At Hingham’s Linden Ponds, Chef de Cuisine Natale Umbro’s spaghetti sauce has been popular with residents ever since he started making it for them four years ago. Now, the treat is available for purchase.
Umbro talks about the background behind the famous recipe, and how the sauce has gone from little ol’ Italy to large-scale popularity.
Boston Globe: So first of all, where did this recipe come from?
Natale Umbro: Calabria, in Italy, my grandmother.
BG: Did she bring it over with her and teach it to you?
NU: She brought it over with her and taught the whole family.
BG: So how long have you been making it?
NU: Oh God, ever since, about 30 years. I did it when I was in the Air Force. Making it for the firefighters in the Air Force.
I didn’t know how to cook. It’s true! One of the cooks got sick, and the sergeant said, “You’re in charge…you’re going to be the cook till he gets better.” I never even boiled water in my life.
I was in Montana. So I called my mother up every other night and she’d tell me how to make the spaghetti sauce, lasagna, pizza....that’s how I got my start…about 1968 I believe…
BG: When did you start cooking sauce for Linden Ponds?
NU: I started cooking this about four years ago [when I started working here]. I did my own recipe, and it caught on, and here we are. Residents just love it, and they kept asking if I could give it to them in a cup. So I thought, 'Why not sell it?' And the proceeds go back to Linden Ponds. It was a win/win deal for everybody.
BG: How many have you sold so far?
NU: Id say a good 100, 150 [jars].
BG: Plan on making more?
NU: Oh yeah, absolutely. I got two cases left. I need to start getting on the ball for Christmas. We’re thinking of doing a basket with doing some pasta in it, spaghetti sauce, some nice olive oil, a nice basket that we can sell it to the residents. They love that kind of thing.
BG: With such high popularity, any plans to sell sauce outside of Linden Ponds?
NU: No, not yet.
BG: Not yet?
NU: I don’t know how it’s going to go. This is a trial thing for me. Everyone is picking up on it, corporate is picking up on it, I sent a case to our corporate chef and they are looking at it now.
I don’t know where it’s going …
BG: What does this magical sauce taste like, anyway?
NU: Red sauces are normally heavy. This sauce here is a light sauce. It’s all natural. There’s only like five ingredients in it, and it’s the way we made it way back when, like when I grew up in Italy, and then we came to this country and still use the same sauce.
Does everyone in my family use the same? No they all have a variation…but my grandmother started this whole thing, with the sauce. So thank God for her.
BG: How have you produced so much? Are you outsourcing the production?
NU: We have a team here at Linden Ponds, the Oak Leaf Clubhouse, and I asked if anyone would be interested in helping us put out some sauce.
We can it like we normally do. It’s in an old-fashioned jar, and I have my restaurant manager has given me a ton of support and the director, [Tomas Omar Gonzales, Linden Ponds' Dining Services director], and the executive director, Ian [Lee Brown]. With their blessing, I went ahead and did it.
… We’re very proud of what we did. It was a team effort, and that’s why I love working here, everything is a team effort. It’s like family here…
BG: Is that why the sauce fits in so well? A family recipe for a family establishment?
NU: Absolutely! We have here independent living, and you treat everybody with respect and it’s like catering to your mother and father. You love the residents here.