sabato 12 gennaio 2013

Winner of the Contest!

La versione italiana di questo post è imminente. 
The Italian version of this post is forthcoming. 

The winner of our Contest, Il Sugo Domenicale, has been announced!  

And the winner is ...
FAF Avatar

So impressed was I by Frank's recipe, and by his blog in general, that I awarded him the only prize.

When any two cultures merge, they form a third culture — a new culture with traits of each but with its own identity and individuality.  Frank has a keen understanding and appreciation of all three cultures, and no other blog that I have ever discovered better depicts the unique Italian-American tradition, in all its culinary glory, than Memorie di Angelina

As I wrote in the prologue to the contest:

It's true that many Italian-Americans know little about Italian culture. But the reverse is also true. The immigrants that arrived at Ellis Island between 1892 and 1924 were poor in material wealth but rich in values. And their virtuosity in the garden and in the kitchen is the stuff of legend!

It amazes me that the Southern Italians performed such culinary miracles in a climate so different from the Mediterranean. Boston and New York did not offer the arid sun, the mild winter, the volcanic soil. On the other hand, our humid summer produced a basil which was (can I say it?) superior. And meat, especially beef, we had in profusion.

Yes, the typical Italian-American cuisine is very limited compared to the vast repertoire of cuisines in Italy. But the "melting pot" of the Southern Italians of different places of origin created a very interesting amalgamation of flavors and methods. The tomato sauce from Naples, the pepperoni from Calabria, the ricotta from Sicily, the method of breading also from Sicily — prized elements of different provinces, all coming together into one culture. For example, our Chicken "Parmesan" is hardly a dish from Parma. It comes instead from the Sicilian predilection for breading cutlets and filets of meat and fish. And if our lasagna is inauthentically Bolognese, it is authentically Sicilian, for the Sicilian of 1892 knew ricotta but did not know béchamel sauce.

Then, the crowning glory of Italian-American cuisine:
the Sunday sugo.

It is impossible to convey the "religious" aspect of the Sunday sugo, the masterpiece of our beautiful grandmothers. Miss Mass, and something doesn't quite feel right. Miss the sugo, and something REALLY doesn't feel right!

Frank's sauce (some might say gravy) is the one that captures it — so well, in fact, that as soon as I read it, I considered closing the contest immediately.

About Frank Fariello (in his own words)
(The following is from “Memorie di Angelina”(
Text and photos are © Frank Fariello & Memorie di Angelina.)
Dear reader,

Welcome! I’m Frank. I’m an international lawyer by day, but when I get home at night, there’s nothing I like better to do than cook. I’ve always loved to cook, ever since I was barely tall enough to peer over the top of a stove. Cooking is the best way I know to unwind from a stressful day’s work. And sharing the dishes I make is a profound way to connect with friends and loved ones.
Where did this passion for cooking and eating come from? Like so many Italian-Americans I learned the importance of good food at those leisurely Sunday dinners at my grandmother’s house, the kind that would start with nibbles just after noontime and last well into the evening.
Memorie di Angelina—which means ‘Memories of Angelina’—is my tribute to the home cooking of my nonna Angelina, a native of a small hilltop town in the Campania region of Italy called Apice. She came to America in the 1920s along with millions of other southern Italian immigrants and settled in the Arthur Avenue neighborhood in the Bronx, which was (and is) a true ‘little Italy’. She was poor and, like most women of her class and time, only semi-literate. She never did learn to speak proper English. She married my grandfather Lorenzo, who made a modest salary as a projectionist at a local movie theater and, to help pay expenses, she sewed button holes for lady’s dresses at 5 cents a pop. She was the humblest person I have ever known.

