I was talking to my Uncle Richard over the weekend. He was telling me how he misses the days when his grandkids were little and he used to cook every Sunday.
His lucky daughter, son-in-law and their kids, along with my dad, were invited over every Sunday to eat pasta. He’d make a different pasta every week, including rigatoni, linguini with clams, gnocci, lasagne, aglio olio and others, and they were all great. Now he just cooks for himself and my aunt because everyone’s either grown up, dead, or too busy, and he says it’s not the same. He misses the family.
It’s one of those great Italian traditions, and the reason many Italian sons have to be dragged out of their mother’s house by their bloody fingernails. I think pasta Sundays made our family closer and stronger. And it created wonderful memories, like the time my brother called from college and asked if he could bring a few fraternity brothers by the house for dinner. When he showed up with about 10 friends, my mom had enough pasta and fried chicken to feed everyone, and more.
But it’s a custom that slowly fades with each generation, and the carb haters have hastened its demise. However, one bowl of pasta a week will surely not kill you or make you fat. It’s a great tradition my uncle loved and I thought, I wish I lived closer, I would invite him to eat at my house.
That was quickly followed by, Who am I kidding? I don’t even make pasta for me and my daughter on Sunday, let alone others. My mom and all my long-dead Italian ancestors are surely disgusted by my behavior, so maybe it’s time to start.
I began last Sunday by making one of my dad’s favorite pastas — Pasta with Cauliflower, Onions and Olive Oil. It was a recipe I found in some food magazine years ago and it was delicious. Even my daughter, who has always been suspicious of cauliflower, liked it. The cauliflower was cooked just right and the caramelized onions took it to the next level of deliciousness.
It was just me and my daughter at the kitchen table. She stayed for about five antsy minutes before she apologized and dashed off to finish a paper for college. It wasn’t exactly a Norman Rockwell moment, and was a far cry from Uncle Richard’s, or my mom’s get togethers, but it was a start.
Every Sunday that I don’t have to work, (and maybe even those that I do) I am making a promise to cook pasta and will wrangle whatever family and/or friends I can, to come join me. You should try it too — one meal together a week won’t kill us. Maybe we can bring pasta Sundays back!
And if you have a good pasta recipe, send it please. I’ll need all the help I can get!
Casarecce with Cauliflower, Onions and Olive Oil
(I get Cascarecce from Costco, they sell six packs of organic pasta for a great price!)
1 large head of cauliflower, trimmed and cut into 1 inch florets
1/2 cup olive oil
2 large onions sliced lengthwise 1/3 inch thick
1 lb Casarecce pasta (or whatever you like)
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
pinch of crushed red pepper
In a large covered pot, bring six quarts of water to a boil. Add the cauliflower and 2 Tbsp. salt and boil until almost tender 4 to 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cauliflower to a bowl. Do not discard the water.
In a large, heavy skillet, warm the oil over moderately low heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally until golden brown 20 to 30 minutes.
When the onions are almost done, return the cauliflower water to a boil, add the pasta and cook until almost al dente (read the package directions for cooking time).
Add the cauliflower to the pan with the onions and let it heat thoroughly. When the pasta is done, reserve one cup of the pasta water and set it aside. Then add the pasta to the large skillet with the cauliflower, onion, olive oil mixture and mix thoroughly. Add enough of the cauliflower water so that the pasta is not dry, and stir until the mixture is evenly heated. Add salt to taste – it does need a fair amount of salt. Mix in the parsley and crushed red pepper. Serve the pasta with grated cheese and enjoy – hopefully with family and friends.
Chas MadonioJune 3, 2016 at 8:36 am
After the steak came out from the broiler, she would crush up a couple bulbs of garlic and put it on top – uncooked and bursting with aroma. I often wondered why I had no friends on Sunday afternoon. I would also get a hunk of her bread, soak it in the steak juice and put the garlic on the bread. I called them garlic sandwiches and my siblings would kid me about them. But they were delicious! Bad breath be damned!
Fran TunnoJune 3, 2016 at 10:19 am
Truly, it sounds amazing. I am going to do that with my next steak…but I may just saute the garlic for a minute to eliminate the truly stinky breath. Mine will only be mostly stinky. It sounds amazing. Breath, schmeth, as long as you’re happy I say go for it!
nycstylecannoliMay 31, 2016 at 2:37 pm
This looks great Fran. We didn’t have pasta every Sunday but I imagine my Mom did when her Mom was alive. I really like pasta without the sauce, much to my Mom’s homemade, I am just not a huge fan. My fave is angel hair with anchovies, garlic and olive oil. Pure heaven. Thank god I know how to make it myself!
Fran TunnoMay 31, 2016 at 5:44 pm
Yum Rosemary….anchovies, garlic and olive oil. My grandmother used to cook escarole like that. I’ll have to try the pasta! That sounds so good to me! Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment!
Denice StradlingMay 30, 2016 at 4:42 pm
I am making this for dinner tonight!!! Cannot WAIT … !!
Fran TunnoMay 31, 2016 at 5:42 pm
Yay Denice, let me know how you liked it! And thanks for reading and taking the time to comment!
Nancy KampiMay 29, 2016 at 6:45 pm
Fran, never fear your cousin Nancy have keep pasta Sunday’s going. Kati and Gina ask every Sunday ” what kind of Pasta are we having”. I have to admit once in a while on Sunday I will have some thing different like today it was more a a Memorial Day barbecue feast but never fear next Sunday it’s back to pasta. Enjoyed your article about my awesome dad.
