Once in a long while, a book comes along and immediately qualifies as a “must have” in the Italian American home library. In Red Sauce: How Italian Food Became American, author Ian MacAllen has created one of those books!
In this rollicking two-part episode, we’re joined by this proud Italian American writer as he leads us in an exploration of the evolution of traditional Italian American cuisine, lovingly referred to as “Red Sauce Italian,” from its origins in Italy to its transformation in America into a new, distinct, and wildly popular cuisine.
This week, in Part 1, we’ll take a look at the fascinating social and culinary history exploring the integration of Red Sauce food into mainstream America alongside the blending of Italian immigrant otherness into a national American identity.
We’re looking for the “roots of red sauce” in Southern Italian cuisine, and how early Italian immigrants to America developed new recipes and modified old ones based on the new foods they found in America, and how they were able to introduce and eventually domesticate the staple ingredients they couldn’t leave behind.
We’ll search out the origins of uniquely Italian American dishes like Penne alla Vodka, and examine the new fascinating history of how the earliest Italian immigrants brought the tomato into mainstream America… and why the differences in manufacturing between tomato paste versus canned tomatoes might explain how YOUR family recipes came to be distinct from those of other Italian American clans. And, we’ll seek to answer the age old question: “Why do I add sugar to my sauce?”
It’s the first half of one of our most enjoyable episodes, on a topic we know every Italian American can agree on — the unique brilliance of Italian American cuisine!