This weekend, I’ll head down to my grandparents’ house to spend Saturday and Sunday with them.  When I was younger, visits to my grandparents’ house meant trips to the beach, shopping at the mall, candy in every room of the house, and generally being spoiled the entire time.  I grew up seeing my grandparents often, and there were times when they would come and help take care of us for extended periods of time.  They’ve always been two of my most favorite people; kind, brave, giving and, after 64 years of marriage, a model of love and lifetime commitment.

My favorite picture of my grandparents.

This visit, however, will be different, although they always find a way to spoil me.  This time, I’ll be the one taking care of them.  My grandfather comes home from the hospital this week after surgery to remove one of his vocal chords; home to a wife who is in the early stages of Altzheimers and doesn’t understand a lot of his treatment.  I’ll be staying overnight this weekend to provide companionship, care and meals for my grandparents.

Great-Nanny with my niece, Nora

Back when my grandparents first started needing more outside care, my sister and I agreed to cook them some of my grandmother’s recipes, then package and freeze them so they just needed to be reheated.  My grandmother used to do all the cooking; we would tease our grandfather how spoiled he was that she cooked for him, since he knows little more about the kitchen than how to brew a pot of coffee.  At a time when they would mostly go out to eat because neither one of them could cook, we knew these meals would be appreciated.  We plan to cook our way through all of my grandmother’s passed-down recipes.

Dancing with Papa at my wedding.

One of the recipes we made was my grandmother’s spaghetti sauce, and this is what I made for them for dinner this weekend, with plenty of leftovers for future meals.  No one on any side of my family is Italian, so I’m not sure where the recipe originally came from, but it is easily my favorite pasta sauce.  Better yet, it’s easy to prepare, as long as you’re willing to let the sauce simmer slowly on the stove.

Nanny’s Pasta Sauce

Two 1 lb 12 oz cans tomato puree

One 1 lb 2 oz can tomato paste (I can never find this size in the store, so I just buy two 12 oz cans)

3 bay leaves

Oregano to taste

Salt and pepper to taste


1 package Italian sausage


For meatballs:

1.5 lbs ground beef

2 eggs

Bread crumbs

Grated cheese


To make:

Combine all the ingredients for the meatballs in a bowl.  Mix with your hands, then form into small meatballs.

Heat oil in a large sauce pot.  Brown sausage.  They do not need to be fully cooked now, as they will finish cooking in the sauce.

Add both cans of tomato puree, plus 1.5 cans of this size of water.  Add the tomato puree.  My grandmother’s recipe recommends adding 3 cans of this size of water, but I estimate the rest depending on the size of my pot.  Remember that meatballs need to go in later, leave some room!

Bring this mixture to a boil.  Then add oregano, 3 bay leaves, salt and pepper, and meatballs.  Bring to a boil on medium-low, then let simmer on low for 2 hours.

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