Sister Sue’s meatballs: a family tradition shared with the masses

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RUFF CREEK – “A pinch of this and a dash of that, with a handful of a few of these,” is how many cooks would write down a recipe. Sister Sue Fazzini would be one of them, under normal circumstances. But this Saturday at 11 a.m., Fazzini is sharing a traditional family recipe live on WQED Cooks with Chris Fennimore, so being exact for the audience is a must.


“I am excited and nervous,” Fazzini said. “I did make one practice batch last week. I figured I better follow the recipe exactly as I sent it in.”


Fazzini saw the opportunity to submit her grandmother’s meatball recipe for the “Grandma’s Kitchen Wisdom Cookbook” as a way to pay tribute.


“She worked hard all of her life,” Fazzini said of her grandmother, the late Emidiola Damiani Fazzini, who Sue referred to as “Nona.” “She always fed everyone and they (her grandparents) were always willing to share everything they had with others.”


Fazzini said she has always felt her grandmother’s meatball recipe was special to her family, as she has never seen another like it. She never learned if the recipe originated with her grandmother or from another connected source. No matter how it came to exist in her family’s repertoire, Fazzini is always willing to share a batch, like her grandmother, who came here from Italy and lived in Donora with her nine brothers and sisters.


She will proudly wear an apron, monogrammed with the family name, Fazzini, on it for her debut on the cooking show. It won’t however be the first time she has been on camera. Fazzini seems to have a lucky knack for “being in the right place at the right time,” as she put it. That knack has landed her and Sister Audrey Quinn, her partner in the Greene County Ministry of the Benedictine Sisters of Pittsburgh, on television multiple times and even on the jumbotron as honored guests at a few sporting events.


After all of the opportunities that have come her way, this one, to be on television with her grandmother’s recipe, seemed to delight Fazzini the most.


“Of all of the crazy things that I have done… heck no,” she said, responding to if she thought she would be selected.


So what is in those meatballs that make them so special?


“If you don’t like green olives, then you are not going to like it,” she said. Fazzini uses stuffed olives for her meatballs. Her grandmother used the pitted variety.


“I take the pimento out of the olive, cut it and wrap around the outside of it. Nona would use a knife to peel it off of the stone (pit) in one big, long, spiral, like you would peel an apple. She spent hours doing that. Cooking was her pride and joy.”


In a promo for the “Grandma’s Kitchen Wisdom Cookbook” and show, Fennimore talks about the home-grown expertise of one’s grandmother’s recipes and the love of family that existed when cooking with them.


In that vein, WQED has encouraged those who were selected to demonstrate their grandmother’s recipes on air to bring along family for support. They may not have a large enough studio for the Fazzinis, as Sister Sue is one of 10 children.


“Sister Audrey is coming and some of my nieces and nephews. I’m not sure about my sisters but they are a possibility,” she said. “I love that I will be able to do this as a homage to her.”


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