Sunday, February 8, 2009


How do you recreate a recipe for something you have never seen or tasted, only heard about? The answer is lots of experimentation and questions. My husband's grandmother never divulged her pasta sauce recipe to anyone in the family, so that went with her to the grave. On our honeymoon he did smell it wafting through the hotel window, when we visited San Paolo Calabria, a beach town at the foot of the mountains where the family originated. I still ferret out as many Calabrian recipes as I can, hoping to come close to his descriptions of it, but no luck so far. This particular recipe, also from my husband's grandmother, was made by his mother, who did not pass on the recipe either, but at least I tasted it and can come close. I have tried it with parsley instead of the spinach, but am told after only 20 years, that she definitely used spinach.

1/3 lb. ground veal
1/3 lb. ground pork
1/2 lb. ground sirloin
1 lb. fresh spinach
1/2C grated parmigiano
1/3C bread crumbs
3 cloves minced garlic (or 2t garlic powder)
1 lb. rigatoni
pasta sauce and grated Parmigiano
After blanching, draining and chopping the spinach (or raw chopped parsley), mix the ground meats, spinach, garlic, grated cheese and bread crumbs together thoroughly. all the ingredients should be evenly spread throughout the meat mixture.
Now comes the difficult part, you must stuff the meat into the dried pasta. This may be made easier with the use of a pastry bag, but I prefer to do things the hard way, so I force the meat into the pasta with my fingers and pressure from my thumb. You may be thinking during this laborious and frustrating process, as it moves along at a snails pace, "If the pasta gets larger when boiled, won't the meat filling fall out? Why am I doing this in the first place? It would be easier to just boil little meatballs along with the rigatoni." You would be correct, but as this is a traditional family meal for us, it would not be the same if we didn't follow the recipe exactly as it was prepared in the old days, prior to modern conveniences such as indoor plumbing and electricity. Fortunately for me, I can at least cheat by using a gas range as open fires require permits in the city and the red tape and bureaucracy can delay the meal.

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