take some pictures tommorrow to send you. Sorry this is so long, I could go on and on, but I will leave it this. ~ Sincerely, Melissa !
Hi Melissa, I’m sure you meant to address Anthony 😉 Although I have an uncle Johnny. Very nice that your Uncle is coming over to help you cook. I LOVE that! I learned some secrets from my Uncle Johnny (, he was the one that played the accordion in the family. I didn’t know there were men that don’t like cheese or pasta, wow! That removes a lot of great food from ones diet! I have never heard of pot cheese… can you share what that is? Maybe my grandma Salerno made that but did not know the name? Auh the smell, the conversation, the cooking that’s what I remember most about growing up, especially when I was over my grandmother’s house. I also remember with my mom having Italian dinners that would last for 4-5 hours into the night! You really needed to pace yourself for those big meals! But they are the best memories I have! I’m glad your daughters value this and want to cook and be part of the fun and family traditions. Very important! WoW! Grandfather kicked back in a recliner with white tank top. wow! I remember this! I remember my grandpa Salerno sitting in his favorite recliner and he would have a TV tray (the old kind in the 70’s) with a nice plate of paste, a glass of red wine and candlepin bowling on the TV. (do you remember candlepin bowling? here is snippet on youtube – ) WoW! That jsut brought back a lot of memoreis! ha!!! One can get very sidetracked on the internet. I used to sit and watch it with him. We would have paste for lunch and dinner. Great fun! LOL!!! So you don’t think my gingerbread apron is manly? huh! Must be all those hearts! LOL!!!!! OK, I guess I need to get a manly apron. I will tell my wife to pick one out for me 😉 Would love to get some photos from you to add to the site. I always enjoy getting those. Well I could reminisce forever as well but gotta get some sleep now. Happy cooking, happy times and share the LOVE! Enjoy your time with your Uncle tomorrow! Ciao, ~8-) Anthony P.S. I had to CC my mom on this email because I know she will appreciate the stories!

Buon giorno, Anthony! Just found your site around 10 p.m. — it’s now 3 a.m. and after writing you, I need to get to sleep! Your website was so interesting and FANTASTIC! I am a first generation Italian-American and for the most part have the recipe repertoire — but there are still some things missing! Your website brought back so many great family times, cooking together, dancing while the sauce was simmering away, waiting for that batch of cookies to emerge from the oven. Your detailed descriptions are right on the money of the true Italian family! I especially loved your recipe of the anisette Christmas cookies. As soon as I saw the picture I immediately said to myself, “oh no, he’s got the wrong sprinkles!” I had to laugh even harder when reading your recipe and the note you put at the bottom about your mom!!! When I first made these with Nonna, she sent me to the store for some ingredients and the sprinkles were on the list. I came back with the same ones in your picture and boy did she get all over me about this! Those Italian grannies surely are sweet but they can get pretty hot, too!!! Gosh, the memories! Thanks for refreshing them with your narratives! What I was hoping to find there is a cookie recipe which EVERY Italian family makes. Like a lot of Nonna’s, as I am finding out more and more about, there are just some recipes they just do not want to give up and take their secrets with them to their grave!!! What’s up with that??!! I was fortunate enough to have my dad’s mom write most all — did you get that, “most”!!! — of her recipes down and those that she did not, I would run into her bathroom and sit in there writing down whatever I could of what she (or we) just made. The recipe I am looking for is a cookie. They are VERY, VERY buttery, yellow in color which I am not sure is from the egg yolks or if they put food color in them. EVERY Italian bakery sells them, too. They are piped out, you know, with a pastry bag, and they have ridges which I assume is from the tip used with the bag. They then have the NONPARIELS (ha-ha-ha!) on them, or half a cherry in the center, or some chocolate “sprinkles” (yes, NOT the nonpariels but the actual sprinkles), or they have mini chocolate chips mixed in the batter. I’ve tried EVERYTHING and have looked everywhere for this recipe and cannot find it or find an Italian grannie who will give it up! I’ve even taken a job at an Italian bakery with the hopes of getting the recipe but, NO!!! Also, there are the “s” cookies. Surely, you’ve had those! The ones I’m looking for the recipe on are pink and yellow. If memory serves me correct, the pink were cherry and the yellow were lemon. I believe I have he recipe for these but am not 100% sure. So, my friend, would you happen to have either of these in your collection or memory bank? Would truly appreciate it if you did and would share it. Keep up the site, and YES, YES, YES, you really do need to put a cookbook together! Hope to hear back from you soon! ~Ciao, Linda
Hi Linda,  WoW, 10pm – 3am, you really dug into the site! There is a lot to read through there. The sauce talk is my favorite part of the site. I have so many great conversation with people about great food and memories, it’s just lovely! It’s taken some time to get all the step by step instructions right, so many secrets! So many “little” things grandma didn’t share, but luckily I watched her cook and watched my Mom cook and asked a lot of questions. Funny how that is a universal thing with the Italian grandmas and not sharing their recipes. One thing that help ed a great deal are a the details my Mom remembered from my grandma’s cooking. There has been a lot of trial and error to get the recipes to the point where I have them now. See, I was not shooting for a “prefect” recipe, I was shooting for the “exact” taste of my grandma Salerno’s sauce and my Mom’s sauce and I finally have that now. It’s like treasure! Funny that you noticed that I had the wrong sprinkles on the anisette cookies right away just by seeing the photo. I shared the recipe with my Mom and I was excited that I finally got the recipe right and was quite pleased but the very first thing she said was “You have the wrong sprinkles!”. I just did not know how important the sprinkles were. Now I know! I’ve been meaning to get new photo’s up of the cookies with the correct sprinkles for an example, it’s on my list of things to do. There are so many more recipes I have and that my Mom has that I want to get up on the site, they just ta ke a lot of energy and time. I’m married and have two boys and we homeschool, so life is a blur. Moving at warp 10! Some of the recipes I want to get up on the site are: Manicotti, Ricotta Cheese Cake, Ricotta Cookies, Fettuccini Alfredo, (Sausage, Pepper and Onion sandwiches), Home Made Pasta (that is just the best! Nothing quite like homemade pasta), Onion Bread Lasagna style (I have onion bread on the site now, but there is a certain way my grandma made it were you have dough on the bottom of a lasagna pan then sauce, onion filling and another layer of dough on top and you serve it in squares, so good!), Stuffed Artichoke, Antipasti, those wonderful cookies that looks like waffles about 4” diameter, remember those? Those lovely Bow Tie pastry cookies with sugar on top and others. So many classics! I have recipes for all these and more but I have to take the time to cook them a few times to get all the ingredients right. Some of my grandma’s recipes are just so vague; Things like, adds some flour, cook until done and great details like that! So there is a lot of trial and error until I nail. One recipe up on the site that I still do not have quite right yet is the Taralli’s. I’m close, very close. I believe what I have been missing is the step of boiling the dough before baking. In regards to the cookie recipes you are looking for, I believe both of the cookies you mention, the VERY, VERY buttery yellow cookies and the ”s” cookies are called “Spritz”. My wife (who is Sicilian) has this recipe. I will get her to write it all out for me and will get that to you. Guess I need to get it up on the site as well 😉 The trick to making the “Spritz” cookies is you need this cool “Spritz gun” thingie. We have an old box the was my mother in-laws that has the Spritz gun as well as all the little connector pieces that go with it to make the different cookie shapes. I went ahead and scanned the box front and back and have placed them below here: (You might recognized some of the cookie shapes ? On the front cover, you will see the cookie with the cherry in the middle.

