Tells the story of Italian food arriving in the United States and how your favorite red sauce recipes evolved into American staples.
In Red Sauce, Ian MacAllen traces the evolution of traditional Italian-American cuisine, often referred to as “red sauce Italian,” from its origins in Italy to its transformation in America into a new, distinct cuisine. It is a 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. The story follows the small parlor restaurants immigrants launched from their homes to large, popular destinations, and eventually to commodified fast food and casual dining restaurants. Some dishes like fettuccine Alfredo and spaghetti alla Caruso owe their success to celebrities, and Italian-American cuisine generally has benefited from a rich history in popular culture.
Drawing on inspiration from Southern Italian cuisine, early Italian immigrants to America developed new recipes and modified old ones. Ethnic Italians invented dishes like lobster fra Diavolo, spaghetti and meatballs, and veal parmigiana, and popularized foods like pizza and baked lasagna that had once been seen as overly foreign. Eventually, the classic red-checkered-table-cloth Italian restaurant would be replaced by a new idea of what it means for food to be Italian, even as ‘red sauce’ became entrenched in American culture. This book looks at how and why these foods became part of the national American diet, and focuses on the stories, myths, and facts behind classic (and some not so classic) dishes within Italian-American cuisine.
Ian MacAllen is a writer and book critic. He has written reviews and interviews for Chicago Review of Books, Southern Review of Books, The Rumpus, Trampset, Electric Literature, and Fiction Advocate, with other nonfiction in The Billfold, Thought Catalog, and io9. His short fiction has appeared in The Offing, 45th Parallel Magazine, Little Fiction, Vol 1. Brooklyn, Joyland Magazine, and elsewhere. His maternal grandfather was born in Bagnoli del Trigno in Molise, Italy and his maternal grandmother’s family was from Naples and Sicily. He is descended from a line of Sicilian Strega. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and son.
Chapter 1: Salty Like the Sea
Chapter 2: The Great Arrival
Chapter 3: A Macaroni by Any Other Name
Chapter 4: We Are What We Read
Chapter 5: Red Sauce Fundamentals
Chapter 6: One Fruit to Rule Them All
Chapter 7: The Opening Acts
Chapter 8: Meat and Tomatoes
Chapter 9: Red Sauce Enters a Golden Age
Chapter 10: The Other Red Sauce
Chapter 11: As American As Pizza Pie
Chapter 12: Curds and Way
Chapter 13: One Lasagna, Many Lasagne
Chapter 14: A Taste of Rome
Chapter 15: The Last Red Sauce
Chapter 16: The Fall of Rome
Chapter 17: The Search for Authenticity
Chapter 18: The Red Sauce Renaissance, An Epilogue
Appendix: Historic Recipes
About the Author
Like a bowl overflowing with pasta on some nonna's table, there's more than enough goodness to go around in Ian MacAllen's loving tribute to the immigrant food that helped change America. You'll read Red Sauce and understand the history of a certain strain of Italian cuisine and how it shaped our palates, but most importantly, you'll be hungry for more.
At a time when the food media seem to have forgotten the appeal and importance of Italian-American food, Ian MacAllen’s Red Sauce is a restorative whose diligent research and engaging writing puts everything in perspective and shows why Italian-American food continues to be a favorite both here and abroad.
Ian MacAllen’s Red Sauce: How Italian Food Became American is a delightful read! Clear, entertaining, and insightful. Well researched and includes historical recipes. It is a significant contribution to understanding Italian American foodways. P.S. I love red sauce!
An entertaining and authoritative account of Italian-American cuisine and the restaurants that popularized it. The catalogue and description of sauces is by itself a work of art.
With this entertaining and appetizing cultural history, MacAllen, like a resourceful chef, offers his readers something entirely new: the compelling story of how Italian food entered the American kitchen, and how it evolved from a foreign oddity into a ubiquitous staple.
There's nothing more American than pizza—so much so that Ladies Home Journal once compared it to eating an apple pie. This, of course, might come as news to its Italian creators. In this fascinating work, Ian MacAllen expertly unpacks how America fell in love with Italian food. Filled with humor and fascinating tid-bits, Red Sauce will give you something excellent to talk about over your next plate of spaghetti.