Every Italian home has a sauce matriarch or patriarch. For us, it was our grandmother Rachel Cerrillo Lagana. Valerie remembers our grandmother making a quick sauce in her cast iron frying pan pouring in oil, adding garlic, chopped basil leaves from her garden, fresh or canned whole plum tomatoes, salt, pepper and sprinkles of Locatelli cheese. With an old fork, she broke the tomatoes and stirred the ingredients as the sauce came to temperature. Occasionally, my grandfather, Joseph Lagana would taste the sauce and suggest ingredients (usually basil or salt) to improve the flavor.
Jeannine has memories of two pots of sauce on the stove, after coming in the house from staking and tying tomatoes in the garden. We still have that 1940s Maytag Dutch Oven, as clean as Grandma kept it.
On another occasion, Karin spent time in the garden with her grandfather Joseph Lagana and her grandmother learning to pick the right tomatoes, basil, and other fresh herbs specifically grown to make fresh sauce in preparation for Sunday.
Beyond cooking sauce straight from the garden, it was an annual tradition to can all the tomatoes grown to be used all winter long. Jon recalls seeds from Italy used to grow the tomatoes. The seeds would be extracted from the tomatoes while canning, dried, stored and used for the next growing season, a practice our mother continues.
For Chris, it was always a second helping or maybe a little meatball sandwich covered in sauce. Pasta flooded in marinara; it’s the menu item that continues in his family today, every holiday or gathering.
And for me…it was the food, the family, the chaos, the passion, and never did I appreciate it more than I do now. As busy as I was during my childhood, I didn’t miss much. Our grandparents showed us how ingredients go together for the one common goal, to eat. Two tables stretched between two rooms, table was set, and the food was served, grace was said. Capellini was the pasta of choice, meatballs, sausage, salad made from iceberg lettuce and Columbus Bakery Bread were the staple items. Food was passed back and forth until everyone’s plate was filled and eating commenced.
How did we get here?
I’m introduced to a young man named Jared and we shared many food discussions. Marinara sauce was always at the top. Together, with his lead, we modernized an old fashion family recipe with the common goal of keeping families eating together.
Vine-Ripened Fresh Plum Tomatoes (Tomato Juice, Fresh Basil Leaf, Kosher Salt, Citric Acid)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil