Looking for your Italian Roots and the Best Spaghetti Sauce?

All over the USA there are countless amazing stories of Italian families who migrated from Italy and settled in various states to start a new life right after World War I and II. What stands out and is deeply endearing to me, as an Italian born and raised in Puglia (now living in Portland, OR), is the desire of many children and grandchildren of these brave pioneers to find out about their Italian roots. I hear all kinds of wonderful stories mostly revolving around food. How a child can never forget coming back from school to the amazing smell of the tomato sauce mother was making for the family; how their grandmother would make the best lasagna every Sunday for lunch; how the entire family would spend hours eating and socializing, and much more. Scenes, tastes, moments all too familiar for me who spent most of my life in Puglia and only moved to the USA twenty-one years ago. 


I admire those of Italian descent who seek to understand where they came from by traveling to Italy to look for cues, memories, recipes, new stories, feelings and sensations, towns and villages where their grandparents grew up. I have been lucky to have experienced the emotions of a few Italian Americans who adventured to Italy with me in search of their roots. It is a riveting emotional sensation to witness the joy, the astonishment, the tears, the comfort, and the attachment that many feel when they find the tiny village where their grandparents emigrated from, the house they lived in, and above all the people who knew them, or the family members they didn’t know they had.


This is one of the main reasons why I have decided to create a travel company (VoomaGo.com) specialized in Italian experiential travel. It has added great meaning to my life, to be able to enrich someone’s visit and experience by connecting people to the Italian culture through human connections and lifestyle, and not just through touristy sites. If you have Italian roots, (2nd and 3d generation Italian) and you haven’t been to Italy yet, don’t wait. It is an experience that will affect, enrich and change your life forever. I would be happy to help facilitate such a meaningful journey. 


Because a pillar of Italian culture is food, prepared at home and enjoyed over 3-4 hour lunches, I want to leave you with my Nonna Rata spaghetti sauce, this recipe keeps my connection to her still alive after she has been gone for 25 years. 


Nonna Rata (short for Addolorata) was my grandma on my mother’s side. She was highly educated for her time, she knew how to read and write, and yet she only had 8 years of school and she never ran out of amazing stories to tell. 

Cooking for her family and for her grandkids was a duty that gave her identity, happiness and pride. The recipe below is adapted to modern age cooking on the stove, she always made it on an open fire on the fireplace in the house. The recipe is amazing and the flavor heavenly – but cooked on an open fire was to die for. 


Spaghetti Sauce della Nonna Rata


1 Pound of pork spareribs

1 Pound of beef roast (any type)

1/2 cup of smoked pancetta

5-6 table spoons of olive oil 

3/4 cups of onions

1 cloves or garlic (minced)

1 red bell pepper (chopped)

Fresh basil

1 teaspoon of dry oregano

1 leaf of bay leaf

1 tea spoon of nutmeg

1 can of crushed plain tomatoes

1-2 cans of plain tomato sauce

Parmesan cheese



This recipe will be featured in my upcoming cookbook “Italian Food You Will Make Love To” – Stay tuned. 


Sprinkle some salt all over the meat and place it in a large pot over medium-high heat to brown with some olive oil. When browned, remove it and place to the side. Lower a little the heat, add the chopped onions and red bellpepper, cook and stir for 2 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and cook for 2 more minutes before adding the canned chopped tomatoes. Cook for 10 minutes. Add 3-5 leaves of fresh basil, the nutmeg, the bay leaf, and the oregano followed by the canned tomato sauce. Join the browned meat and its juice back in. After the sauce reaches a boil, turn the heat down making sure it is simmering for the next hour, stir from time to time. The sauce should slowly thicken and release a heavenly smell.


When done, cook your spaghetti or tagliatelle al dente and serve with one or two ladles of the sauce and a nice dusting of parmesan cheese. Don’t forget to add a fresh basil leaf on the top. Buon Appetito!



Enjoy this fabulous recipe and if you ever want to travel to Italy and cook with my family and friends check out my upcoming trips: www.voomago.com/upcoming-trips




For more great reads and recipes check my Italian American friend Christina BLOG


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