For those who know me, it won’t be a surprise to hear that my food memories are closest to my heart. Maybe because when I was growing up, food and family were inseparable. Although this was most evident at the holidays and family celebrations, it was the Sunday Dinners that sustained us.
Sundays were always the same routine. Mommy, my sisters and I went off to 9 o’clock Mass and Daddy headed to the hospital to make his rounds. At 11am, my grandparents would stop by on their way to 11:15 Mass. St. Ursula’s Church and school were across the street, and our lives were centered around it.
By now, Mommy was in the kitchen with “the pot on the stove”. That always meant sugo! Sunday sugo was always a tomato sauce with meat. Sometimes ground beef, but usually pork. By the time Nonna and Nonnu returned from church, Daddy had also arrived home carrying a large round rustic loaf of Campobasso bread from Addeo’s bakery.
Cocktails were poured, the bread was cut, and the cheese, olives and salami were put out … but not before Daddy dipped a piece of crusty bread in the sauce, and a fork into an unsuspecting meatball. After all, someone had to be sure it was good before we all came to the table!
Sunday wouldn’t be Sunday without pasta. Daddy’s “food rules” dictate that Sunday pasta be short pasta. No linguini or spaghetti allowed. Rigatoni was his favorite (mine too!) but short pasta could also mean ravioli. They were purchased fresh from the Italian bakery and came in white boxes, sprinkled with golden semolina, stuffed with creamy ricotta and parmigiano, and always served with sugo.
Our “pot on the stove” not only provided the delicious sauce for our pasta, but the following course as well. Just as we were enjoying the last of the sugo with our “scappetto” (piece of bread meant for absconding with the remaining sauce in the dish) a platter of sausage, meatballs and pork from the pot was passed… all covered, of course, with more sugo!
Although for many, this might seem the end of the meal, we were just getting started! A roast, usually with vegetables and potatoes followed. After some fresh fruit, (which my Nonnu always cut for us and passed around the table) there was dessert and Italian coffee.
On the wonderful occasions that my Aunt Irene, Uncle Giovanni and their son Nino were with us, dessert was always followed by music. Daddy on guitar, Uncle Giovanni on mandolin, and Aunt Irene singing. These memories still warm my heart. All it takes is a pot of sugo and a piece of bread to dip in it…, and I’m filled with the joy of music, family and the great food that always brings us together.
Recipe for Easy Sunday Sugo
Although my Mom spent hours on her sugo, you can make a simpler version, more suited to our busy lives today.
Remove the meat from 2 links of Italian sausage and fry in a pan with ¼ pound of ground beef until cooked through. Crumble the meat as it cooks with a wooden spoon. Add a 32 oz jar of Celia’s Sugo and simmer 10-15 minutes. Enjoy with your favorite pasta.