cookie maker

I did find this Spritz recipe on the internet which is pretty close to my wife’s, but I will use my wife’s recipe when I get it up on the site:

Spritz Butter Cookies recipe

  • 1 pound butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Food color (optional)
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cream sugar, egg yolks, vanilla extract and butter. VERY slowly add flour. Mix well. Blend in food coloring, if desired. Place in cookie gun and decorate as desired. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Well, hope this helps. I have to make dinner now, all this talk about cookies has made me extremely hungry! Guess, I’ll be making desert too 😉 Happy Cooking and Happy times! Ciao, ~8-) Anthony
Dear Anthony, Wow, thanks for the near immediate reply! I hit you website again this a.m., still looking for that cookie recipe…it’s nearly a “mission” now!!!! I think — THINK — I found it. I literally spent the entire day yesterday, Memorial Day, on the net trying to find the recipe and may have. It was severely tuunderstorming here all day so it worked out well! I do have one of those spritz-ey thing-a-ma-giggers and the recipes that were in the box with it. Somebody told me, in my search for these cookies, that this is what they were, but they are not. I’ve tried all kinds of recipes that people have told me, varying somewhat from the other, but just not the same. When I worked at the Italian bakery I tried to get the recipe then but no way! This little old Italian granny had the recipe in her head — NOTHING!! was written down. What I did see, however, is what she put INTO them…..not everything, but some things here and there. What I do know is there is either CORNSTARCH or CORNMEAL, the polenta that is very finely ground. That is what supposedly gives the cookies that bright sunshine yellow. Do you know if you would have anything in your collection with those ingredients? I, too, have boxes, and NOT shoe boxes, full of Nonna’s recipes which I also have been trying to “perfect” to the TASTE, as you also mentioned. It’s hard because as you also say, they NEVER write anything down. Their brains must have been like computers today, they just stored a wealth of info! You can also probably relate to this: Whenever I watched Nonna cook or bake or whatever, she knew I wanted to so desperately learn how to cook, after all, isn’t that what a “good Italian girl” would do? Learn to cook with the hopes of being able to keep the belly of her future hubby full? Right? Well, she knew this, and I knew this but things were a bit different when it came down to actually learning. She would try so hard to slow things down so I could grasp things but sometimes she just had to keep moving because that is what the recipe required, know what I mean? Like with making the sauce…you just couldn’t wait 2-3 more minutes while granddaughter wrote down to add the water and how much. The water had to be added NOW or things would burn! Things like that. And then when she did have the “time” so to speak, it never was a teaspoon of this or two of that, etc. It was a pinch or this, two of that, a palmful of this etc. Surely you know what I’m talking about!!! But you know what, her hands were like my DADDY’S! HUGE!!! Guess from all that bread dough kneading!!! How can you judge what “half a palm full of” of whatever, when her palms could have held half a cup! I KNOW you know what I’m talking about and can hear your laughter from here!!!!! Secretative! What is it with them???!!!! I jiust do NOT get it !!!!! Perhaps they knew, or some who are still amongst us, they know something that this generation has yet to learn? Who knows…I just find some amusement in this! I’m trying to get things down on paper for my two boys and know you understand this because it sounds like what you are trying to do, also. Right now I can still hear my dad’s mom telling me, “now, don’t you tell anybody, do you understand that, you are NOT to share this recipe with anybody. Understand? (in Italian, of course). I can hear her right now…and if I were able to tell her that I found this guy on the net who is writing down and sharing his family recipes I can hear her repeating her warning!!! Again I ask, what’s the big secret?????!!!!!! The recipe I found this morning sounds like what I’ve been searching for but until they are made, well, just will not know. I have to go out and purchase a scale to make them, however, because the recipe came from a guy in Italy and everything is metric, so I have to not only get a scale, it has to be one with conversion capabilities. It has some of the ingredients that I recall from the few short weeks in the Italian bakery and also calls for using a pasty bag to place them on the cookie sheet. What they look like and taste like now, wwwweeeeellllll, guess I’ll have to wait and see. Hopefully today I can find a metric scale. There are large kitchen and bath shops around here and hopefully one of them will carry one. Where I live, here in Michigan, there are ssssssssoooooo many Italian-American families and practically every corner has an Italian market/store of some type…..fruit and veggie stands, gift shops, pizza, bakery.. ..and while I absolutely LOVE where I live, I just cannot justify paying $8.99 to $10.99 per POUND for these cookies!!!! And you only get 4-6 cookies per pound and that’s just not enough!!!! Well, thanks for sharing and keep up the stories and recipes! Talk about a “walk down memory lane”!!! You know, we, this generation, who are probably first generation and some close second generation, of Italian’s born in America, we really need to get together and write these stories down. They would definitely make for a great movie, like no other! As they say, truth is stranger than fiction! We could all keep an audience in stitches over the things our ancestors have said or done, don’t you agree???!!! Appreciate you getting back with me when YOU CAN! Sounds like you have your hands full with you children, schooling, etc. Would appreciate if you could keep my address and get back to me when you can. And if the recipe I just found is “THE ONE”, I will gladly share it with you as well. Deal?! Look forward to hearing back from you when you can!e ~ Ciao, Linda
Hi Linda, Sorry I didn’t have “the” cookie recipe you where looking for. I thought for sure what you described were Spritz. Maybe a Spritz variant of some sort. Oh well, if you do find “the” recipe I definitely would love to have it! You have me curious now. Also, sorry, I have no cookie recipes with corn starch or cornmeal, it may be a certain region of Italy this cookie is from. My Grandma Salerno is from Bari, Italy, which is south region, very different from Northern Italy when it comes to recipes. And yes, all the areas where you said “and I KNOW you know what I’m talking about”, you right I know and can relate and yes I was laughing when I read your email. Very frustrating thing having all these wonderful grandmas not writing down how to make their wonderful food! Well the big secret I think is this. You see there was no greater joy for an Italian grandmother than to see her family enjoy her cooking that she slaved over all day to make. It’s like a secret weapon, if she can make food that tastes better than anybody else’s in the neighborhood she is definitely not going to be writing down all the steps, they keep it secret so they are the only ones who know how to make the amazing food and get the “Oh Mama! This is amazing, so a-gooda!” so on etc… The moans and groans of pure enjoyment, I believe it made them very proud and gave them great joy! I remember my grandma Salerno would not sit! We would eat while she was still cooking or cleaning or doing something in the kitchen she would not sit! It’s great that you are trying to keep the traditions going with your sons. That’s very important! I am on a mission to get ALL of my grandmother’s recipes and my Mom’s recipe down to every detail to keep this tradition going. My boys will not have to translate, interpolate and or flat out guess how dad made that Braciole and what went in the great sauce dad used to make and so on. It will be all laid out. They help me know when I cook so they are already learning how to cook Italian right. They are learning it is something you can’t rush and that you must pour a LOT of love into the cooking? Oh the stories that these first and second generation Italian-Americans could share. (I’m second generation Italian by the way) Such good times around the table with family and so much love! I still remember with great joy the 5-6 hour dinners we would have with family and friends. Several course meals that just seem to go on forever! You really learn how to pave yourself. I’ve had friends over to visit a few time for the really BIG diners and they just did not pace themselves, by the time the 4th course came around they were begging for mercy and getting a little tipsy as well. They would tell me the next day that they don’t think they could handle another dinner like that again.. ha! Ha! Ha! So I guess if you grow up with big dinners like this all the time, (Sunday was a biggy!, Very big meals on Sunday) and you did this from when you were a baby, the 6 hour dinners ju st seem natural? Ok, in regards to your P.S. Oh I knew right away what you were talking about with the sprinkles and absolutely knew you were laughing with me. OH MY! I would LOVE to have your recipe for homemade ricotta and mozzarella! I can imagine that must be wonderful! If it’s ok with you I would like to post that on the site as well. I will place with our discussions in the sauce talk section and will of course give you all the credit. …and I’m always looking for more photos for my visitors photo section… so if you ever have some huge Italian blowout meals and get the urge to take some photos and pass them along for the site That would be awesome! Trying to capture the fun of Italian cooking and the joy that it brings with the visitors photo section. But no pressure. Well, need to get back to work now. Great chatting with you, a kindred spirit I can tell ? H appy times and share the Love!Ciao, ~8-) Anthony! P.S. I plan on adding a section on my site with photos of my grandparents and family tree info from Italy and stuff like that, a sneak peek…. This section has been added since this post. Check out the new My Italian Grandmother page. Having such fun with this!!! Anthony

