Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Nonna's Quick Spaghetti


     Imagine a stout little white haired lady sauntering through her house. She's wearing slacks, tennis shoes, and a blouse all covered with a long apron with sleeves. Sprinkled with a dusting of flour and even some red splotches here and there from the sauce. Her hair is up in a bun or curled to its finest. She is rushing around jabbering to herself about what all else needs completed before the guests arrive. She's already done all her makeup so even though she is rushing around her red lips are visible from far away. In the background you hear a faint song playing on her kitchen radio. Whether it be mandolin or accordion music or that of Sinatra or Dean Martin she is softly singing along or humming. Her dining room is impeccably decorated with her nicest china and goblets. The table is set for a whole crowd of people, not only family but her friends. Everyone is invited for Sunday dinner at her house. Can you picture it? The home of an Italian grandmother.

     Every Italian grandmother, or “nonna”, has that secret to their marinara sauce or their pasta sauce and even how they make that fantastic house smell so wonderful. I remember going to my grandmothers every weekend. She always had that large pot on her stove bubbling with sauce in it. Typically floating in the sauce were meatballs, sausage, or some other kind of meat to help flavor it. The smell just permeated the whole house. You could even smell it as you approached the steps of the home. She made tons. Enough to fill half a dozen quart jars. She always kept some in the fridge for quick weeknight meals and even froze some for later. A trait you too carry on anytime you make homemade sauce.

     You have carried on her tradition, one that has been handed down from her parents to yours and on to you. I will admit though it still is not the same as hers. I have adjusted mine at times and so hasn’t my mother. But who doesn’t make the recipe their own. This quick and easy recipe is something that she would do if she wanted to whip something together in a pinch but make it different than that Sunday evening pasta and marinara meal. I am about to give you a simple and easy marinara recipe that anyone can make. The addition to make it different is what makes this special. Simple splashes of cream and fresh herbs and you have a completely different sauce and meal.  Nonna’s Quick Spaghetti.

Ingredients for simple marinara
  • 1 lg can tomato juice
  • 2 small cans tomato paste
  • 12 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Green bell pepper
  • Fresh basil
  • Pinch oregano
  • Salt/pepper

1.       In a large pot drizzle some olive oil and sauté your diced onion until translucent.

2.       Add in diced garlic and sauté until fragrant

3.       Pour in half the tomato juice and mix in the paste and crushed tomatoes.

4.       Add in diced green pepper, chopped fresh basil, pinch of oregano and rest of tomato juice.

5.       Bring to a low boil, reduce heat, and simmer for hour or longer.

     Now comes the additions that every Italian may or may not add. I am not going to give away my exact marinara sauce here. I am just going to tell you some additions that people add.

  • Bay leaf, diced carrot, parsley, wine, cheese rind, beef, pork, veal, chicken, etc. 

     The addition of meats help flavor the sauce. Our family always added the meats raw and let the sauce cook all day on low. Even meatballs were added raw.

Nonna’s Quick Spaghetti

     She always made fresh pasta on her Chitarra. Pour in a pot some of her leftover marinara. Bring to a simmer. Stir in some heavy cream and chili flakes. Toss with pasta and sprinkle fresh chopped basil. Viola. Nonna’s quick meal with a different flare.


  1. i love this beautiful, simple meal. i really need to get into fresh pasta more.

    1. You should. Fresh is always better. :)