The Secret of a Pseudo Italian Girl
I am an Italian American who grew up in Northern New Jersey (Bergen County) and was transplanted into central New Jersey 12 years ago when I got married. If you saw me none of this would surprise you. I have dark curly hair and brown eyes. My skin, while not exactly olive, does tan well in the summer and I have a slight jersey accent. I do not sound like the Jersey Shore cast but let’s just say that until I got to college (U of Delaware – go Hens) I though you put clothes in a dresser “draw” not “drawer”.
My family is not huge but we are close and always tend to travel in a pack of 10+. We had an uncle named Paulie and there are some distant cousins named Tommy and Joey. I grew up eating macaroni with “gravy” at grandma’s house where you were always guaranteed to get a container of leftovers to take home and have your salad after the meal.
That, however, is as “italian” as it got. Grandma cooked but made no secret of the fact that she did not enjoy cooking and would rather be in Atlantic City at the slots (only the nickel and quarter slots though). We are a family that would rather go out to eat for a holiday – Christmas Eve, Thanksgiving or Easter. If we do cook for Christmas Eve we have one fish instead of the customary “seven fishes”. No one even speaks italian except for an occasional curse or slang word.
Now for my secret. I am not sure how to say it, it is a little embarrassing but here it goes …..I….I have no idea how to make homemade sauce and meatballs. There I said it – whew!
It’s been fine, I have made do with the many variety of jar sauces that are on the market. Mrs. Rinaldi, Mr. Prego and Ms. Ragu have become my go-to friends over the years. Hey, a little garlic and some olive oil and even I started to believe I made the sauce from scratch. I even talked myself into thinking that if I threw some frozen meatballs into the “sauce” that no one would know any better. How bad can a frozen meatballs be if they sell them at Trader Joes.
I started to share this secret with a few close friends recently and the reactions shocked me. R said she could forgive the jar sauce but NOT the frozen meatballs. L and M each gave me their own recipes for sauce and meatballs (they are not even Italian) and told me to start practicing. My friend D thought I was joking and wouldn’t even discuss it with me. Apparently, everyone knows how to make sauce and meatballs but me!
I know this is partly my fault but I also blame my Grandma Rose. Before you yell, let me explain. Rose made the best meatballs and sauce. Her meatballs were not too big or small always well seasoned and in a word prefect. The sauce too, not to thick or thin with the right amount of garlic and flavor. The only problem was, Rose made them from memory she had no recipe. For example, if you would ask her how she made a meatball her response was something like “you know, mix a little this with that and roll it in a ball.”
I guess I should have paid more attention to Gram while she was alive because now I just have no clue. I read everyone’s meatball recipes and it just feels wrong, almost like I am cheating on Rose and her meatballs. If Gramma heard me say that she would probably hit my arm and tell me to knock it off, it’s just a meatball.
Today I am making my New Year’s resolution, albeit a little late. This year I will learn to make sauce and meatballs. I will try other’s people recipes and techniques until I find the one that will best suit my family and I will make that recipe my own. I had 3 c-sections so how hard can it be to make a little sauce! I will keep you updated on my sauce making progress and who knows, maybe someday my boys will be eating at their future in-laws house and think to themselves “gee, these meatballs/sauce taste nothing like moms!”
ps – recipe ideas and tips are welcome 🙂