Growing up, every Sunday was pasta Sunday. We did have pasta dishes other nights too, but Sunday was the day of the traditional, slow cooked tomato sauce. Mamma Rosa would always get up early to start it, so that the meat, usually pork and beef, would gently braise for four or so hours, falling off the bone and luscious to eat. If I were to drop in on any cousin, Zia, Comare or other close family friend on a Sunday before lunch, I would find the same slow cooking sauce going on, it was like there was a code.
These days there is also a vegetarian sauce bubbling away on the stove for my Marito. Mamma Rosa took the non meat eating quite well when I first bought him home for Sunday lunch during the dating phase. My relatives in Italy, not so much. You know that scene from the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” where there is stunned silence when she tells them all her boyfriend does not eat meat? We had that exact moment with my Zia in Calabria. She had prepared some melanzane ripieni – stuffed eggplant – for our arrival. After a moment of looking at us incredulously, and asking “what do you mean” three or four times, she insisted that he could eat them anyway, because the amount of meat in them was “ ‘na fesseria “, trifling, so it didn’t really count.
But regardless of the sauce, Mamma Rosa’s silky strands of homemade tagliatelle are an absolute treat. Eggs, flour and a little salt. The ingredients seem so simple, but the art is in the lightness of touch, getting the amount of folding and rolling right, and knowing when the sheets are ready to become the pasta. Today we got together for Mamma Rosa’s birthday. When it’s all of us, and our children, its quite a group and the giant oversize pasta pot comes out. It is cooked in a few minutes, drained, the hearty sauce is added, and we sit around the table and the sounds of contentment and slurping of tagliatelle follow.