I like to say I’m an adopted Italian. My mom married my step-dad when I was 8 and I was immediately thrust into the world of Sunday night dinners at Nonno & Nonna’s house, wine with all meals and charcuterie boards as a way of life.
Sunday night dinners are some of my favourite childhood memories. And not just because my Nonno would mix a little wine into our glass of 7-Up when my mom wasn’t looking. Italian’s start wine drinking young.
We’d arrive for dinner and the entire house was filled with my most favourite aroma — Nonna’s cooking. She would make everything from scratch — including her 25 layer lasagna. The handmade noodles were paper thin and melted in your mouth.
While she didn’t write the lasagna recipe down, she did teach me how to make it once when I was around 12 years old. Today I’m sharing just the sauce recipe (I’ll leave the lasagna for another blog).
Every time I make her sauce, I’m relying on my childhood memory so it may have gotten muddled around over the years. But while my Nonno was alive he’d comment it’s “very close” to hers with a wink.
I’ve adapted her original recipe very slightly (don’t look at me like that, Nonna) by swapping the white sugar for honey. The thing that really makes it taste like hers is the cinnamon stick. It’s very subtle but makes all the difference.
As a final ode to my Nonna, I also make sure to use her sauce pots and wooden spoons I inherited after she passed.
Before we get to my Nonna’s tomato sauce recipe, let’s dive into the skin-loving nutrients within this fruit.
Tomatoes are filled with a number of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin K, manganese and potassium. When it comes to the skin, though, here are the nutrients that stand out the most.
A medium, red, raw tomato has about 1,025 international units of vitamin A. That’s 20 percent of the daily value for this nutrient. The vitamin A in tomatoes is fantastic for reducing acne and scars because it promotes cell turnover, decreases oil production and then clears the pores. Thanks to its anti-aging properties, vitamin A also brightens the skin, reduces signs of aging and protects your skin from the sun’s damaging UV rays.
Along with vitamin A, tomatoes also contain about 15.6 milligrams of vitamin C. That’s about 26 percent of the daily value for this vitamin. The vitamin C in tomatoes is needed for the production of collagen. This protein stimulates cell turnover, keeps the skin firm and strengthens the skin’s structural matrix.
The part of the tomato that is the most abundant in vitamin C is the gel-like substance around the tomato seeds. So make sure you don’t waste this important juice when cutting tomatoes.
Other nutrients found in tomatoes that can support healthy skin are lycopene and lutein. Just like vitamins A and C, lycopene and lutein help protect your skin from damaging UV rays and improve skin texture.
As you can see, tomatoes have a load of nutrients. The one thing those nutrients have in common is that they are all antioxidants that reduce inflammation and oxidative stress. They do so by decreasing the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines and stabilizing free radicals.
This is vital for acne sufferers because inflammation and oxidative stress are at the core of acne. That’s why I recommend anti-inflammatory foods like tomatoes to my clients in my acne program, The Clear Skin Solution.
*While tomatoes are can be anti-inflammatory for most, it’s important to remember that they’re a part of the nightshade vegetable family, which includes eggplant, peppers and potatoes too. So those with an arthritic-type of pain may do best without tomatoes and other nightshades.
To make this into a full Sunday dinner, use your favourite pasta as a base (I love chickpea, organic brown rice or spiralized zucchini noodles). It pairs great with my Creamy Hemp Heart Caesar Dressing over leafy greens. If you’d like to amp up your veggie intake, adding in my Rosemary Honey Carrot Ribbons would be a great addition.