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Farmette 1769

by Monica Melograna-Ward


My father lived in a two room tenement apartment in Philadelphia, PA until he was 8 years old. He shared it with his parents and eight siblings. His parents had come through Ellis Island in their twenties (to the best of my knowledge). Deep poverty had struck Italy. They were looking for greener pastures and America promised a land of opportunity. The US needed workers at the time, so they were able to emigrate.

Then the Great Depression hit. It started up in 1929 when my father was six years old. In late 1931 my grandmother died of meningitis (carried by influenza) on Christmas Eve. One baby sister had died by then. The four older children stayed and supported the home. The four younger children, including my father, were sent to a Catholic orphanage just a few short weeks after the death of their mother.

My father had limited contact with his family during those years. But somehow, he came out of it with the family recipe for meatballs and spaghetti. He did not learn how to make pasta, but he did know how to make the red sauce and meatballs (the meatballs will have to be a later MWR blog article).



It’s Father’s Day. My father taught me how to make the well-worn ancestral marinara. My husband adores this sauce. He calls it my healing sauce. This weekend’s edition of MWR is dedicated to both my husband, Jamie Andrew Ward, and my father, Armand Melograna Senior. These are favorite photos of mine (albeit they are low quality screen grabs of them).


Since this is an extra special family recipe, due to it’s history, I am willing to give out the ingredients, but not the amounts. I’ll also not describe the process in strict detail. You must make it yours.

It has morphed over the years in my hands. I don’t cook it on the stove, as my father did. I use a crock pot and cook it slowly for about two days. Sometimes the setting is merely on keep warm, and sometimes the heat is set for full speed ahead.

  • Tomato Sauce
  • Crushed Tomatoes
  • Diced Tomatoes
  • Tomato Paste

All of these come canned. I may add some fresh diced tomatoes from our garden to this batch today.

  • Olive Oil
  • Fresh Garlic
  • Crushed Red Pepper
  • Oregano
  • Basil
Note: Sometimes I use fresh Oregano and Basil. This time, I did not have any on hand.



Coat the bottom of your crock pot with Olive Oil. Add all of the Tomato Ingredients. Then add Olive Oil to the surface of it all. Add your Herbs and Spices onto top of the Olive Oil. Let it float and simmer there for a long time. At some point, mix it all in together.

Whatever your choices are on the amounts of the ingredients, it will be destined to come out well. Trust your instincts. Enjoy the art of making a never before special red sauce creation of your own. And then please pass it on to the children in your life, and/or your friends too, to enrich future generations of Italian Food Lovers.

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