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Family Food Traditions

Sing the praises of the recipes you love

Family Recipe Contest


Remember cooking in the kitchen with your mother or grandma? Now's the time to share that favorite recipe.

It takes Debra Matassino, 52, three days to make her nana’s homemade pasta sauce. She begins by throwing in fresh tomatoes, half a bottle of wine, and carrots for sweetness and more deliciousness. Then she simmers it to thick, rich perfection. “It’s kind of like my constant homage to my grandparents, that sauce,” she says.

Matassino, a writer and lifetime foodie in Atlanta, is collecting family recipes like her own — special concoctions that should be shared with others. She has kicked off an online project called the Alive & Cooking Recipe Contest, where until Nov. 14 recipes may be submitted to eventually be published in a cookbook. Submissions may be your own, if you’re 65 or older; from an older friend or relative; or in memory of a loved one. 

A group of chefs will vet the recipes and narrow down the list, Matassino says. Then they’ll test the most intriguing recipes and rate them for values such as flavor, visual appeal and creativity. By March 2018, Matassino will announce the top 25 choices, with each of those cooks offered an opportunity to prepare his or her dish with a chef at a nearby restaurant. Those cooks and their recipes also will be featured prominently in the cookbook, which will include more recipes from the submissions and some “in memoriam” dishes.  

“I don’t ever want people to forget what it’s like to cook that meal, and have that smell wafting through your house,” Matassino says. “The memories just flood.”

In an effort to keep family recipes accurate, the website entry form translates to standard measurements some frequently used but nonspecific family language — such as “a smidge” of this, “a dollop” of that, or, as Matassino's grandmother would say, “three ice cream scoops of flour.”

“We’re losing all these family recipes that have been built on through the years,” Matassino says, “and if we can put them in one place, the next generation can tweak them and make them their own. And it goes on and on and on.”

For official rules and details go to This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed, administered by or associated with AARP.

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