Remember To Make Memories At The Table

Remember To Make Memories At The Table

Nonna used To Say...

Got Agita? It's Not What You Eat; It's What Eats You

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Made By Nonna's Hands : Spaghetti Pie

Antoinette Russo nee Bello: My maternal grandmother. I look a great deal like her- the same smile, shape nose and coloring. Her family had high hopes for her, a concert pianist who played in Carnegie Hall in NY City. Her family hit on hard times, the Great Depression followed and her dreams came to a halt. Her beautiful hands no longer floated over ivory keys, but grew stiff and gnarled at a sewing machine in a noisy factory. I never heard her complain about what circumstances had stolen from her. Just once did I witness a moment of the frustration she had, at times, felt. She was playing a score from Madam Butterfly and at a section when her fingers were to rapidly flutter on two keys, she experienced a sharp pain in her hand. She let out a gasp and stopped playing. As she rubbed the pain away, I saw confusion and betrayal cloud her brown eyes. My heart ached for her. Quietly, she rose and lowered the keyboard cover. I never saw her play the piano again.

It was Nonna's hands I remember the most. Not for her talent as a pianist, but for the many times she held an infant grandchild to her breast, quieting that babe in its distress. The endless stitches she made in the clothing she lovingly sewed for her children and then their children. The way her hands gently soothed a fevered brow or tied ribbons in our hair. Her hands worked magic with flour and  shortening...prune filled cookies at Christmas, Pizza Rustica at Easter, homemade pasta on Sunday. At a moments notice, she would put together a pizza...made in a dark lasagna pan with simple ingredients...her tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella and basil, the colors of Italy. Leftovers the next morning, we ate cold! My son was only 4 years old when Nonna died. What he remembers about her...there was always a bowl of pastina with broth topped with parmesan cheese waiting for him when we'd visit her.

When Grandpa Frank died, my dad converted our two car garage into an "apartment" for Nonna. It was  warm, cozy and made her very happy. I got it into my head that Nonna should not be alone and abandoned my teenager bedroom to sleep with her each night. It was some of the most cherished years of my life. We talked endlessly together. She told me that in her youth she befriended a young man on the subway and sneaked out of her house to go dancing with him. How scandalous! About her 1930s Chevrolet, so excited was she to own it that the first time behind the wheel she side-swiped a tree because she was waving wildly out the window instead of watching the road. And her father, Great-grandpa Nicholas, who was a 6ft. 5 inch blond with piercing blue eyes and walrus moustache. He was a mounted officer in Italy, a cavalier, who kidnapped my Great-grandma Elizabeth and kept her until her family consented to their marriage. Nonna sadly recalled losing 3 brothers in one night to diphtheria. All these stories had been told to me as we laid side-by-side speaking in whispers. And as she spoke, I stroked her hand. I knew every freckle, every curve and every vein that God put on Nonna's hand. Somewhere late into the night, she would finally say, "Domani si parla." Tomorrow we talk. And we'd drift off into our hand covering hers.
Nonna would be very proud to share one of her favorite recipes, Spaghetti Pie. It can be made in the oven or a smaller one in a pan on the stove. For as long as I can remember it graced our table when we broke our Passion Week fast on Holy Saturday. I am the one who proudly bakes this pie each year. But don't reserve it just for a special occasion esp. if you have leftover spaghetti! During Lenten Fridays serve it meatless. It's wonderful warm or cold. Serve it with a salad. Simply delicious. So, thanks Nonna for this recipe and the wonderful memories tucked into my heart...all made with love by Nonna's hands.

Spaghetti Pie
1 lb. spaghetti
8 large eggs, beaten
1/2 lb. mozzarella, diced small
1/2 lb. chunk of hard salami (Genoa), diced small
1/2 lb. chunk of domestic ham, diced small
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 13x9" pan (I use a glass pan). Cook spaghetti in salted water according to directions until al dente. In a large bowl, combine eggs, mozzarella, ham, salami, heavy cream, parsley, salt, garlic powder. Mix well.  Drain pasta and add to egg mixture. Mix well. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Bake approx. 1 hour until pie is set and top is brown. Cover top with foil if too brown. Remove from oven and cool 10 minutes. Run a knife around edges to loosen. Remove from pan and cut into wedges. Enjoy & Remember To Make Memories At The Table.
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  1. Holy Saturday is slowly approaching. Mom makes spagetti pie for our Floridian family members. On Good Friday, we both spend the afternoon making the easter pies and a couple of years ago watched the film "The Passion", as we were putting together all the ingredients. I have also taken on the task of helping Mom and Judey make the unleaven bread for Holy Thursday Mass. A lenten contribution Mom has presented to our Pastor Fr. John, for many years. These are the memories of Mom I will hold dear.

  2. Mmmmm!! I can't wait for you to visit so I can have some Spaghetti Pie!!

  3. I would attempt to make it but I think you should be present the first time. I don't want to be dissapointed