Hi Anthony! Today is Easter Sunday and we followed your sausage bread recipe exactly and it was delicious. We have been trying to duplicate our grandmother’s recipe for years. But she took the secret to the grave with her. But your recipe revived the spirit and tradition. we are sure to try your other recipes. We are NJ Italians who love to cook, eat and talk about eating. ~Ciao, Ken, …P.S. I make my own sausage. Another good secret of Nona!
Ken, Hi, I just discovered your email in my junk mail folder, evidently my outlook thought that you were spam. Thanks for the photos! 🙂 Sausage bread is just something special! 🙂 “cook. Eat ..and talk about eating. Ciao.” AH yes, this is what Italian do best!!! I am very glad to see a tradition revived! You have to share the LOVE and keep the tradition going. Very important! …. It’s pretty special when you get your recipes back from days of old. You MUST keep family tradition going! I too had a Nonna, (That’s what we called her), but she was the great grandmother from Italy who spoke no English at all. My grandma Salerno moved to US from Italy when she was in her 20’s (maybe late teens) and sometimes the Italian speaking would back. I just love the Italian language, don’t know it, but want to learn. Have an amazing day and thanks again for the great photos. Looks like you have a wonderful happy family. THE WAY IT SHOULD BE! Share the love! ~ Ciao, ~8-) Anthony

Hi Anthony,
I was looking for the Peseta recipe like my great aunt’s and you nailed it. I’m making the italian bread now and really look forward to making the Taralli cookies (when I have a full day). Funny I’m living in Shrewsbury MA and didn’t realize your grandmother lived here and that your grandfather is from the same part of Italy as my great Aunt and Grandfather.
Thanks for putting this online.  Tim
Hi Tim,
This is amazing! Crazy how old family recipes are traced back to one small region. The Peseta Bars and The Melonbon Soup recipes are both traced back to one specific area. I’ve only heard from a few people that have ever heard of the Pesetas and the Melonbon Soup recipes and they all had relatives from the exact same area in Italy where my grandparents were from. Santeramo in Colle: Apulia Region (Puglia), 10 Miles south of Bari, Italy Both my grandfather and grandmother are from this area or at least close to the Bari region. It does seem these two specific recipes originated from that area. And also crazy that you’re living in Shewsburry! wow! My grandparents lived here: 10 Brightside Ave, Shrewsbury, Massachusetts ( I spent so much time here in the 70’s when I was a kid! That is where I spent weekend after weekend cooking with my grandma Salerno! Crazy to look at google maps street view. Seems someone added a second floor to the house. When my grandparents lived there is was just one floor. A very small house but full of so much love and great food! The Taralli’s are amazing and it took me decades to figure out how to make them like my grandmother did because I was missing so many important steps. I had to squeak out the details from multiple relatives and a lot of trial and error! Thanks for sharing. Was fun going back to Shrewsburry via google map street view!
Happy cooking! ~ Anthony

Hi Anthony! Thank you, thank you, thank you! I have been trying to get even close to my mother-in-law’s recipe for 12 years now and thanks to your recipe my husband said I finally did it! I am not Italian, but my husband is 100%. He said our house on Sunday (while I was cooking) smelled just like his house did when he was growing up. The sauce was outstanding and my meatballs actually stuck together. Your technique for cooking the sausage actually made the sausage taste better than my mother-in-law’s and that came from my husband! My husband was so darn proud and his belly was stuffed. Thank you for your super easy to follow recipe! ~ Sincerely, Laura Seidita
Laura, Hi! I’m so glad I could help you out 🙂 I can TOTALLY understand were your husband is coming from. There is just nothing like Italian cooking you use to get from your mom and your grandmom, all the memories the smells bring back, the good times the shared love the good food, it’s all just wonderful! WOW! The sausage came out better than your mother-in-laws who is 100% Italian? Well I will definitely take that as a compliment. But really, all the thanks has to go to my Grandma Salerno, My Mom and my Mother-In-Law Rose who is Italian as well, um excuse me, I mean Sicilian 😉 My recipe really is a culmination of all their recipes, although they almost all made their sauce the same way. Getting the meatballs to stick together, stay firm, yet oh so tender, is definitely an art. I tried hard to get each step spelled out. Hard work doing that. Well, tell your husband Anthony says hi and that I’m glad he can now have his childhood sauce 🙂 Priceless is what it is, priceless! ~ Ciao, ~8-) Anthony

Hi Anthony! I’m so glad I ran across your site. I will be making 3 recipes for my Christmas dinner with friends. I have 2 questions about the ricotta cheese pie. (Please forgive me…I think the first one may be blasphemy) 1. Can it be made with reduced fat ricotta? 2. I only want to make a 9″ pie. Do you think that would be 1/2 a recipe. Thanks. Merry Christmas, Darlene
Darlene, Glad you are enjoying my labor of love. Yes, item #1 is blasphemy. 😉 I honestly don’t know what kind of result you will get with reduced fat anything in an Italian dessert. Item #2, that seems to be along the lines of half. Pretty close anyway. However caution, sometimes when you half a recipe the ingredients are not always exactly half. Some times the proportion of ingredients change. I recommend using the same size pan and amount of ingredients and share the leftovers with neighbors 🙂 Tis the season to give. Again, I don’t know what will happen if you used reduced fat ricotta. Give it a try, but you are on your own and if grandma found it she would slap you. lol!!! Ciao, Anthony
Anthony, I’ve had Italian grandmas mad at me before. I think I’ll go full fat! Darlene.

