The Secret Ingredient

By Joe Mazzella • August 29, 2012

My Italian Grandmother's spaghetti sauce was a wonder to behold. After church on Sundays our family would always gather around for a huge dinner that was more a feast than a meal. For hours before the smell of the simmering sauce would fill the house and I would breathe in deep with delight. My Nana would slowly cook Italian sausages, meatballs, potatoes, and pieces of chicken in it too. Then she would boil enough spaghetti to feed a small army and slice the loaves of Italian bread she had baked earlier. When I finally sat down at the table I could feel my tastebuds jumping for joy in my mouth. By the time dinner was done both my stomach and my heart would be full of happiness.

For years I tried to duplicate my Nana's recipe but was never able to get it exactly right. I would always measure out just the right amounts of garlic, parsley, bay leaves, salt, sugar, pepper, and olive oil to add to the tomato sauce. I would simmer it slowly and stir it with care, but it never came out as good as hers. Finally one day it dawned on me that I was missing the secret ingredient that made hers so special: LOVE. You see, Nana always served her spaghetti with a big smile, a gentle hug, and the loving words: "Mangia! Mangia!" Which means "Eat! Eat!" I could always taste her love for us in every bite.

Love is the secret ingredient in life too. The more you love the more your life will taste like joy. The more love you give to others the more your days will become a feast of happiness that never ends. The more love you share the more you become like the greatest chef of all: God.

I think that I will try my hand at making Nana's sauce again this week. It may never taste as good as hers, but cooking it will bring back the memories of her love and laughter. And while I am slowly stirring it I may even feel her and God smiling down on me from Heaven.

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