This is one of my favorite pictures of my mom. Ma, Mamma Chinazza, Little Mummie, Nonnie, “The Non”, or “The Ro” are just a few terms of endearment we have bestowed on her. She is Ma to many and most. When friends and family are in need she brings them a meal or places them on her prayer list, and that is a list you want to be on as she is one of the greatest prayer warriors I know. We can always count on her for help, a shoulder to cry on, the truth, and a laugh. So many have been touched by her generosity, creativity, and strength. And can she cook!
Mom is the reason that I love to cook. As a little girl I sat and watched her create these beautiful cakes after she took cake decorating classes. I listened to her say, “I’m no good at this.” But she kept on making one amazing cake after the other. She could do it and did it well. I remember her cooking these far out cuisines for her Gourmet Club that challenged her beyond her abilities but she pulled it off every time. She can make something from nothing. She is known for her parties, delicious menus, and meticulous planning. She is mostly self-taught but has often asked other great cooks to show her.
My Grandmother, Vincenza, was a young bride from Sicily when she came to the States. In their arranged marriage, there was an 18 year difference between she and my Papa. Papa’s first wife died soon after the birth of their third child. So Papa needed a new wife and his wife’s first cousin was the perfect solution. Being only eighteen, from a poor peasant family, Grandma made the journey to her new life. She did not know how to do many things and cooking was one of them. But over time she learned to cook a few things well. She is remembered for her homemade ravioli drying flat on sheets all over the house, broccoli pasta, stromboli, and a few others dishes that she took to her grave. My Grandma did not teach my Mom how to cook, she shooed everyone out of the kitchen. Mom did it differently. My brother and I were welcome to spend many hours in the kitchen watching her every step. Those hours have paid off, not only can we cook but we are close to our Ma.
Grandma’s Broccoli Pasta– recreated by Mom
1/4 c. onion, chopped
1 bunch broccoli, washed
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound shell shaped pasta, cooked in salted water and drained
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
red pepper flakes to taste
Trim broccoli, removing woody stems, and separate florets into bite-size pieces. Steam until broccoli is bright green and tender crisp. Drain. Heat oil in sauté pan. Over medium high heat, add onion and cook until translucent. Add broccoli and garlic, sauté for 2 minutes. Add pasta and red pepper flakes. Heat until warmed through then stir in cream and cheese. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately. Serves 4-6.