Today is Mother's day, so I thought it only fitting to write this blog in honor of all mothers and the love and care they send through cooking. Chapter 12 recounts the story of meeting my mother-in-law, Concetta for the first time. I was so nervous meeting Vincenzo's parents for the first time, however she put me at ease instantly by making a delicious dinner prepared with love. I could see that she wanted to send a message to her sons and me that evening by creating dishes that would warm our hearts with a message of love that needed no translation.
That evening, she made her version of a mother tomato sauce. This recipe is her own creation and took me years to get written down. I hope you loved the story of this evening in the book. It remains one of my most treasured memories of my time in Italy and the early days with Vincenzo and his family.
Happy Mother's day to all of the moms out there and I hope you are enjoying taking a little adventure to Italy through my story.
Concetta’s Mother Tomato Sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 stalks of celery, chopped small (add a few of the celery leaves chopped as well)
¼ small onion, chopped small
1 small zucchini (diced into small pieces)
1 clove garlic (leave whole)
¼ green or red pepper (diced into small pieces)
1 large can (28 ounces) of whole tomatoes (Note: I really like the taste of Muir Glen tomatoes. San Marzano tomatoes are also a great choice.)
10 ounces strained tomato sauce (Note: I love to use Pomi brand in the box.)
Salt to taste
Parmesan cheese (grated over the top when serving with pasta)
In a medium sauce pan, drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the chopped celery, onions, zucchini, and peppers. Sauté for 2-3 minutes over medium heat. Add the can of whole tomatoes, squeezing them with your hands to break them apart as you add each one. Next, add the strained tomato sauce and stir well. Add the whole garlic clove at the end. Cover and let simmer on low heat for 60-90 minutes. Take it off the heat and let it sit until you are ready to serve.
You can start this sauce in the morning and let it sit on the stove until you need it later. The longer it sits, the better it tastes. The vegetables are cut so small that in the end, they just melt into the sauce. You don’t actually get pieces of them in your mouth. Sometimes Concetta would add eggs at the end and serve the sauce and eggs without pasta as shown in this picture.
Just prior to serving, retrieve the garlic clove from the sauce and add salt to taste. This is enough sauce for 6-8 people.
This is a versatile sauce that you can use over any pasta. I love it with rigatoni as I first tasted it. Serve it with freshly grated parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.
The view from Vincenzo's childhood home in Abruzzo!
The village of Roccascalenga
Vincenzo with his mom having a coffee.