She also cooked the most delicious food I’ve ever eaten.
Il ragù della domenica (Sunday Sauce)
Sunday dinner
I was born and raised in the US, but have spent most of my adult life abroad. After some years in Paris and Vienna, I finally wound up living in Rome, where I spent ten more memorable years. I spent my time in Italy soaking up the food culture and enjoying cooking and eating as never before. After some years in the historical center of town, we moved out to a beautiful area off the via Ardeatina just south of town, an area that is still rural, among vineyards and pastures, the Alban hills looming in the distance. I grew my own fruits and vegetables, and even kept chickens for the eggs.  Our wine came from the vineyards down the road, the cheese from the sheep that grazed in the fields outside our house, the olive oil from a local frantoio (press). And, of course, I traveled extensively, eating and asking everywhere I went about the local cuisine. I came back to the US in 2005 for work reasons, and now lead a fairly ordinary suburban life—except that, if I dare say so myself, in our house we eat very, very well…
I started Memorie di Angelina in June 2009 as a way of keeping this rich culinary heritage alive and sharing it with my friends and  family. But from those modest beginnings, and despite the fact that writing about your grandmother’s cooking has become the ultimate blogging cliché, the site has grown in popularity and is now one of the better known Italian food blogs on the web.I like to think it’s because Memorie di Angelina offers up something that many other blogs do not—a real focus on technique and the actual experience of cooking, presented in a way that strives to both educate and entertain. After reading one of my recipes, I want you to feel confident that you can make it, too. That makes the posts on the site a lot longer than on most blogs—I regularly violate the ‘rule of thumb’ that blog posts shouldn’t exceed 250 words by several orders of magnitude—but I think you’ll find it’s worth your extra time.

In fact, I hope you’ll think of this website as something more than just a blog, as an online resource. Over the course of the years, I’ve have built up a collection of about 350 recipes at last count. You’ll find Angelina’s specialities here, of course, plus many of the classic dishes I got to know during my years in Italy. I put special emphasis on the regional cuisines of Rome and Naples, which I know best, but I do set out on the occasional jaunt into points north or further south. You’ll also find articles with essential background and techniques for making authentic Italian food, in-depth information on the Italian Pantry and food culture, and tips and tricks, like how to choose the best canned tomatoes.
There is much here to explore and the database just keeps growing. The universe of Italian cooking is truly immense, so I look forward to keep this going for quite some time!
Angelina and me
Angelina & her grandson, Frank Fariello
While I like to feature an Italian-American dish every Columbus Day, as well as the occasional American or other ‘foreign’ dish, the focus here is on showing you how to make authentic, traditional Italian home cookery, the kind of Italian food you will find in countless homes in Italy itself.
What you won’t find here are rants about my personal problems. Nor will you find advertisements, promotions, give-aways, contest entries or any other kind of competitive or commercial activity. This blog is a pure labor of love.

I hope you enjoy reading this blog as much as I do writing it. And if you have any questions, comments or recipe requests, or just want to say hello, feel free to drop me a line. And if you like what  you see, don’t forget to follow us on FacebookTwitter or Networked Blogs!


And now!  Frank's winning recipe!*
*=What, you expected measurements?  What are you, some sort of AMATEUR?! — L.C.

Il ragù della domenica (Sunday Sauce)

On this Columbus Day, for some reason I started thinking about my childhood. My passion for food began early, and most of my culinary Ur-memories lead me back to Sunday dinners at nonna Angelina’s place. About noontime, after Sunday Mass, the family would congregate around the enormous table (or so it seemed to my young eyes) that took up most of the main room of my grandparents’ New York apartment. The men and boys would sit around the table, talk, watch TV and play cards—my favorite card game was called scopa (literally, ‘broom’, but we called it ‘sweep’ in English)—while we nibbled on fried vegetables, sharp provolone and the ring-shaped, lard-laced ‘Ansonia’ bread, and sipped a little sweet vermouth. Meanwhile, Angelina and the other womenfolk would be putting the finishing touches on the food in the kitchen.

