Red sauce, gravy, tomato sauce, marinara. Growing up in a neighborhood with a huge Italian community, I knew that nothing could possibly be more sacred than family meal times and an Italian grandmother’s sauce recipe. Regardless of your upbringing, the versatility of a good marinara is never-ending. Be it on your pasta, on your meatball sub sandwich, or your brunch specialty (my personal preference is this egg shakshuka), it is inarguably an American pantry staple.
Unfortunately for Charlotte resident and entrepreneur, Melanie Cannizzaro-Tritten, her Italian-American family was lacking in the magic of a secret sauce. Her love for great food and home-cooked meals made her very aware of the differences between a mass-produced marinara and a real Italian sauce made with fresh ingredients.
For years, she made and canned her own while honing her recipe to be the perfect balance to satisfy her palate. After over a decade of working at Bonterra, Cannizzaro-Tritten decided to start the process of getting approved to sell commercially by the NCDA&CS (North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services) and Cannizzaro Famiglia was born.
Cannizzaro-Tritten, along with her native Charlottean husband who also worked at Bonterra for many years, Andy, cooked up her very first batch on September 3, 2014. The couple brought it to Atherton Mill and Market that following Saturday and sold out. Today, they make about 64 gallons of sauce a week in the Bonterra kitchen and sell to 27 stores throughout the Carolinas and Virginia.
Last holiday season, just three months into making their first batch, Provisions Food & Drink (the market group whose Waxhaw location recently partnered with Heritage Food & Drink for the sandwich market I reviewed in July) ordered 96 jars of Cannizzaro Famiglia sauce for their corporate gift baskets.
While their rapid growth and success can easily be attributed to their dedication to using the best and freshest ingredients, Cannizzaro-Tritten and her husband are also incredibly affable and optimistic.
When speaking to them about the long hours they put into creating this Charlotte-made sauce, Andy making sales calls throughout several states in person and Melanie still working at Bonterra as well as cooking and canning, it is hard not to want to root for this dedicated pair to continue to grow and succeed at a rapid pace. They are leading the charge by making a notably well-made product locally with the support of their Bonterra family and the markets and retail shops that carry the Cannizzaro Famiglia sauces (about $7 per pint, $13 per quart).
If you see the sauce in a store in Charlotte, try this recipe by the Cannizzaro-Trittens for your next dinner party:
2 Oz Goat Cheese
2 Oz Mascarpone (Cream Cheese is a good substitute)
8 Oz Cannizzaro Marinara or Cannizzaro Arrabbiata
1 Small Ciabatta Bread (A Baguette or Italian Loaf are great too!)
Spray a small, oven proof shallow dish. Whip together the 2 cheeses (room temperature is easier), form in to a ball and refrigerate for at least 10 minutes or up to several days covered. To prepare to serve – Pour Cannizzaro Marinara into dish. Place your ball of cheese mixture in to a ball and place in the center of the Marinara.
Bake at 400 for 10-15 minutes, or until sauce is bubbly.
While it bakes, cut your bread lengthwise and spray lightly with Olive Oil. Cut in to triangle shaped pieces (big enough to dip!) and lightly toast in oven. Place the toast points around the edge of your dip and serve – making sure you get that hot, melty cheese & lots of sauce on each bite!
Where Cannizzaro Sauces are carried in the greater Charlotte area (names of markets below are URL links):
- Queen City Pantry at Atherton Mills Farmers Market
- Pasta & Provisions in Myers Park
- The Common Market in Plaza-Midwood & SouthEnd
- Provisions in Waxhaw, Belmont & Rock Hill
- Savory Spice Shop in South End
- Earl’s Grocery in Elizabeth
- Healthy Home Market in Plaza-Midwood, Galleria & Davidson
- The Peach Stand in Fort Mill, SC
- Catch On Seafood in Plaza-Midwood
- Carolina Fish Market in Ballantyne & SouthPark
- Bruce Jillian at The Arboretum
- Rhino Market & Deli
- Greeneman Farms at The 7th Street Public Market
- Peachtree Market in Concord, NC
- Market on Wylie in Lake Wylie, SC
- Pour Olive on East Boulevard in South End
- Ferrucci’s Old Tyme Italian Market in Cornelius, NC
- NoDa Bodega in NoDa
- Craft Tasting Room & Growler Shop in South End