Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Family Traditions

On my mother's side, it's easy for me to trace my ancestry. My great-grandfather, Samuele, came to America from Sarno, Italy in 1906. And over the years, my family has certainly assimilated with American culture. Italian went from the only language spoken, to spoke by adults so the children wouldn't understand, to not spoken at all. Names went from Assunta and Philomena to Karen and Stephanie. But there's one thing that didn't change much: our love of food.

We have strong food traditions, especially on holidays, like Christmas. But my grandfather had another tradition: pasta or macaroni every Wednesday and Sunday. EVERY Sunday and Wednesday. No exceptions.

I can clearly remember dinner with my grandparents. My grandfather, scraping his fork against his plate to get every last drop of sauce. My grandmother, yelling at him to stop it, that's what bread is for.

In honor of those Wednesday night dinners, here is a recipe for spaghetti bolognese, modified from Giada De Laurentiis. My grandfather may not approve, swapping out ground beef for ground turkey. But my mother would probably approve of the heart-healthy measure. I made some other modifications as well, but the biggest one was the love I have for my grandparents and those dinners we shared.

Spaghetti Bolognese

Recipe adapted from Giada De Laurentiis
Makes about 1 quart; Serves 4 over a pound of pasta as a main course


  • 1 pound spaghetti (or your favorite pasta)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and minced
  • 1 20.8-oz. package ground turkey
  • 1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 15-oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 8 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheeese


  1. In a Dutch oven heat the oil over a medium flame. When almost smoking, add the onion and garlic and sauté until the onion is very tender, about 8 minutes. Add the carrot and sauté for 5 minutes.
  2. Increase the heat to high, add the ground beef, red pepper flakes, and Italian seasoning, and sauté until meat is no longer pink, breaking up any large lumps, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the red wine to deglaze the pan, scraping up the brown bits. Let reduce 5 minutes.
  4. Add the tomatoes, basil, 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper, and cook over medium-low heat until the sauce thickens, about 30 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, cooking spaghetti according to package directions.
  6. When sauce is done, stir in the cheese, then season with more salt and pepper to taste.

Note: The sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, then cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium heat before using.

Unfortunately, no photo this week. We were so hungry when I finally got it on the table, I didn't remember to take one until the table was cleared and the dishwasher loaded and running. I'll have to snap one the next time I make this dish.

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