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“Food Traditions of the Italian Families with Nonna Graziella and Mama Silvia” ~ by Silvia Marchese


Food culture and food tradition are an important aspect of the Italian Community. “A family tradition is the thread that binds one generation to the next.” (Burcham,. C, 2018). These traditions, which include making tomato sauce and making Zeppole di San Giuseppe (an Italian dessert), connects these Italian-Canadians to their native country.  Traditions can be in the form of stories, beliefs and rituals which are passed on from generation to generation that not only bring families together, but also provide them with a sense of pride and belonging. For the younger generations that are taught these traditions, it gives them knowledge of their family history as well as creating bonds and lasting memories. Focus will be placed on the ritual traditions of making Tomato sauce and Zeppole, which occur on Labour day and on March 19th. 


              Tomato Sauce

  • Buy 10 bushels of tomatoes which makes around 60-70  jars 
  • Boil tomatoes in water for 1- 1.5 hours
  • Drain from water and recook them for 2 hours by adding olive oil, 3 cut onions per pot, 15 leafs of basil 
  • Stir constantly and reduce heat to medium- low, making sure sauce is not burning
  • After tomatoes are mushy pour them into a puree machine that will puree the tomatoes into sauce and separated it from the skin
  • Puree the sauce 3-4 times for each pot (more or less depending on preferred thickness of sauce)
  • Place into jars and store into cold cellar
  • Entire processes took about 10 hours

              Zeppole di San Giuseppe

Pastry Preparation:

  • Combine 3 eggs, 250ml of water, 150g of all purpose flour, 55 g of butter in a pan  on medium-low heat
  • Stir until It becomes paste-like and remove from heat
  • Let it cool and place paste into a piping bag
  • Pipe into circle shape and fry with vegetable oil until light-golden brown

Cream Preparation:

  • Combine 2 egg yolks, 1 tsp of vanilla extract , 375 ml of whipping cream, 1 tbs of sugar and 22.5 g of corn starch
  • Stir on low heat until small bubbles form on the sides
  • Remove from heat and  let cool
  • Once cooled pour into a piping bag and place in the center of the previously cooked Zeppole
  • Add a black cherry on top and enjoy cold

Nonna Graziella and Mama Silvia In their own words:

Nonna Graziella

Why: I learned how to make sauce at a very young age by my mother. Every year my aunts and cousins would come over to our house and it would be a feast; we made the sauce and enjoyed food as it cooked. Making sauce now in a different country reminds me of my life in italy when I used to be a “ragazza” (young girl). I want to pass on this tradition because home-made is always better than store bought  and because it is a way to make the family unite. I hope one day when I’m gone you will think of me when you make it.

When: We make it every year on Labour day and start boiling the tomatoes in water at 5 am. The whole process takes about 10 hours and you can enjoy the sauce any time. The stock usually lasts up to 6 months.

Mamma Silvia

Why: Zeppole are always made on Saint-Giuseppe’s day (March 19th). We believe that Saint Giuseppe used to sell them in Egypt to provide for Mary and Jesus. Religiously it is a sort of recognition of that time. Zeppole  are also a dessert typical of the Neapolitan region, our region. Making them in Canada makes me feel like I am in Italy and makes me feel close to our culture. On March 19th Zeppole are made in Italy and by making them here, makes me feel at home.  Traditions are important for your identity especially when you move away.

When: On March 19th to celebrate Saint Giuseppe. Usually we make them in the afternoon and enjoy after dinner.