I can remember the exact day my love affair with Italian Food started. I was in elementary school and my Dad’s client, Raffaele Antonelli, invited us to their home for dinner. Raffaele and His brother Dominic were sons of Italian Immigrants and the poster children for the American Dream. They both were successful developers and worked extremely hard (up to 18 hour days) to provide for their family… and they provided well. When we arrived at their huge home… I had never seen so many kids in my life. In the Washington DC suburb I grew up in, this was not typical. Most families I knew both parents worked, were educated, and had very small families. Everything about them was bigger. It was completely counter-culture to the way I was being raised. And I loved it. My parents grew up in the Midwest and had both experienced close-knit families as children. We had moved to Maryland for my Dad’s job and didn’t live close to family at the time.
Then there was the food. My God… the food. When they called us to dinner, his wife Anna asked me if I wanted some pasta, to which my reply was: “What’s that?” She looked at me kind of weird. I’m sure most kids by middle elementary school knew what the word meant. But she had no idea I was being raised by a woman whose culinary repertoire was chicken and rice, spaghetti that was made from a package, and “Momloaf.” It was plain beef patties…covered in ketchup…and baked. I have recreated it for you in the picture above and included Mom’s apron for authenticity. I digress. I sat down at that massive table and proceeded to gorge myself with reckless abandon. I had no idea if I was ever coming back. So I was going to eat my heart out and give it my all. They say It’s never as good as the first time but I don’t think that’s true, friends. Because I have been blissfully enjoying Italian food for 25 years. (I have the waistline to prove it…) For the record, the picture of the Momloaf I took is the first time I made it. The kids refused to eat it. Ironically, the only thing my son Alex ever wants to eat is… pasta.
There are proven benefits of eating together as a family. Besides the great food I enjoyed that day, I learned something valuable. That families that make eating dinner together a priority are stronger. I have witnessed it personally with extended family and friends. My husband comes from a large family of German Catholics. Family get together’s revolve around food. Most of the time, the evening revolves around the family table (which he grew up eating around): we eat, visit, or play games. Even my Mom’s kitchen debacles are memories that my sister, brother, and I laugh and talk about to this day. The food might not have been good but laughter is ALWAYS good for you. I married into a family of great cooks. My Step-Mom Nita loves to cook as well. There is never a shortage of good recipes to share. To get your Italian night started, I am sharing a recipe from my Sister-In-Law Darlene. I knew she was a keeper when she brought theses to dinner when she was dating my Brother-In-Law, Patrick. You can also get my very own Spaghetti Sauce recipe here. It is from my friend Rachel who is the quintessential southern cook.
- 1 lb lean ground beef
- ½ lb ground pork
- ½ lb mild Italian sausage
- 2 large eggs
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 cups plain bread crumbs
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup freshly grated Pecorino, Romano, or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- 1½ Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. With your hands combine the meats in a large bowl. Add eggs, cheese, parsley, minced garlic, salt and pepper (to taste) and blend ingredients together. Add the breadcrumbs into the mixture. Add the water ½ at a time, until the mixture is moist. Shape into 2" balls. Bake on a cookie sheet for 20-25 minutes, turning half way through the cook time. When finished, remove from the pan and drain on paper towels. Serve over spaghetti with your favorite Marinara or Meat Sauce.