In a small ranch house in a suburb of Cincinnati, my great-grandparents would have all their children and grandchildren for dinner every Sunday.
Now someone else lives in that house, and my great-grandmother’s garden is gone.
I never got to meet her, but I have a lot of stories from my dad. My great-grandmother, Laura Longinatti Squeri, immigrated from the province of Genoa in Northern Italy to Cincinnati where she met her husband in 1918. My dad would tell me about her amazing recipes and cooking, and how she made everything by hand. Her ravioli dish was one of her most memorable. “Nonna,” as her grandchildren called her, made and cured her own pasta, and then cut out and stuffed each individual ravioli piece. The entire process took two days.
A large portion of my childhood and adolescence was spent watching my relatives cook, and they were always happy to teach and explain what they were doing to me. My grandmother Joan has made some of the best meals of my life, and I am not just saying that because I’m biased. She once told me that when she got married she “didn’t even know how to boil water,” and that she learned everything she knows about cooking from her mother-in-law, my great-grandma Laura.
Food, as one can probably guess, is greatly important to Italians. But it isn’t just food in general, it’s our food, our recipes that have been preserved and handed down for generations.
About 10 years ago, one of my cousins got married and, as a wedding gift, my grandmother and other relatives put together a notebook containing all of our family’s recipes. About 80 in total, a majority of these recipes span from more than a century ago to my ancestors in Italy.
And now, without further ado, here are two recipes from that notebook.
Rosemary Garlic Chicken, my grandmother Joan’s recipe.
Ingredients for the marinade: ½ cup of olive oil, ½ cup of butter, 3 crushed cloves of garlic, teaspoon of crushed rosemary, and a few pinches of salt and pepper.
Mix marinade ingredients. Put 2 to 3 pounds of chicken pieces or quarters in a pan, cover with marinade. Saute chicken in pan until browned, then add ½ cup sherry wine, or dry white wine. Cover pan and cook on low-medium for 20 to 30 minutes. Add more butter or wine as necessary.
Authentic Italian Meatballs, my great-grandmother Butler (Joan’s mother)’s recipe.
Ingredients: 3 lbs ground chuck, 3 eggs, 5 slices of grated 2-day-old Italian bread, teaspoon of garlic powder, ¼ cup of parmesan cheese (or more if you want), pinch of salt and pepper, and 1 tablespoon of parsley flakes.
Mix ingredients together in a bowl and form the meatballs. Brown the meatballs in a skillet with olive oil. Once browned, drain olive oil from meatballs with a paper towel. Add meatballs to a pot of pasta sauce and simmer for 4 ½ to 5 hours, stirring occasionally.
Make sure to cook these recipes with people you love.