Hi Anthony! Many, many thanks for the great recipe! My Sicilian ex-mother-in-law’s sauce to a T!!!!!! I’ve been trying to make this sauce for 20 years. She only showed me once when I was a young and inexperienced cook (wanted to make sure my ex-husband ate the same way as at his Mama’s house!). This 40-something, white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant cook (experienced and loving it now!) finally got it right, thanks to you! My kids (18 and 16, being half-Sicilian) have been begging me to make Grandma’s sauce for 14 years (since my divorce). Again, thanks to you, I made them very, very happy yesterday! Them, my son’s girlfriend, my daugther’s boyfriend, my son’s best friend, and my new husband. We’re originally from Detroit living in Northwest Alabama now (not much Italian food, restaurants or cooking down here. It’s good ole country cookin’ here, but hey, that’s good too, just not everyday!). With the large population of Italians in Detroit, I grew up with many Italian friends, dated quite a few (my cousins did too. Something about those Italian men!), and ate many a great home cooked Italian meal with friends and then my in-laws (love the Christmas Eve feast of the 7 fishes. May try that this Christmas Eve since I’ve mastered the sauce. FINALLY!!). My husband thought he’d died and gone to haven. He kept me company in the kitchen all day and we shared a lovely bottle of Chianti in the process (I’ve turned him into a wine lover and he loves to watch me cook. It’s my hobby and other than him, my true love!). I doubled the recipe (wanted a lot leftover for tonight. You’re right, the sauce is better the next day), and with feeding a 6’4″, 220 lb. husband and 5 teenagers, I needed a lot!!!! The kids’ friends will be here for dinner again tonight, and my husband said he’s not eating lunch today so he can enjoy more tonight! Thank you sooooo much. I will definitely be making this over and over again. Our new friends here in Alabama keep saying I need to open a restaurant or catering business (I’ve introduced them to finer things in life, such as GARLIC!!!!!)…wait until they get a taste of this! Would you happen to have a recipe for Cassata Cake? Love cannoli’s, but of course can’t find them here and I don’t know if I’m quite up to making them from scratch, but love the cake. If not, does your grandmother or mom have a recipe for cannoli’s???? Thanks again, and here’s to puttin the love into your cooking! ~ Becky Hill
Hi Becky WoW! Sounds like you had some fun with the sauce 🙂 You know, it’s just not the same if you have sauce that you did not slave over all day and was not consumed within the home that it was cooked in all day long. There is something magical to the whole process. I am honored that I could help you bring that special grandma sauce to your kids. It took me a long time to get each and every step just right to nail it down to my grandmas sauce taste. The main thing I learned is that there is NO cutting corners. Good sauce takes time and much effort and LOVE! Sorry to hear you don’t have good Italian food down there in Alabama, but the good news is now you can make it yourself! WooHoo! I must agree that Garlic is one of the finer things in life for sure. WoW! Yeah, feeding a large husband and 5 teenagers… you better have enough food for sure. This recipe does satisfy, especially when you double it. Sometimes I double the sauce recipe but triple the meatballs. They do seem to go very fast! Sorry, I don’t have a recipe for Cassata Cake, oh but that IS good stuff. Same with Canolli, don’t have a recipe for that, but I have been meaning to tackle that. There is NOTHING like a FRESH Canolli. The one I remember I like best is with the Pistachio and Chocolate ships in the filling and the light and crispy shell, Oh man… no I must go find a Canolli! Happy cooking and share the LOVE!it :-)! Ciao, ~8-) Anthony

Hello Anthony! Thank you for posting your pasta sauce recipe. This weekend I purchased some nice braciole and sausage on Arthur Ave in the Bronx and wanted to make “gravy” like my mom’s. Your ingredients were the closest I could remember to my mom’s so I used your list (added my home made meatballs). I did simplify the process though, after browning the meats and sauteeing the garlic and onions I threw everything in the pan at once, like my mom used to (except the fresh parsley). Also, I used country back pork ribs instead of pork chops because I like the way the meat on the ribs shreds. The gravy came out great, just like mom’s. I couldn’t ask my mom for her recipe because she has dementia, but to make conversation, I asked her what she used to put in her gravy (like you, she said pork chops, not ribs!) but when she was naming the other ingredients she struggled for a minute and said “sunshine”. I’m still trying to figure out how to incorporate that secret ingredient!!! ~ Karla
Hi Karla, Glad I could help you get back to that recipe the way it should be ? I believe that Sunshine would translate to LOVE! You have to pour a lot of love into the cooking, this is what always made grandma Salerno’s recipe so wonderful, it was all the love she poured into the sauce while laboring over it all day long. The satisfied look on her families faces were all the reward she needed. I never have tried the Pork Ribs, sounds like it would definitely add some nice flavor though. I’m going to try that out next time I make the sauce. Happy cooking and happy times and don’t forget the Sunshine!! 🙂 ~ Ciao, ~8-) Anthony

Anthony, I’m sure you’ve had similar comments, but I also have a question. First of all, reading your recipe reminded me of all the times I “helped” my Grandmother in Chicago make “her” spaghetti sauce — good memories, great aroma and just good being Italian— then my brother and I took over and added wine and Italian bread — that is, I made the sauce, while he and I drank the wine and ate Italian bread. Now, I travel to all of our kids’ homes with my “Italian spice” box and they have already purchased the fresh and canned ingredients, so we can continue the tradition, except I make about 5 gallons or so at each house, for freezing, until the next trip. I finally wrote down the recipe for them this year — as time is passing, of course. Your website brought back so many of those memories, as I only have one Uncle left from that generation and I am the last of mine — so my sons will continue with the tradition. But I’m curious, what made you decide to create this website — I was waiting to find out where you “sell” your sauce or something else and I didn’t find that. Or maybe I have to go to the Cookbooks, haven’t been there yet. I’m beginning to sell my sauce, locally although I’ve given it away for years and the world seems to come to our house to eat, but it’s getting expensive. Actually I was looking for pricing when I found your site and really enjoyed it — hopefully you will be able to answer my questions, but if not, I certainly have enjoyed your website. Thanks — Maureen (I know, I know it’s not Italian, but my mother was Raffaella Filomena Carmela Carboni de Lacasio. I think I qualify!!!!!! Maureen
Maureen, HI, nice to hear from you. WoW! My mom’s name is also Raffaella, Nick name now is Rae. Raffaella Salerno. You know, I don’t believe I know my Mom’s middle name. Oh that’s horrible, I’m going to have to ask her. I probably knew at one time but it has slipped my mind I guess. My Grandfathers name was Luigi Regueiro Salerno. I’ve actually been working on adding a whole separate grandparents section to the site. I have a detailed family tree on my Italian site with photos and all kinds of great history, going to add that and maybe have an area where people can add information about their Italian grandparents. So many great memories! In regards to your question about how I came about to make my recipe website. Well, it all started about 7 years ago I think. My Dad always LOVED my Grandma Salerno’s sauce. My Dad is on the Irish side and he defiantly cannot cook spaghetti sauce! Well my parents go divorced a long time ago and my Dad really missed that sauce. I knew how to make it because I always asked my grandma and mom a lot of questions about Italian cooking and I helped them cook too. So a took a full Sunday and pain-stakingly wrote down every step of the process. The hardest part was getting the measurements right because grandma Italian cooks don’t measure.. they put.. they taste, they put some more and that’s how you do it! So after getting all this written down in detail I just made a quick webpage and emailed my Dad. He was able to recreate the sauce he remembered on the first try!! Then I forgot about the page and one day went back to it and noticed that there were many people actually visiting the page! Huh… I said. Hmmm…. Maybe I should put some more recipes on here and add some photos.. hmm…. So I did that and have been having great fun with the site ever since. The thing I like best about this website is all the lovely emails I get from people and the great memories that are shared. Like you said “good memories, great aroma and just good being Italian”. People have strong memories of these special family times with the grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles… Such great times! I remember large dinners with MANY family members there and sit down dinners that would last for 5 hours! The multiple course meals where my favorite. So much shared at the table. Wonderful times! Every time I cook the sauce with meatballs and braciole and sausage and the house gets saturated with that wonderful smell, I am taken back to my childhood and the great times with my family. This is what makes Italian cooking so special. Sell the sauce? Oh I couldn’t, it needs to be enjoyed in the home it was cooked in. There needs to be time to be welcomed in the home, have some nice antipasto and some wine, enjoy the aroma of the sauce cooking and then dive into the fresh pasta and hot sauce right from the pot. Sauce from a jar, well… It’s just wrong. 😉 … Anyway, I could ramble on for a while. Must get back to work. Nice to hear from you. If you ever get a hankering to take photos of your Italian cooking fun send ‘em on over and I will throw them up on the site in the Visitors Photo section. Having great fun with that. Happy Times! …Share the LOVE!)! ~ Ciao, ~8-) Anthony

