The REAL reason I visit my family. Part III: The Final Feeding

Here is the final in what turned out to be a culinary trilogy of home cooking in Cleveland.My grandmother immigrated from Calabria, Italy, to Cleveland when she was a young girl. Her mother taught her how to make marinara sauce the way her mother made it. My grandmother taught my mom how to make it and my mom taught my sister. My niece is next in line and she had better get on it and, more importantly, get it right.


I cannot provide the recipe because I don’t know it. It’s a mystery that’s been passed through the generations. I do know that you have to make it many, many times before you finally produce a successful batch.

I also know that it’s made the day before it’s to be served and allowed to sit overnight. I don’t know the science behind why that’s done but the end results can’t be described. I’m not a good enough wordsmith to tell you how good this stuff is.

It goes without saying that Italian sausage and meatballs are made with the sauce. They are a meal unto themselves.


In addition to sausage and meatballs, she throws in a few neck bones. I’ve been eating neck bones for most of my life and have never stopped to think of what animal that tender, sweet meat is from. I think it’s a cow but I suppose it could be a pig. I honestly don’t know. I don’t care.

Neck bone before
Neck bone after


I asked (practically begged) my sister to whip up some sauce for my visit. Initially, I thought the heat of August wasn’t conducive to a heavy pasta meal but then I considered that they probably eat pasta in August in Italy. If it’s good enough for my cultural brethren, it’s good enough for my family and I.

Do you know what this tastes like? It tastes like home.


A little bit of Great Lakes lore for you.

Micro brewing is popular in Cleveland (as it is in most regions). The Great Lakes Brewing Co. makes a lovely Porter called Edmund Fitzgerald. It’s named in honor of the Great Lakes freighter Edmund Fitzgerald. In 1975, the ship sank in Lake Superior during a gale. It happened so quickly that a distress signal was never sent. She was just 17 miles from safe harbor. All 29 of her crew perished, with none of the bodies recovered.

When the wreckage was located, it was discovered that she broke in half. When I was in the Coast Guard, I remember reading the controversial investigation reports. There are some interesting theories about what would cause a ship that size to split in half but, to this day, they still don’t know.


19 thoughts on “The REAL reason I visit my family. Part III: The Final Feeding

  1. Sadly, i have a similar reaction to Kraft Macaroni and Cheese (from the box), served with Mrs. Paul’s fishsticks. That was Mom’s specialty. But you’ve got me salivating – again. I’ll have to settle for a bottle of the Great Lakes Brewery Burning River.

  2. Oooo yummy – that looks goooood! You now have me craving tomato and meatball goodness (which I can’t have dammit!)I love those recipes which are passed down families. I don’t know if we have any but I might come up with one to start the trend.

  3. What a great post.With all those temptations I wonder how long you are gong to stay sylph like? Although the girls – I’m sure will help.I wonder if you have visited your parent’s home land. If not – what a treat in store.

  4. Nutty: Why, in heavens name, can’t you eat it? Are you allergic to the acid content of the tomatoes? I thought pasta was healthy.Pat: Mrs. Wife and I have visited Italy. Fun story: Mrs. Wife was pregnant at the time and refused to drink any wine. Can you imagine! Her doctors said it was okay but her body is a temple. I had to double up on my consumption to take up the slack.

  5. the cuyahoga river, right?(y’all know i lived in columbus for a few years…)xoxoxoxo(i’m really jealous, ok? *sigh* but i did make some really great enchiladas for the coconut krewe.)

  6. I am glad you like the sauce and we had such a great visit. I never thought I could have filled mom’s shoes but after this weekend I think she is endlessly smiling! You never have to beg me I would do anything for you.Love-the pasta maker

  7. kykn: The accident report DID include a severe starboard list. Perhaps they were all fishing from one side?Savannah: Correct! It was so long ago. A low point for Cleveland. But people still cling to it. They should practice some Zen and let that shit go.MT: A wall-to-wall, top-to-bottom successful trip, don’t you think? You did all the heavy lifting so thanks, very much.

  8. I love these tomato based Italian sauces and this one looks wonderful. If I were you I would seriously consider sending your daughters to live with your sister for a while when they are old enough to be taught how to cook. Getting my son to eat when he was little was a nightmare, he just didn’t seem to like food. Then, when he was almost two I took him to Italy to stay with a friend and he ate everything he was given greedily. When we got back home I tried cooking pasta sauces myself and no, they didn’t come up to scratch so I had to teach myself from books. Eventually after months of practise he ate, and I’ve been working on my technique ever since (he’s 24 now). No book, though, has ever shown me to add a neck bone, which just goes to show if you’re not Italian learning to cook Italian food is a long uphill slog. So, would you be kind enough to ask your sister what animal the neck bone comes from so I can try this? I should probably say that Bob will now eat anything at all and is a joy to cook for.

  9. Dinah: Don’t believe the hype! We Italians have infiltrated all 50 states in the Union.HIF: Actually, we got home yesterday and I’m probably attending a play Thursday night. No worries.Map: If you think these pics look good, you should have been sitting at the table. Heavenly.ES: A great story! I know the family recipe has a pinch of this and that, but know nothing of the specifics of how it’s done.MT: If you’re out there, what are the neck bones? They’re from a cow, right?

  10. Thank you for putting Gordon Lightfoot in my head. Oh, and that sauce? Looks amazing. I think everyone should have at least one (you have two) big city that runs through their blood – it’s not about the concrete so much – it’s about all its cultures,history and traditions, victories, defeats, embarrassments, families, dives and mundane stuff that we’re steeped in that make it feel like home, like good marinaras.

  11. Sally: I was waiting to see if anyone would make a reference to the song. It figures that it was you. We attended the Berea Fair on Monday. It was the best, best time! We rode the bumper cars 2x but missed the Demolition Derby because of the late hour. Next year…

  12. I don’t know why you the son of a mother who learned the recipe from her Italian mother who learned from her Italian mother cannot get the recipe and learn to make the sauce too. Is it a rule that only the females get the recipe? Have you asked your mother to teach you?

  13. TB: To say I am inept in the kitchen is a gross understatement. What is the category below inept? If a person actually did more harm that good in a kitchen, what would that be? That’s me. I would never have the cojones to attempt my mothers sauce.

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