Some family recipes are passed down from mother to daughter. But when it comes to making the dish they know as Pop's Pasta, everyone in Kelly Day's family gets involved.
"It's definitely the family recipe on my husband's side of the family," said Day, a 38-year-old mother of three from Linwood. "Right before I got married, my husband's aunt taught me how to make it. She taught her daughters how to make it. My husband's mother and brothers make it - it's gone down the generations."
Not bad for a recipe originally clipped from The Press sometime back in the 1960s.
The way Day heard the story, her husband's grandfather, Frederick "Pop" Day was a cab driver who worked in Atlantic City. He would frequently read the paper in search of new or interesting recipes.
"Pop was Italian, his wife was Irish. His name was originally DelGiorno - which is "of the day" in Italian - he got it changed to Day," she said. "He would read the paper, and when there was a recipe he thought he'd like, he would clip it out and say 'You should try it.' Sometime it would be a Chinese recipe or something that they'd never had before, but this is the one that stuck. This is the one that everybody loved."
Day has a copy of the recipe from the day it was printed in the newspaper, so she knows it was originally called Spaghetti with Zucchini and Sausage. But that's not what the family calls it. Usually, in Day circles, it is known as Pop's Pasta, although when Chris Day's uncle Joey comes to visit, the dish is renamed Joey's Dish because that is the meal he always wants. Family members are always happy to honor the request, because Pop's Pasta seems to have been created for such family gatherings.
"It's a really great dish to do when you have a lot of people over," Kelly Day said. "We do it when we are all getting together. All you have to do is simmer it, then just throw the pasta in and it is ready to go."
Day was already skilled in the kitchen before she began dating attorney Chris Day about 10 years ago.
Growing up in an Italian family in Galloway Township, the former Kelly Rich was taught by her parents how to prepare all kinds of Italian dishes.
"I've always really liked to cook. Coming from an Italian family, my dad would always make homemade pasta and sauces. When I was growing up, I learned a lot about how to cook. I really enjoyed cooking."
Day got her first taste of Pop's Pasta when having dinner at her husband's aunt's house. She recruited the same aunt, Grace Day McGowan, of Linwood, to teach her the favorite family recipe.
"I said 'I'm getting married, you have to teach me how to make Pop's Pasta.' So she came to my house one day and walked me through it, step-by-step," Day recalled. It's Grace McGowan's version of the recipe the family enjoys now.
Grace McGowan figures Kelly Day is just one of "dozens" she's taught the recipe. McGowan has spread the word about Pop's Pasta not only in New Jersey, but also in Florida, Michigan, Maryland and Arkansas.
"Every time I go somewhere I make it, and everyone comes and everybody goes crazy for it, so I teach them," the 65-year-old Linwood real estate agent said.
"I love it. I've not come across one person that didn't love it," she said.
McGowan said she began adding her own tweaks to the recipe almost as soon as she started making it when she was a young girl living at home.
"If you use the main ingredients, no matter what you do it, it tastes good," she said. McGowan has even prepared the dish using canned zucchini, though she wouldn't recommend it, since fresh zucchini tastes so much better.
Since entering the Day clan, Kelly Day has done her best to keep the family pasta tradition alive. She's taught her daughter, Michaela, 17, how to make it, and plans on teaching younger daughters Sofia, 5, and Daniella, 3, the recipe when they get older.
"I think it is important to do that, to pass down tradition," she said.
Day is such a fan of the recipe, she also shares it with friends. Everyone who tries Pop's Pasta winds up raving about it, she said.
This summer, she visited friends whose garden was filled with zucchini.
"They didn't know what to do with it all. I gave them the recipe, and they said 'Oh my God, it is so good,'" she recalled.
And while Day might have married into the recipe tradition, she understands - and appreciates - the strong ties it has to her husband's family.
"I think that's what makes this recipe so special - that it was made by people in the family for so many years - especially my husband and his aunt and her father. I think it is good to continue that," she said.
Contact Steven V. Cronin:
•1/4 cup olive oil
•3 pounds hot Italian sausage
•6 to 8 small to medium zucchini (cut in half lengthwise and then cut into 1/4-inch slices)
•3 bunches of scallions
•(sliced small into little rings)
•2 large 46-ounce cans chicken broth
•1 12-ounce bottle cooking sherry
•2 8-ounce packages fresh, thinly sliced, white mushrooms
•2 small 4-ounce jars of pimentos
•2 boxes of linguine fini pasta
•Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Cut sausage into 1 1/2-inch bite-size links. Heat olive oil over medium heat in large stock pot. Add sausage and lightly brown on all sides. Add scallions, zucchini and chicken broth. Stir. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to low or medium-low to maintain a bubbling simmer. Cook, uncovered, 1 1/2 hours. Add sherry, mushrooms and pimentos, with juice, into the sauce. Cook, uncovered for another 1/2 hour. In the meantime, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, add salt and linguini fini. Cook to al dente, according to package instructions. Drain and place linguine in large serving bowl, ladle sauce over top and serve with fresh Parmesan and red pepper flakes on the side.
Serves: 8 to 10 people
• You can cook this sauce longer, if you wish, even 3 to 4 hours. My special secret is to cook the sauce longer and the zucchini "melts" more into the sauce. This is great for kids or picky eaters who would never otherwise eat zucchini, but they eat this sauce. For a fresher, chunkier sauce, cook as instructed above.
• This is a great entertaining dish because it makes so much, and you can make the sauce ahead so when your guests arrive, all you have to do is quickly cook the pasta and serve.
•This recipe serves 8 to 10 but you can easily make this for a family of
•4 to 6 by cooking the sauce as instructed but serve some of the sauce over one box of linguini instead of two boxes and then freeze the rest of the sauce for another night. It freezes and reheats well and makes another meal.