Hi Anthony! I read with great delight your Braciole and Meatball Recipes. I have been married to (my Anthony) 38 years come April and had the privilege to learn my mother-in-law’s recipe years ago before she passed away. She had made the above for over 50 years and made it the way her mother did before her. No recipe for this Italian lady! For the most part your recipe was dead-on for the Braciole except I use flank steak (not round steak or London broil) in my gravy. When it has cooked in the gravy it just is so tender. When I used to cook for four (we are empty nesters, now) and no matter how many rolls I made they barely made it to leftovers (there was just never enough)! As for your meatballs, again oh, so close. I understand you using pork chops and my recipe differs slightly from yours. I use 2 to 1 ratio of ground chuck and ground pork instead. I also use only Romano (freshly grated) instead of Parmesan. What I find amazing after all these years is that my sisters-in-law never took the time to learn Mom’s recipes and I can taste the difference whenever they serve pasta dishes and my husband always tells me when we get home from one of these gatherings that Mom’s gravy (the way I make it) is the best. Keep on cooking and you are so right -> there is never enough garlic! ~ Virginia
Virginia, HI… 38 years of marriage! That is so awesome! I’m on year 17 with my Cynthia (as of 09/01/07) and it just keep on getting better! 🙂 I have the same scenario on my end, My Mom made the same sauce my grandma made and my grandma made the same sauce her Mom made, so it’s been in the family for a long time. I have made some subtle tweaks here and there, but mostly have kept the same traditions going. I will have to try out the flank steak. I never really did find out for sure what type of meat my grandma Salerno used for her Braciole. She always went to the local butcher to get her meat. My local butcher is Super Wal-Mart, hardly a comparison.. ugh! Empty nesters huh… At present we are four, my boys are 9 and 12 (as of 04/17/07) , I can’t imagine life without them in the home, trying to enjoy every moment with them. If you’re not laboring over the sauce all day long it’s just not sauce/gravy! It’s not even close! No pain, no gain. There are no shortcuts when it comes to good Sauce, meatballs and braciole. Thanks for sharing. Happy cooking, happy times and keep on sharing the love! Tell your sister she needs to learn how to make the sauce right! ~Ciao, ~8-) Anthony
Anthony, I guess I learned from “a master” because my mother-in-law in her later years used to send me to fetch the flank steak from her butcher in Berwyn that was closer to my house than hers. The butcher was on notice (and any butcher in any grocery store today can do this) to slice the flank steak no less that ¼” & no more than ½” thick. All you have to do then is slice the width you want to roll and add cheeses and seasonings before rolling and tying. I cannot explain it but flank steak when cooked in gravy exudes a rich and very special flavor to the gravy that I cannot (nor do I want to) replicate with any meat. My family KNOWS when I try to make it on the “cheap” w/o the flank steak. The other thing I wanted to tell you and failed to in the first email…If you are happy with the cooked results and have any flank steak left over (which I rarely do with this family), you must freeze it separately from the sauce. One of the fondest memories my girls have while growing up is the Italian bread…once the gravy had been simmering for about three hours it was bread dipping time! We would spoon out bits at a time and dip the sliced bread and we all KNEW when the gravy was done. I can’t wait to share this with my two newest granddaughters 4 yrs. & soon to be 18 months old. Last but not least, August is the best month to make gravy because of the wonderful fresh tomatoes here in Illinois (just remember to drain the excess liquid from the fresh tomatoes before cooking them down).! ~ Virginia

Hi Anthony – Thank you for a GREAT recipe!!! For the past 4 years my 3 older brothers and I have held an annual meatball contest inviting over 60 family and friends. Each year I have not won and this year I almost didn’t enter until I found your recipe on-line. What sold me on your recipe was your enthusiasm, passion and love for the recipe and the recommendation on using Hunts tomato sauce. My father’s family is all Italian and my grandmother always used Hunts so I knew this was going to be a winning recipe and it was. The addition of the braciole, Italian sausage and the pork chops definitely added a lot to the overall flavor. I just wanted to email you and say thank you for posting your family recipe. You made the process fun and easy, all the way from the itemized grocery list to the pictures with commentary. I was proud to serve my dish thanks to your recipe. When they said I was the winning meatball I was so happy, it felt so good to win and put that medal around my neck. In my acceptance speech I gave you all the credit. Thank you again. ~ Christine E.
Hi Christine,
IWoW! How cool is that, THE WINNING MEATBALL! WooHoo!! I know that’s a very big deal indeed! Congratulations! I am glad I was able to help you our with the recipe. I have to give all the credit to my grandma Salerno, My Mom and My mother in-law, they all suffered through my many questions about thier cooking and most of all shared their passion for the food and for thier family that really makes it all taste so good!!! Thanks for sharing the good news. Happy cooking and share the love always! Turn off the TV and have a nice 5 hour meal with your family, there is nothing better!!! ~ Ciao, ~8-) Anthony

Hi Anthony! I am currently involved with an Italian man… I would love to know what you think is the perfect red wine… I am not a big wine drinker mainly because I have never been exposed to it… but I don’t want to look as ignorant as I am to him… also… what would you say is the most popular italian dish to prepare… Thanks!! ~ Renee
Renee, So sorry it’s taken me so long to get back to you. I have been so swamped with work, I’ve had no time to breathe!!! Now let’s see, the perfect wine… That would be an easy one for me: A nice Italian Red “Bolla – Valpolicella”. However, you should be able to find this at your local upper scale grocery store. …and as far as the classic Italian meal, you must go for the whole Spaghetti Sauce, Meatballs, Sausage and Braciole. That will knock him flat if you go all the way and make the whole full blown sauce with all the meats, because only Italian granmom’s can achieve this! He will be putty in your hands!!! Trust me! 🙂 Good luck with your man, may you capture his heart. Hope this helps. Happy cooking, happy times.! ~Ciao, ~8-) Anthony

* This letter from Father Thomas Lombardi is quite special!

