Joan Leotta


Sunday was for meat sauce dinners at Grandma’s house. A deep rich red sauce , cooked for hours on the back of the stove, filled with meatballs, spareribs, sausage, braciole. Sometimes we ate the leftovers of that abundance as Wednesday’s supper with a new, different cut of pasta. But I always liked it best when on Wednesdays, Grandma made a lighter sauce, a marinara, (meatless) and served it over rigatoni or spaghetti or perciatelli. Mom (and Dad if he was not working nights) and I were allowed to take turns choosing. I truly enjoyed Sunday pasta day with all my cousins, aunts, and uncles, but Wednesdays were extra special because on Wednesday it was just my little family and my widowed grandmother at the table. 

Mom and I drove over to Grandma’s as soon as Mom got home from her job. I’d count every traffic light between our house and Grandma’s. When we arrived, as I hurried out of the car, up the steps to the porch, I could smell the sauce, its aroma drifting out when Grandma stepped through the front door to greet us.

“I heard the car!” she would say, giving my mother a hug. In her enthusiasm, her joy at seeing us, she would crush me against her cotton apron, brush her lips against my cheek, and then usher me into her blue-tiled kitchen, where Stella Dallas’

tribulations blared from the radio. She reached up to the top of the cabinet and turned off the radio

“I don’t need Stella now that you’re here.” she commented.

My mother set the table and then went into the living room to rest, but Grandma kept me in the kitchen with her. She handed me a long aluminum spoon and then pushed a chair over to the stove. I stood on that chair to reach deep into the pot and stirred.

“What do you think?”

“Looks good, Grandma.”

“Does it feel like it should?”

“I think so.”

“Now we taste!”

She took the spoon from me and scooped some sauce into a bowl. We sat down at her gray Formica table with some bread to sop up the sauce.\

“Taste test is always best,” Grandma, ahead of her time as a germ hater, said. “But when you make it don’t let your Uncle, or anyone, just stick a piece of bread right into the pot—that’s not good.”

I nodded my agreement. Then, while my mother rested, Grandma listened to my day. She’d reach across the table to squeeze my hand if the day had been rough or laugh and clap if I had enjoyed some success. Before long, it would be time to gently wake my mother and then boil the chosen pasta. But for a very short while, while my mother napped and my father was still on his way, it was only Grandma and me in the blue-tiled kitchen, basking in the aroma of Wednesday marinara sauce and love. Wednesday pasta day was indeed the best.


Joan Leotta plays with words on page and stage. She performs tales featuring food, family, and strong women. Internationally published, she’s a 2021 and 2022 Pushcart nominee, a Best of the Net 2022 nominee, and a 2022 runner-up in the Robert Frost Competition. Her essays, poems, and fiction are in Ekphrastic Review, When Women Write, The Lake, Verse Visual, Verse Virtual, anti-heroin chic, Gargoyle, Silver Birch, The Wild, OVUNQUE SIAMO, MacQueen’s Quinterly, and Yellow Mama, among others. Her chapbooks are Languid Lusciousness with Lemon from Finishing Line Press and  Feathers on Stone is now out from Main Street Rag.