Story, Recipes and Photos by Sara Sullivan
Food, like love and culture, is complex and ever-changing.
For Italian-American families like mine, food is an important aspect of the culture. During visits with my Nonna, she would constantly offer me different foods, regardless of whether I was hungry or not, until I eventually accepted something. For her, feeding us was synonymous with taking care of us, loving us and passing on our traditions.
Nonna Luciano’s love of feeding people, along with her recipes, have been passed down through generations. Cozy and delicious, they warm you up and bring back fond memories of the past. These are meals that are truly heartwarming and good for the soul, though they are not always good for the waistline.
Luckily, a recipe does not have to stay frozen in time. Food, like love and culture, is complex and everchanging. Updating it won’t take away the comforting feelings it gives you, nor will it take away the memories associated with that food. It will simply become your own unique contribution to the story of a family dish as it continues to be passed on through the generations. Something that makes it even more cherished.
Cooking with local produce is really important to me. I’m thrilled to share the adjustments that I’ve made to some of my favorite family meals in order to include more healthy and fresh winter vegetables. These are dishes that I have always enjoyed on a cold winter day and there are many of those in the Finger Lakes region. By using ingredients that are available during these chilly months, but retaining the elements that made it special, I feel as though I’ve helped evolve and continue the story of these family recipes.
I recently called my cousin to discuss one of Nonna Luciano’s dishes (for this article) and we realized that very day would have been her 99th birthday. I think it’s a sign that she’s OK with me sharing her recipe. After all, she loved to feed people.
Sara Sullivan is a food photographer and recipe developer who was raised in Ithaca. For more recipes, follow her on Instagram @saralynn.bakes.