Hi Anthony! While looking for something entirely different, Google brought me to your website. How wonderful it is! What wonderful memories welled up from inside of me as I read through your recipes – especially the “Grandma’s tips” I am a Catholic priest (31 years I am proud to say!). My Dad was born in Apricena, Italy and immigrated with his mother, father, his sister and three brothers to the States in the early 1900’s. The family settled in Chicago. Four more brothers were born in Chicago. Nonno (Grandpa) worked in the Union stockyards as a meat trimmer. Dad grew up and became a tailor. He eventually moved to Indiana for work. It was there that he met my Mom and they married. I was born a few years later. Uncharacteristically, I was their only child (but that is a whole other story). Not long after Mom and Dad got married, Mom (not an Italian) was sent off to Chicago to learn how to cook proper Italian meals from my Nonna (Grandmother). Even after I came along, Dad was insistent that I experience the same kind of Italian household that he had experienced growing up. So when I was old enough (probably ten or so) I was shipped off every summer to Chicago. There I not only got to know all of my aunts, uncles and cousins, but I also discovered the world of Nonna’s kitchen. And what a wondrous world it was. Nonna and Nonno lived in a duplex on the near south side of Chicago. I can still see it in my mind. They lived on the first floor and my Uncle Nick and Aunt Sis lived on the second floor. The first floor had a small parlor which opened to a huge dining room and tiny kitchen with a large stove. In the center was a tremendously long table (or so it seemed to a ten year old!). Every Sunday the entire family (Nonna, Nonno, aunts and uncles, cousins, and frequently a few guests) would gather around this table. I remember that on Saturday Nonna would spend the day making pasta. By Saturday evening it seemed like there was nowhere in the house where you wouldn’t find pasta hung to dry. Nonna’s stove seemed to always have a pot of sauce slowly simmering on the back burner. The sauce was filled with meatballs, braciole, and Nonno’s special sausage that he made. It was a bit different than the kind of Italian sausage you find in the markets today. I could never figure out why until I finally visited my Dad’s home town in Italy and discovered that it was a special sausage made only in that area. Then there were those special days when Nonno would bring home from work a pork roast which would go into the sauce. After slowly simmering in the sauce that roast was heavenly! (Pork rules in Italian cooking!) On Sundays everyone would get up and go to Mass. We dressed in our finest and walked the two blocks to church. After Mass we would come home and gather around the huge table. Then this great event, the Sunday meal would begin. I would guess that we probably sat down around noon and the adults didn’t get up from the table until around 5.00! Nonna and my aunts would serve the antipasto first. We would linger over it talking (or maybe should I say almost screaming?). Then after awhile Nonna would drop the “spaget”- as we called it – into the water. She turned it into two huge bowls and sauced it with that wondrous sauce that mysteriously simmered on the stove… “Mangia,” “mangia” Nonna would continuously say to us kids. She was always ready to serve up seconds and even thirds to those who wanted more. (And even though we all ate more than we should have, it seemed that there was always some left over). Then came the meat course – the meat from the sauce – along with some vegetables lightly seasoned with olive oil. Next came a salad of lettuce simply dressed with olive oil, lemon, salt, pepper and a bit of oregano. Then some fruit, nuts, and cheese. Accompanying all of this were copious amounts of crispy Italian bread and Nonno’s home made wine. Even us kids got to drink wine (although for the youngest among us it was about one quarter wine to three quarters water). The meal would end with coffee and sometimes Nonna’s cheesecake or some other kind of cake made by one of my aunts. About this time Nonno would also set out the bottles of grappa and anisette. On special occasions we would have Italian cookies. Oh those wondrous anisette cookies and almond biscotti!!!! It was always a leisurely meal. No one rushed off (except my younger uncles who wanted to go visit their girlfriends – something which always aggravated Nonna). A course was served and enjoyed. Then everyone just sat around and visited until the next course was served. We kids would be allowed to get up from the table between courses to run around and play until the next course was served. But they had no problem calling us back because we knew that something wonderful tasting was coming next! I spent those summers playing with my cousins. But I also spent a lot of that time at my Nonna’s side watching her cook (probably because I loved to eat). She was truly a wonder worker in the kitchen. It seemed she could make a delicious meal out of nothing. It was there that I learned how to cook Italian. Like your grandmother, there never were any recipes. She just did it. She cooked by taste and from experience. She learned how to cook by watching her mother and she passed it on to her sons and daughters-in-law – and to me! And I am so grateful that she did. Over the years I have expanded my repertoire of Italian recipes beyond what she taught me. But whenever I cook Italian I always think of her. But Nonna was not the only cook in the family. Nonno could cook as well. His pastafagiol (pasta and bean soup) was to die for! I remember many times he would make us a snack on Saturday afternoons while Nonna was busy making pasta. He would pull out his pen knife (I still have it) and he would cut up several Italian tomatoes, add a bit of garlic, and pour olive oil over it with a bit of salt, pepper and oregano. He called it his “zuppa” (soup) for the kids. I can still remember how wonderful it tasted. I have never been able to replicate it exactly and could never understand why until one day I realized that it is because Nonno used a secret ingredient: his love for us grand kids. After Nonno and Nonna died and much of the family moved away, these meals ceased, much to my chagrin. So I decided a few years ago to start those Sunday meals up again. Only this time I do it once a month for my brother priests. They love it – and boy can they eat! We have so much fun together. Last New Years I invited several priests and the bishop to a traditional seven fish Christmas eve feast (I know it wasn’t really Christmas eve, but all of us priests are busy on Christmas eve!) The main attraction was Nonno’s recipe for fish stew. It was a hit! Well this email has turned out to be way too long. Sorry about that. But as I said your web site brought back this flood of memories that I guess I needed to share. Thank you so very much. May the good Lord bless you, Anthony, and your family! ~Fr. Thom Lombardi ps: my Dad’s name was Antonio. pps: Clearly, God must be Italian!
Farther Lombardi, Such a wonderful email! Not too long at all. Your letter was a joy to read! 🙂 I can totally understand all the memories Italian cooking evokes from childhood if you grew up in an Italian home. I miss my grandma Salerno greatly and it is one of the reasons I have worked hard to recreate her recipes and my moms. My goal is to get them nailed down to exactly the way she made them. When I spend a whole day cooking these recipes and the house fills up with the glorious smells, so many great memories come flooding back! I remember meals like you mentioned. 4 – 5 hours at the table with multiple courses and great conversation. It’s almost unexplainable to one who has not experienced such a thing. The fellowship that happens, the good times, it’s what the good Lord planned for us to do. To love one another. Well Italian food helps us do that 🙂 I also remember my grandma saying magie, mangia, when I was a kid as well. I learned something that was very valuable! I learned to “always” have at least two plate of my grandma’s food (or any Italian grandma’s food for that matter) or more and that would make her extremely happy. If I ate only one plate I would get the “what… you no like-a my food, you gotta eat, have some more!!”, So I learned to take smaller portion on my plate so I could have two to three plates of food. Oh I loved her cooking so much!!! I have a LOT more recipe to make for sure. Oh and those anisette cookies, wonderful! You know I have a recipe for those on my site. You can find them here: (Authentic Anisette Cookies). I am still trying to perfect those Terrell cookies though. Did your parents/grandparents ever make those? These here I mean. Anyway, I could go on and on but I’m busy with work at the moment. Thanks again for your email, it brought back memories for me to. I forwarded your email to my mom and it appears she already forwarded it to my uncle Johnny.. Ha Ha! It;’s bringing back memories for them to. Well have a blessed day, I might write back more when I get a free moment. ~ Ciao, Anthony
* … This was so special I had to share it with my Uncle Johnny…. and here is an email from my Uncle Johnny to Father Lombardi

“Fr. Lombardi, Your letter made a hit with Anthony’s family (I’m his uncle who received your letter from his mother, my sister). Our childhood in an Italian district in Worcester, MA was very similar to yours, although I dare not try to match your superior literary bent. Sunday was the best day of the week. I’d rush home after serving Mass for Msgr. Carpinella (who wanted to send me to the seminary), or Frs. DiLorenzo, Donega, Santonoceto, or Bafaro to smell the meatballs cooking in salt pork. A day of great food was usually followed by my father’s insistence that I play the accordion, especially if friends or relatives were visiting. My high school and college friends (who were not Italians) still, to this day, comment on the fantastic feasts my mother would prepare for them when visiting, which were actually the normal fare served at home everyday. One college English professor went on and on at his retirement party at the wonderful meal he had on the third floor of our six decker tenement. I’m thrilled my nephew has inherited his love of Italian cooking from his grandmother and is sharing it on the web. I will ask him to add somewhere on his site your feeling that “God must be Italian.” … Buona Fortuna and God bless you. ~ John Salerno (Anthony’s Uncle) ~ 
* … ok – stay with me now, there is more…. 🙂

