There is no written recipe. At least none that I've ever seen. Gramma's Spaghetti and Meatballs is just that, Gramma's. I'm pretty sure she sent some form of written instructions to my sister- in-law, Lara, a while ago but it really isn't Gramma's unless Gramma makes it.
My mother and I arrived at the house in Harwinton Thursday afternoon. The day was warm and smelling a bit like summer and the Connecticut hills were brilliant green. Mama and Papa's yard was immaculate and the house was as welcoming as always. Gramma was sitting in the breezeway, taking a break from her numerous daily chores.
Doris, my maternal grandmother, is eighty six years old. She walks about a mile a day around the neighborhood to stay in shape. It is a routine she and my grandfather maintained together until his death a few years ago. On this day she surely spent time cleaning something in the house before weeding one of the gardens or performing some other outdoor chore. She also made her famous baked beans, no small task, and brought them to the family of a friend who had recently passed. Finally, she made spaghetti sauce and meatballs for our dinner. She is truely amazing.
We sit down together at the small kitchen table. Mom drains the pasta. Aunt Claire and I sit waiting anxiously and Gramma brings a steaming pot of sauce and meatballs to the table. In a way this whole scene is a bit of a ritual. Gramma fussing over last minute additions to the meal. Does everyone have something to drink? Her family helping themselves, a bit greedily, to a nourishing meal that only she could produce. There is always more in the fridge should there be a last minute mouth to feed and, if your lucky, Gramma will send you home with a frozen quart container of the sauce. You can heat it up in your own kitchen, whenever you need her company. This meal always plays out the same and it's familiarity is part of what makes it so special.
I'm sure a recipe might get you close but there is a reason it is Gramma's Spaghetti and Meatballs. It has sustained her family at small and large gatherings, in different kitchens over many years. The dish is simple. Perfectly cooked pasta coated with melted butter and topped with her own savory meat sauce, italian sausage and moist, rich pork and beef meatballs. Grated parmesan is the garnish and usually she serves it with a crisp salad of iceberg lettuce, shredded carrots and a red wine vinaigrette. There is always a loaf of crusty bread for sopping up the sauce. And, a spoon set at each place for those who prefer to use it to twirl. Papa always did.
I believe that there are things in life you must try to imprint in your memory because once they are gone you will never be able to experience them the same way again.
Thanks to my Gramma and her fantastic spaghetti and meatballs for the best memories.