Then, just as I would be getting really antsy for the ‘real’ food, out came the pasta—sometimes a large bowl of pastasciutta but more often than not a sprawling baking dish filled with lasagne di carnevale, followed by a leisurely parade of courses: mixed meats from the ragù, then another meat course like chicken roasted with potatoes and onions, then a green salad—served as a separate course after the meats in the Italian-American fashion—then fruit—which usually included a fennel bulb, my personal favorite ‘fruit’—and, in the Fall and Winter, a bowl of nuts in their shells. We would drink very rough homemade wine—never knew who made the stuff—which Angelina and the other older ladies would ‘cut’ with 7-Up. Finally, out came pastries—cannoli, sfogliatelle, babà al rum and that Italian-American favorite, ‘rainbow cookies’ made with marzipan, raspberry jam and chocolate. Dinner would end around 6 pm with coffee, served both ‘black’ (espresso) and ‘American’, along with small cordial glasses of Anisette. More card playing and much gossiping ensued, followed by sandwiches at 8 o’clock for those who might still be a little hungry…

The constant fixture of all of these dinners was ragù della domenica or ‘Sunday sauce’—also known as ‘Sunday gravy’—the crowning glory of Italian American cooking. If it was not dressing the pasta, it was slathered in between the layers of the lasagne, with more served in a gravy boat for those who wanted to pour some more on top. Just about every Italo-American I know grew up with this sauce or something very much like it. It is a not-so-distant cousin of the ragù alla napoletana. Whereas the Neapolitan version is made with a single large piece of beef, its American cousin is made with various bits of pork and beef: sausages, beef or pork ribs and meatballs were always included, but you’d often find beef braciole, pig’s foot and rolled pig’s skin, and sometimes pork chops, in the pot as well, all slowly simmered for hours in tomato sauce until it was dark and unctuous and full of deep flavor.

Ragù requires slow, long cooking, but it is not hard to make. Here is the recipe for Angelina’s ragù:

In as big a pot or casserole as you have available, begin by lightly browning your sausages and ribs—and, if using, braciole and pork chops—in lard over medium heat. Yes, you read that right: lard. You can use olive oil if you like, but for the real taste of ragù, lard is a must. (And there is no better fat for browning, by the way.) Brown as many pieces at a time as will fit in your pot in a single, well-spaced layer. (If you crowd the pieces of meat, they will steam and not brown.) Do not rush the process; take your time and brown them gently, so they render their fat and don’t darken too much. Remove the pieces to a bowl or dish as they brown, replacing them with other pieces. When all the pieces of meat are brown, remove any remaining in the pot and add a generous amount of chopped onion and allow it to sweat until it is quite soft. Then add a clove or two of chopped garlic and, when you can just begin to smell their aroma, add back the browned meat. Turn the meat with the onion and garlic and simmer them together gently to allow the meat to insaporire (absorb the flavor of the aromatics), seasoning with salt and pepper as you turn. (If you have some spare red wine on hand, add a splash at this point and allow it to evaporate completely. If you don’t have red wine, not to worry; Angelina actually didn’t add wine to her ragù, but many recipes call for it, and it does add a nice additional layer of flavor.)

Then add the best quality canned tomatoes that you can find, passing them through a food mill into the pot, enough to cover the meats entirely. (Some recipes call for tomato paste, but I find this makes the sauce too heavy.) Nestle a sprig or two of fresh parsley among the meats. Lower the heat, partially cover the pot, and let the sauce to simmer very slowly for at least 2-3 hours, until the sauce is thick and dark and very flavorful. Along the way, add your meatballs, which you will have fried separately in oil, and, if using, your pig’s foot or rolled pig’s skin.

NOTES: Ragù is best made a day ahead, but you can use it immediately if you like. Extremely versatile, you can use it to dress any kind of pastasciutta—at Angelina’s place, it was usually spaghetti, linguine or rigatoni—or ravioli or for making lasagne. With pasta, serve pecorino cheese (not parmesan, whose delicate flavor would be overwhelmed by this robust sauce) for those who want it. This Columbus Day, we celebrated with linguine dressed with ragù, then the meats served as a secondo and a green salad, followed by fruits—an abbreviated modern version of the Sunday dinners of my childhood. 