Hi Anthony!
Thanks for the prompt reply. Actually I really wasn’t expecting a reply, especially your very kind one, considering how many emails/comments are posted on your site. I figured I might get something in a week or two when you got around to it. So mille grazie Anthony! After I wrote the email last night, I said my evening prayers and got ready for bed. But when I got into bed I couldn’t fall asleep right away. A rush of memories almost (but I guess not really ) forgotten were flooding through my mind. I do know that when I fell asleep and when I woke up this morning I had a very warm feeling about my heritage and about who I am (an Italian-American that is!!!) Something that might bring you some humor: I was just transferred to a new parish. It is one of the older parishes in the diocese and it was founded by Germans and still has a strong German heritage. In my introductory homily the first Sunday I was here I told the people I didn’t know what the bishop was thinking in putting an Italian amongst all these Germans!!! I told them they were going to have to get used to my Italian ways (like walking around as I preach and waving my hands) and I was going to have to get used to eating bratwurst and sauerkraut!!!! I have a lot more memories I could share with you sometime if you are interested (or with your Mom and uncle Johnny). …Note: I just got an email from your uncle Johnny!!! I’ll get to it as soon as I finish this…. Anyway I thought I would share with you Nonna’s recipe for anisette cookies. They are my absolute favorites. I make mounds of them at Christmas. In my other parish I would take plates full of them into the grade school to share with the kids (200 kids x 2 cookies each…..well you do the math!)

Here is my recipe for Italian Anisette Cookies

  • 4 cups flour (all purpose works best)
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup whole milk (like you say on your web site, if you want to eat low fat don’t eat Italian)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 6 tablespoons baking powder
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon anise extract
  • 2 tablespoons anise flavored liquor (anisette is a natural here, but you could use any anise flavored liquor like Sambuco, etc.)
  • 1 teaspoon anise extract
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons hot water
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

In large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and white sugar. Make a well in the center and add oil, milk, 1 tablespoon anise extract, and eggs. Mix thoroughly. The dough will be very sticky so it is best to use a wooden spoon dipped in water. Place the bowl with the dough in the refrigerator for a few minutes to cool the dough – it will be easier to work with. Now comes the fun part: lightly oil your hands with vegetable oil to keep the dough from sticking to your hands. Pinch off the dough in about one inch pieces (about a teaspoon) and roll it into a ball. Place the ball on a lightly greased cookies sheet. Give them room because they will spread a bit (about an inch or so). Flatten the ball out just a bit – but don’t flatten it out too thin, the cookie should be on the thick side. I will sometimes top each cookie with a whole almond if I remember to buy them. When the cookie sheet(s) are full place them in the pre-heated oven and bake for about 8 – 10 minutes (depending on your oven). The bottoms of the cookies should just barely be getting lightly brown. If the bottoms get too brown, the cookies aren’t as good. You want a soft, chewy cookie. I let them bake for about four minutes and then quickly open the oven (you don’t want to loose too much oven heat), turn the cookie sheets back to front, and rotate the sheets from bottom to top so that they bake evenly. When done use a spatula to transfer them from the cookie sheets to a cooling rack (otherwise if you leave them on the cookie sheets they will continue to bake). Besides they need to set a bit before you ice them.

To Make Icing:

Blend in 1 teaspoon anise extract, the anisette liquor, and enough hot water to 1 cup confectioner’s sugar to form a smooth icing. You can color the icing if you wish, but I seldom do. Now pop one or two of the cookies into your mouth – you deserve it for getting this far. Then dip each cookie in the icing and let cool completely (of course tasting one or two to make sure that the icing is just right!!!) Now sit down with a cup of coffee, enjoy your handiwork, and whisper a prayer of thanks to God for revealing this wondrous recipe to some old Italian nonna in some little Italian village so many centuries ago!!! Well Anthony I must rush off. I have a meeting this evening I must get ready for. I will try to write more later…and answer your uncle Johnny’s email. God bless! ~ Fr, Thom
Father Thom, Hi! Ok, so this email was not so prompt as my first… Been swamped with work. Once again it is nice to hear from you. Your anisette cookies are very similar to my grandma Salerno’s. That is such a yummy cookie and the fact that when I was a kid, they only showed up during Christmas time, makes them all that much more special! There are so many wonderful memories that are tied together with the cookie, with the taste, the feel, the look, everything about it takes you back. Just wonderful!!! Nice to hear you have a fresh feeling of Italian American price. A very rich heritage 🙂 I am very grateful I had the opportunity to grow up with all that great Italian food and traditions and family and so much love!! It stays with you, especially those long dinners with the family, spending so much time around the table. You know that is such a lost art these days. Everybody is so busy, no one seems to make the time anymore to make the big dinners and have the long dinners, well I try my hardest to keep that going with my family and friends. I mean, you know it’s an important thing, Jesus’ ministry was shared most around the dinner table 🙂 Much breaking of the bread and drinking of the wine in the Gospels 😉 Please feel free to share more memories and more recipes. They are great fun to read and I will add them to the site for others to enjoy as well. It’s so hard to share the experience, I tired to achieve some of this on my recipe site. It’s so much more than just cooking a recipe as I’m sure you know. Sharing some of the stories and recipes really helps one who did not grow up in the atmosphere to better understand the whole thing. Thanks again for the recipe and sharing. Have a blessed day!!! ~8-) Anthony

Hi Anthony! I’m a 69 year old WASP who was brought up in the midwest and didn’t even know what spaghetti was until I was 16. Then I moved to Rhode Island. I married another WASP and lived there until I was 32 and during that time we ate some pretty darn good Italian food. My wife is a great cook. Some of her veal dishes surpass many Italian restaurants in Metro Atlanta where we now live, but I was told her that her spaghetti sauce never measured up to the Rhode Island sauces. I’ve been saying that for over forty years. About a week ago I discovered your site. Last Tuesday we bought a thick bottom pan and yesterday I cooked the meatballs and sauce. I could tell it looked, smelled and tasted like Rhode Island. Tonight we ate. But first I invited a Succi over because I wanted a real Italian food critic. He gave me an A+. My wife even said it was the best sauce she had ever eaten and she ate more food tonight than in months. Thanks so much for sharing your recipes. By the way the garlic bread was also outstanding! ~ Dave Whitehead
Hi Dave, I am so glad to share my family recipe with you and glad it measured up the the Rode Island standard 🙂 Also glad it made the grade with Succi 🙂 Grandma Salerno would be proud that I have kept her food going for all to share the love with! Once you’ve had the real deal, you are ruined! Great decision getting the thick bottomed pan, that really makes a difference!!! … Oh, by the way… I learned a deep dark secret just about a month ago when talking with my Mom about Grandma’s cooking. I found out she used Salt Pork!!!!! I did not know this! I went 42 years without knowing this grandma secret!!! I go into details about the salt pork on this page here. So what you do with the salt pork is, you first buy a chunk of it. about 5″x5″x1-1/2″, be sure to trim off the hard skin that will be on one side of the chunk, then you chop up the salt pork into the smallest pieces you can. Then fry ’em up in a pan and get them brown and crispy, drain them on paper towel, be sure to snack on some while your cooking.. “delicious!!!”. After this little bits dry, take a large knife and chop up the bits even smaller, kinda like bacon bits, that’s the stuff you will add to the braciole filling. When you brown your meatballs and braciole meat be sure to brown them in the salt pork fat. Oh momma mia, getting hungry just thinking about it 🙂 Happy Times and happy cooking and SHARE THE LOVE!!! 🙂 ~Ciao, ~8-) Anthony
Hi Anthony! I’m getting bold and ready to try your Lasagna recipe and I have an ignorant question. You say to make the sauce with meatballs and braciole. Then you say to spoon sauce over the lasagna upon serving. Since there is no meat in the lasagna are we to serve the sausage, meatballs and braciole with the lasagna? Probably a dumb question but don’t forget I’m a WASP and anytime I’ve had lasagna in the past it had meat in the sauce and was the only dish served. Cabish? ~ Dave
Hi Dave, Cabish… Yes, you serve the lasagna with the Meatballs, Braciole, Pork chops and Sausage if you make the whole deal 🙂 Even if you make my sauce with meat, meaning meat sauce, I have directions for that as an option, I would still serve the extra meat. Nice Italian home cooked meals should always be feasts! You should be ready for a nap after a good Italian meal 🙂 🙂 ~8-) Anthony

