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Farmette 1769

by Monica Melograna-Ward

Tag Archives: sauce


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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The only thing that we have canned so far is a unique Italian Red Pasta Sauce. We are hoping to get enough tomatoes from the garden this Summer to make some from scratch.

My husband always says that he married me for my sauce. There is a reason why there are very few people that he could have wooed in order to have this particular aroma of Italy fill the house with rich, spicy goodness.

First, they would have to be Italian. Second, they would have to be from the region of Calabria (unluckily, this inherently makes you stubborn). Third, you would need to be from the town of Mida. And lastly, your last name would be Melograna.

To the best of my knowledge, there are no Melogranas left in Italy. I think they are all in Argentina and the United States.

Poverty was wide spread in Italy in the early 1900’s and America offered unskilled labor jobs. Although my Grandfather was a Tailor and Musician, when he immigrated, his papers said Peasant. Despite this, he was able to work in his skilled trades. His family survived meagerly, but together, until the Stock Market crashed and his wife was taken by the Flu Epidemic.

My father was born in 1923 to this family that became a group of 11 total. His mother died when he was 8 years old. He was placed in an orphanage during the Great Depression. I inherited the rare name, Melograna, a family meatball recipe and a heritage sauce recipe.

Making the red sauce is a refined art that takes years to master. I will give you the ingredients and let you experiment. You can create you own special version of a homemade Old World pasta sauce.

Italian Red Pasta Sauce

Basic Recipe – Old World Red Pasta Sauce:

• Canned Whole Peeled Tomatoes (use a blender to mash)
• Canned Tomato Sauce
• Canned Tomato Paste (made from Roma/Plum tomatoes)
• Olive Oil
• Garlic
• Oregano
• Basil
• Crushed Red Pepper

I discovered, by pure laziness, that this recipe worked well in a crock pot. Instead of the whole peeled tomatoes, we use crushed and diced cans of tomatoes. Normally, you fry the tomato paste in olive oil before adding it to the big sauce pan on the stove. But, after filling the crock pot up with the tomato medley, I float the olive oil on top along with the spices. It all cooks for at least half a day before getting stirred together.

This version works well. The color gets dark and the house smells edible for a few days. It is nothing like any of the sugar-laced grocery store sauces. You must like thick, heavy pasta sauce to enjoy this. If so, please give it a try. And if you are single and would like to attract a fellow sauce lover, just crack the window.

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