Ragù, along with the meat that simmered in it, is also very good served with polenta, which may sound strange, since polenta is a northern dish, while this ragù is very much in the southern Italian tradition. But, in fact, polenta is not entirely unknown in the center and south of Italy. A dish called polenta con spuntature e salsicce, polenta served with spare ribs and sausages simmered in tomatoes, which tastes very much like this ragù without the meatballs, is a popular Roman specialty. And even Angelina, a daughter of the mountains near Benevento, made polenta to please my grandfather Lorenzo, who had fought against the Austrians in the First World War (later receiving a medal for valor in the Battle of the Vittorio Veneto) and acquired a taste for the stuff while up North…but that is a story for another day.

The reader will probably have noticed that the recipe does not come with measurements. Like many traditional home cooks, Angelina never measured. But I find that using one package of around five or six sausages, as many ribs and meatballs, and one or two other meats if you like, plus two medium onions and two cloves or garlic, plus two large cans of tomatoes, will produce good results. But strict measurements are really not important—and the cook can fell free to adjust amounts as he or she likes. After all, that’s one of the ways we home cooks can give on our dishes a personal ‘touch’.

To make the meatballs, you use the same mixture of meats, bread, cheese, egg and aromatics that you will find described in the recipe for Angelina’s polpettone (meatloaf). But instead of forming a ‘loaf’ and stuffing it, use the mixture to make round balls and fry them gently in oil. They are wonderful eaten as is, but perhaps even better after simmering for an hour or so in the ragù.

Besides the use of lard, the secrets of a really good ragù are taking your time for gentle, unrushed browning and simmering—this is old-fashioned comfort food that can’t be rushed—and using the best canned tomatoes you can find. In the US, and perhaps elsewhere, the latter subject poses a special challenge, important enough to deserve its own post.

There is a raging debate among Italian-Americans about the proper way to translate ragù into English. As mentioned, some people call it ‘Sunday sauce’, others ‘gravy’. Each side holds fervently to its position. The problem is that the two languages do not use coinciding terms. In Italian, what you might generically call a ‘sauce’ in English can be translated as salsa, sugo, condimento or ragù—the last of which is a special word traditionally only used for this kind of slowly simmering meat-and-tomato sauce (although modern chefs have also come up with fish-based ragù). English, on the other hand, has the terms ‘sauce’ and ‘gravy’. ‘Sauce’ is a generic term that can be used to describe ragù, while gravy is a special word used to describe the kind of sauce that is made from the drippings of a roast. So, strictly speaking, ragù is not a gravy, but since both gravies and ragù are special kinds of sauces noted for their meatiness, you can see the logic of using one for the other. Personally, I stay out of this debate and just say ragù.

5 commenti:

  1. Way to go Frank! I am Stacey French, Frank's sister, and just reading about Sunday dinners at Nana's house made me smile and cry at the same time. We had wonderful time there - a simpler time. And next to Nana, Frank, you are the best cook I know! But you forgot to mention playing "Let's make a deal" in Nana's room with our cousins..haha. Or the blackberry Jello that was always cooling on the window sill. HaHa. And dare I mention what would happen if we got caught sneaking a meatball before dinner... Congratulations Frank, you truly deserve this honor and the accolades that go along with it. And as humble as Nana was she would be so proud of you dollie!

    1. Dear Stacey,

      I was very touched by your reply. Isn't that the point, that our meals should remind us of our dear grandparents? What could surpass that?

      I can disagree with only one point: that this "prize" is an honor for Frank. No, the honor is mine; for this poor, little blog does not stand comparison to "Memorie di Angelina." The latter is, in my opinion, the best blog of its type in Cyberspace.

      Thank you again for writing!

      Best wishes,



  2. Congratulations, Frank! One of these days I'm going to try Angelina's Ragu! I appreciate discovering Leonardo's blog through you, too.

  3. Frank has a wonderful blog that I enjoy reading...congratulations to him. You made a good choice. It is funny what a small world it is...Frank's experiences sound just like my husband's. I referenced what I call a Sunday feast in my post today . I'm glad that I was reading his post today because I have now found your blog.