Hi Anthony! It was a pleasure to read your site – I’m 60 and was the only non-Italian in my neighborhood as a kid. Mrs. Greco (next door neighbor) gave me a copy of your sauce recipe and showed me how to make sauce in the early 1960’s. She and your folks must have been from the same area in the old country. I actually got in to a small argument about this technique of making sauce about 20 years ago. A hard-Italian friend of mine and I were talking about making sauce – I told him his lack of success (compared to mine) was do to him not “frying the paste” at the beginning of the process. He told me “I was not Italian and stupid when it came to sauce” – – I of course told him he was wrong, frying the paste, with olive oil – garlic just removed, until the sauce actually breaks up in the pan was the key to red sauce as I was taught. He came over about a week later with a bottle of wine and an apology. He had talked to his father a few days after our debate and his father (came over in early 1900’s) said that was the old way to make sauce, but most people didn’t want to take the time now. I still try to make Mrs. Greco sauce every Sunday during the winter, schedule permitting – Mine is all paste (3-6oz cans), water mixed in after the paste frying process to cover the meatballs, a little less oregano than you use, all the other same ingredients (same basic recipe) – glad to see another “old style guy” recommending to “FRY THE PASTE”. BTW – Super site you’ve got!! ~ Richard Kos
Richard, Ouch, the only non-Italian in your neighborhood, that must have been tough! WoW! Mrs. Greco actually had her recipe written down? That a RaRe thing with Italians. Usually they just know what to put in the sauce and nothing is written down. It’s taken me a long time to nail down exactly what my grandma Salerno made. I had a little bit written down and my mom knew some, had to extract it out of her memory and my mother-in-law also helped. it also took me a long time to actually write out the recipe. It was all in my head. I could make it from scratch by putting some of this and some of that the way I was thought, but never had it written down in detail. I originally did the step by step recipe for my Dad who divorced my mom a long time ago but always LOVED his mother-in-laws sauce so I spelled it out for him in great detail and it was a success! :-)Oh yes! you have to fry the paste! That beginning part with the olive oil, garlic, onions and paste and seasoning, it’s all so very important! Definitely!!!! I’m glad you were justified in your argument. I mean, you had Mrs. Greco’s recipe, you had the inside scoop man! 🙂 That was quite an honor I must say, for her to give you her recipe. Italian moms and grandmas just don’t do that! You ask them how to make the sauce and they say “You put, you taste, that’s it!”. Or they have recipes that say add some flour and cook until done and so on… I’m telln’ ya! it’s hard to recreate a recipe from this information. Very interesting that you make your sauce with all paste… I might have to try that out one day 🙂 Well, thanks for sharing! Happy cooking and happy times! Share the love!!!!! ~ Ciao, ~8-) Anthony

Hi Anthony! Great recipes! I usually make a variation of my great grandpas(Calabrese) sauce recipe for a holiday lasagna. The only problem I had was with the meats. Actually the meatballs turned out good, but they fell apart due to the stirring and the simmering. I probably need more breadcrumbs, or need to chill them longer in the fridge. The sausage and pork cutlets were dry as a bone by the end I seared them according to the recipe. The braciole turned out much better but also had some dry,well done parts. Any tips? Thanks for creating the site. I will try more recipies. ~ Jim
Jim, Oh that is such a bummer when the meatballs fall apart. I have had this happen before, but never the dry meat you mentioned. What I have learned about the meatballs is to make sure your mixture is not too wet when you’re finished molding your balls. If I feel it’s a little too wet or “mooshy”, I then add just a bit more breadcrumbs and maybe a little bit more water soaked bread squeezed out real good. After you have made the meatballs a hundred times or so, you will have it down to an art 😉 The other thing is that once the meat is in the sauce you always have to be very gentle when you stir. Make sure you just don’t dive right in the sauce with your spoon, slowly push the spoon down into the sauce along the side of the pan and then scoop to the middle stirring nice and gentle. I’m at a total loss at to why you would have ended up with dry sausage and pork chops. How long to you end up cooking the meat in the sauce? After I have finished the initial process of getting all the sauce going and then putting in the first meats I think I usually end up simmering the sauce with the meat for about 3 to 4 hours. This is always a judgment calls and changes a bit every time I make the sauce. One thing I do often which I probably don’t have on the website is after cooking the sauce and meat for a while. I turn the stove off and just little the sauce sit with the pan covered for a while, about an hour or two, then fire up the heat again and cook it some more. I find there is a special marinating thing that happens and this seems to help the meat. This might help with the dryness problem. If you try out the recipe again with these extra tips, let me know how it goes. I might have to add what I just mentioned above on the site. Happy cooking and happy times!!! …and share the LOVE!! ~ Ciao, ~8-) Anthony

Hi Anthony! I’m interested in making these cookies better than my Aunt Toni, which should not be too difficult since hers are like nuclear warheads. However, she claims they have to be boiled, then baked, like a bagel recipe…. I don’t see the boiling point here – is that the Grandma tip you are missing? ~ Jessie Vaccarelli
Jessie, Yes, I believe that is the missing step. I have tried this recipe several times now several different ways. The best I’ve come up with so far is the exact recipe I have on the site now but adding the boiling step just prior to baking. I boiled them for 30 seconds and drain on wax paper. What I get is a cookie that tastes just like my grandma’s but not as crunchy and then the next day they are even less crunchy. My grandma Salerno’s would always but tough and crunchy and they would stay that way…. errrg!!! One day I WILL have this figured out. I actually have it planned out to try again in a couple of weeks with some different twists. Hotter oven, cook longer???? Oh Oh Oh if grandma would have only written down her recipe… ooohhh…. The one my mom had was a hand written recipe by my grandma and you know what it said? Some flour… “SOME”, cook until done!!! and so on… ugh! Anyway, if you have any luck with this recipe or find out something I am missing, please enlighten me. Ciao, ~8-) Anthony

Bravo Anthony!! Let me take this time to say BRAVO!!!! I stumbled across your FABULOUS spaghetti sauce recipe and I had the BEST experience cooking in my kitchen that I have EVER had. In fact it was so Marvelous that my husband even danced with me to the sounds of Sante Lucia (my moma’s favorite song) and he doesn’t have a romantic bone in his body. Let me thank you for taking the time to put this lovely recipe out there for folks like me to enjoy. Guten appetite ~ Caren
Caren, I am so glad you enjoyed the recipe. Italian cooking done the right way can be very romantic indeed! Very good of your husband to dance with you. Tell him Anthony said well done! 🙂 Auh, the power of Italian food! There is just so much love poured into the food, the smells, the sounds, it’s all just wonderful! Happy to share it with you. ~ Ciao, ~8-) Anthony

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