Posted by: charityliz | November 25, 2012

an Italian-American confession

While my family may not be the most legit Italian American family, there are two things we take very seriously: Bocci Ball and Spaghetti Sauce.  I’ll save my thoughts on the former for another time and just focus on the spaghetti sauce for today.  Not only is there a sacred family recipe, but it seems that there’s also a “special touch” required to make it just right.  Even when using the same recipe, each family member’s version tastes a bit different.  My grandma wins on the most consistent…I had her sauce nearly every Sunday afternoon while growing up, and it is unmistakable and reminds me of quality family time.  My mom’s sauce is also quite good, but tastes just a bit more tangy & savory than Grandma’s.  And Mom’s sauce wins for the amazing garlic aroma that fills the house when she starts the sauce, and she also wins on the meatball pairing…nobody makes better meatballs soaked in sauce than my momma!  However, even with the two matriarchs perfecting the family recipe for years, I have to say that my little brother wins the grand prize for best sauce in my book.  Yep– despite the fact that he’s had less experience, sometime during his college years, he really put his talent to the sauce pot and proved that he has that special touch– perfectly thick and stewed tomato sauce!!!  Mmmmm, mmm, good!

I, on the other hand, do not score very high when it comes to making the coveted family recipe.  Sure, I’ve made it and it tastes alright.  But I usually lack the patience to create the perfect saucy effect which requires 6+ hours of simmering  and cooking down.  This of course, has put me in a bind, as it is truly against the family morals to buy spaghetti sauce.  As matter of fact, it’s a downright shame to get the “store-bought stuff”, as the family calls it.

Now here comes my big confession:

I buy the stuff, I use the stuff, and I actually LIKE the stuff!

And in an attempt to avoid completely shaming my family name, I will now try to defend myself.  The fact is, I found some pretty good stuff!  Behold, the Rustico Pomodoro Sauce, by Trader Joe’s….

Not only does this stuff taste almost exactly like my family recipe, but it can be prepared in a fraction of the time for a reasonable price.  It also says something about Naples on the label, so heck — it might even be a family recipe after all!  Furthermore, last weekend I made a batch of Gagoots & Peppers for my boyfriend and one of his buddies.  Gagoots & Peppers is another family recipe which is basically an Italian stew that uses our spaghetti sauce as a base.  And if you get the sauce wrong, the whole thing tastes wonky.  But ya know what?  I tried the Rustico Pomodoro for the first time in this recipe, and I gotta say, there was hardly a difference.  And most importantly, the two men in my kitchen (who are admittedly not Italian, but at least claim to appreciate Italian cuisine) thought it was tasty.

I rest my case.  Long live Trader Joe’s!



  1. For Shame!!!

  2. Only fitting that you would call the recipe “gagoots and peppers”- one Italian word, one English. Try typing that into a Google search and you get a confused list of results.

  3. I am Italian and I’m used to my mom’s spaghetti sauce. I have tried just about every jar of red spaghetti sauce there is. They all have too much of something in them that throws everything off. A sour taste, a bitter taste, bland, cheap olive oil taste, a heavy taste, too much tomato taste, too much mushy mucky stuff. I finally decided to try this one from Trader Joe’s. It is, by far, the best I’ve had. This is the first jar sauce I can eat without doctoring up. It’s mellow (not sweet, not bitter, not sour), and it is so perfectly blended that the taste is sublime. I don’t know how they do it, but Trader Joe’s has some great chefs.

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