Four generations share a traditional rustic menu at their annual celebration

Recipes in this story 
John’s Quick Antipasto
Bagna Cauda
Tavella Family’s Sausage
Carla’s Lentil Soup
Oatmeal-Pine Nut Cookies

The Tavella family had always made its own sausage. But when Ernest Tavella married Mary Formento, whose family came from a small town near Turin, Italy, he preferred her mother Lucy’s sausage recipe to his own, or so goes family lore.

Four generations later, multiple branches of the Tavella family gather at Ernest Tavella’s home in Stockton, California, every year on the day after Thanksgiving to eat, drink, and make 100 pounds of pork sausage from Nonna Lucy’s recipe.

Early in the morning, the men of the family take turns mixing ground pork shoulder from a local butcher shop with spices and the family’s homemade wine as the kids who are too young to help look on. “Making the sausage is definitely a rite of passage,” says Christina Tavella Hall, a San Francisco attorney and Ernest Tavella’s granddaughter. “Taking your place in the process is a part of growing up.”

When the morning’s work is done, the family sits down to a hearty lunch that starts with antipasto and bubbling bagna cauda.

The centerpiece of the meal is the grilled sausage, served with lentil soup and crusty Italian bread. The adults linger over coffee while the kids play, then the sausage is divided among the family members to take home and freeze for lasagna, pastas, and soups in the coming year.

The Tavella family’s tradition adapts perfectly to smaller gatherings. Our version of their menu will generously serve 8 to 10 people, with plenty of leftover sausage to enjoy after the party.