Fran TunnoMay 29, 2016 at 11:59 pm
Thank goodness, Pasta Sunday is alive and well in your house. I just did it today. it was a lot of work, but so worth it. I think your dad will be thrilled. He IS awesome, it’s true. Give him a hug from me.
daedae51May 29, 2016 at 2:01 pm
No pasta Sundays in my family, Danish/Irish/Scottish, not a spec of Italian, but I love it anyway and am going to try this recipe. Will have to be careful with the crushed red pepper though, lol, this lily white girl can’t do spicy (I know it’s only a pinch). Love your posts with or without recipes!
Fran TunnoMay 29, 2016 at 11:55 pm
I was just about to go to bed and decided to check my blog one more time. I’m so glad I did! Thank you so much for your sweet words and for taking the time to write. I don’t think nationality matters at all, it’s what’s in your heart that counts, but as far as I’m concerned, you’re an “Official Italian,” and part of my family. If you’re ever in L.A., let me know and I’ll invite you over on Sunday to eat with us!
NicolMay 28, 2016 at 4:13 pm
Ahhhhh, pasta Sundays. Or macaroni Sundays, as we called it growing up. You think your family is disappointed, but I say you keep so many traditions alive with your blog, your recipes, and just by being you!
Fran TunnoMay 28, 2016 at 8:55 pm
Grazie Nicol. Let’s make a plan for a pasta Sunday together soon! And thank you, you are the best cheerleader!
IreneMay 28, 2016 at 9:02 am
What a great recipe! I never have would have thought to pre-cook veggies in the same water used to cook the water in. I could easily imagine how beautifully the dish would look and taste. Mmmmm. Though cauliflower has never been a preferred vegetable, I am now inspired to try this recipie. I’ll play Italian music while cooking and think of you, your uncle, and of all the wonderful eves I served my four children pasta as they talked, yelled, and laughed.
Fran TunnoMay 28, 2016 at 11:25 am
You know, Irene, I thought the same thing about cauliflower until I tried this. Now I’m a cauliflower lover. It’s also good steamed and served with butter, salt and a squeeze of lemon. So glad you took the time to read my post and comment. Enjoy the pasta and the memories. I think there are many more memories to come!
DebbieMay 27, 2016 at 7:00 pm
I also have wonderful memories of pasta Sunday! Unfortunately I have not continued that tradition, but I need to. Maybe start with once a month (I work Sundays)! Thanks for the reminder!!
Linda cappellaMay 27, 2016 at 1:40 pm
Fran, I certainly miss Sunday Pasta Dinners as well. If God would grant me one prayer…..it would be a Sunday gathering with my grandparents eating homemade ravioli, meatballs & spags! I still make sauce while listening to Patrizio Buanne’s Italian songs.
I’ll eat pasta with him any day of the week! Lol
Donna TunnoMay 27, 2016 at 2:07 pm
I used to listen to Patrizio Buanne’s CDs for hours and hours at a time. I am going to find the CDs now and start to play them again. Thanks for the reminder, Linda!
lafridayMay 27, 2016 at 12:03 pm
Yum! Lovely tale of the family traditions and noble to try to resurrect the tradition. If I was still there, I would be at your house every Sunday. I still eat/cook pasta, but I seldom use a recipe per se. Why is it that families don’t seem to carry on those big weekly gatherings anymore? It is so sad.
Fran TunnoMay 27, 2016 at 7:50 pm
I am sure some families do, but everyone is so busy now. It’s time to get back to family time on Sundays. Nothing is more important than family and good friends. I’m going to give it my best shot!
Monica MuehsamMay 27, 2016 at 10:58 am
The heck with those carb haters, this recipe sounds delicious and I would bring a case of wine to your house on any Sunday you invited us to dinner- maybe when we move back!
Fran TunnoMay 27, 2016 at 7:49 pm
Maybe when you guys are here! Let me know when your plans firm up.
Bob ErbeckMay 27, 2016 at 10:51 am
I’ll be looking forward to your “Favorite Family Italian Recipes” cookbook when it goes on sale. Sign me up! 👍🏻👍🏻
Fran TunnoMay 27, 2016 at 7:48 pm
Thanks Bob, I’ll have to work on that one!
JoAnn JonesMay 27, 2016 at 9:39 am
My dad & mom also made pasta most Sundays. I loved it smelling the homemade sauce cooking on the stove, and Italian music playing on the radio. God love Uncle Richard he does make great pasta. Miss seeing him 🙁 need to make a trip to PA. Love to all, JoAnn
Fran TunnoMay 27, 2016 at 7:47 pm
Definitely JoAnn, he would love to see you and so would everyone else. If not now, when? The sauce aroma always gets me! I’m making some this Sunday!
Donna TunnoMay 27, 2016 at 8:24 am
The good old days can return! How? Move back to Pennsylvania, and we will come to your Sunday pasta dinners! It’s only an hour to travel to Ohio when it’s our turn. I miss it all, life is not the same, but we were luckier than most to have so many years because Grandpa lived until almost 98! We were spoiled.
Fran TunnoMay 27, 2016 at 7:46 pm
We were spoiled, but at least we had him for a good long time. And the dinners don’t have to stop. Trust me, once your friends and family know you’re staging dinners on Sunday, people will show up! And yes, I would love to move back there and be pasta central!
Chas MadonioMay 27, 2016 at 8:13 am
Sunday was family pasta day in our house, too. My mother would make home made noodles then broil a steak with fresh crushed garlic on top. And of course, the home made bread she would bake every Saturday morning. Good old days!
Fran TunnoMay 27, 2016 at 7:44 pm
Oh My God, Chas, that sounds heavenly. It’s not too late to carry on that tradition you know. The steak sounds delicious. Did she put the garlic on after it cooked or while it cooked? I want to try that!