Gilda, her husband Luigi and two-year-old Carmelina came to Canada in 1964, joining his brother who was already in Saskatoon. Before leaving their village, Fresagrandinaria, Gilda dehydrated her homemade pasta sauce and packed it along so they would not be without in their new home.
She recalls the train ride across Canada, eating the spaghetti and white bread they were served onboard. "It was so bad. I cried, Oh my God!" she laughs.
After fifty years in Saskatoon, she still makes her own pizza and spaghetti sauce, putting up 100 jars of home-grown tomatoes every fall. Those tomatoes are a special ingredients in her turkey soup.
She begins with a whole turkey, turning it into several meals. However, the hand-written recipe (as passed on to her daughter Carm Michalenko) substitutes turkey wings for the whole bird. I've taken the liberty of adding ingredient amounts to the basic recipe, so feel free to take the "bones" and make this delicious peasant soup your own.
Gilda's Turkey Soup
2 lbs turkey wings
2-3 celery stalks
2 cups canned tomatoes
1 tsp salt
1 onion, quartered
2 lbs ground turkey or beef
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups finely grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp minced dried basil
1 tbsp minced fresh parsley
1 tsp salt and plenty of pepper
Orzo-shaped pasta, cooked
Leftover wing meat
For the broth, put turkey wings in a pot, cover generously with water and boil, skimming off the foam that rises to the surface. Peel vegetables, cut in half and add to the pot with tomatoes and salt. Cook until the meat falls from the bone. Strain and reserve broth. Separate bones and meat.
At this point, you can make a meal of the meat and vegetables removed from the broth.
Put the bones in fresh water with the onion and boil again until the broth is golden. Strain and mix the two broths together.
To make meatballs, combine ground meat, egg, parmesan cheese and herbs, seasoning salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly, until the meat is smooth and silky. Roll into meatballs about the size of a marble. Drop into boiling water and scoop out when cooked, about two minutes.
Reheat the turkey broth, tasting and adding more salt if needed. Add meatballs, cooked pasta and any leftover wing meat. Buon appetito!
(This article first appeared in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.)