There is nothing better than fresh-from-the-garden veggies and fruits. Tomatoes are my favorite. This year, when I planted, I didn’t realize that I’d bought a few heirloom varieties. When my still-green tomatoes started showing an inky black circle around their tops, I got nervous, thinking they had some sort of blight. Turns out they are indigo sun tomatoes, and they are deliciously sweet. I’ve been using them in salads, and I dread the day I have to go back to store bought.

Last night, I made a sauce that my dear friend and cousin Lil taught me how to make on a trip to visit her at her shore house. My daughter walked into the kitchen while it was cooking and immediately exclaimed –“you’re making Lil’s sauce!” She dipped the wooden spoon into the tomatoes again and again until I had to tell her to leave some for the pasta. This particular daughter is much like me in that foods evoke memories for her, and the sauce reminded her of a lady she so loved. This tiny woman with a supersize spirit would step into her 10×10 beach cottage kitchen and make magic with five ingredients or less. And while she cooked, she’d tell stories about her life in Italy or her grandchildren. She’d talk of superstitions and saints while garlic would sizzle and pop and fill the small space with mouthwatering aromas. The impression such openness of spirit left on me and on my daughter will always live on in the recipes Lil shared.

Whether I’m making a small batch for dinner or a few bushels to jar, Lil’s tomato sauce, to me, is a Sonatina of summer. The simplicity of the sauce never ceases to amaze me. Simple and perfect, just like Lil was.

 Life's Tomato Sauce (Plus a Homemade Sauce Recipe!)

Lil’s Tomatoes


  • 8C (approximately) roughly chopped fresh summer tomatoes  (romas, preferably)
  • 3T Olive Oil
  • 1t Salt
  • A handful of torn fresh Basil


Place all ingredients in a sauce pot or Dutch oven and bring to a boil. Let the tomatoes boil for a few minutes, stirring once in a while so they don’t stick or burn.

Turn down to simmer and let the tomatoes cook for about an hour until they reduce by half. While they’re simmering mash them with a wooden spoon so the sauce is a chunky, pasty consistency.

NOTE – Lil didn’t measure. I don’t measure. These measurements are approximate, and, unless you drown them in oil, you can’t really mess up the tomatoes. Taste them along the way, and see if they need more salt or basil, to your liking.

You can use the sauce on any pasta, but last night I made a ravioli stack. Using store bought raviolis, I layered sauce, ravioli, fresh mozzarella cheese and basil. It was delicious.

Ravioli Stack


  • Large square Cheese Ravioli –  fresh or frozen
  • Lil’s tomato sauce (or any marinara sauce)
  • Fresh Mozzarella cheese
  • Fresh basil


While heating the sauce, cook ravioli as directed on package then drain. Ladle a layer of  sauce onto a serving dish, then arrange a layer of ravioli. Place a slice of mozzarella on each ravioli and a piece of fresh basil on top.

Add another layer of sauce, another layer of ravioli, another layer of cheese, and basil. Top with one more ravioli and more sauce on the top. Sprinkle with Romano cheese.

We ate outside on the deck last night, and while we devoured the fresh sauce and pasta, the kids talked about our trips to the shore to visit Lil. They remembered playing cards and making meatballs with her. I remembered that she loved mango water ice and artichokes. In the middle of dinner, my little one said—“I miss Lil.”

I miss her too, but I take comfort in the memories she left. Her spirit lingers, dancing along the wafts of tomato and basil that fill my kitchen. Her laughter echoes subtly behind the clang of pots and pans. And, when I take a bite of fresh tomato sauce, a burst of brightness fills me. I close my eyes

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Check out our new Keepsake Companion Journal that pairs with our So God Made a Mother book!

Order Now
So God Made a Mother's Story Keepsake Journal

Dana Faletti

Dana Faletti is the author of The Whisper Trilogy, a young adult paranormal romance and Beautiful Secret, a sweeping drama of family secrets and forbidden love that is set to be released by Pandamoon Publishing in Summer of 2016. Dana blogs about whatever inspires her at, writes poetry as a survival skill and loves to connect with other writers both online and in person. When she’s not writing, Dana can be found reading on her kindle, cooking something delicious, or daydreaming about her upcoming travel destinations. She lives in in a suburb of Pittsburgh with her husband, three young daughters, and a snarky Shichon called Dolce.

I Thought Our Friendship Would Be Unbreakable

In: Friendship, Journal, Relationships
Two friends selfie

The message notification pinged on my phone. A woman, once one of my best friends, was reaching out to me via Facebook. Her message simply read, “Wanted to catch up and see how life was treating you!”  I had very conflicting feelings. It seemed with that one single message, a flood of memories surfaced. Some held some great moments and laughter. Other memories held disappointment and hurt of a friendship that simply had run its course. Out of morbid curiosity, I clicked on her profile page to see how the years had been treating her. She was divorced and still...

Keep Reading

The First 10 Years: How Two Broken People Kept Their Marriage from Breaking

In: Journal, Marriage, Relationships
The First Ten Years: How Two Broken People Kept Their Marriage from Breaking

We met online in October of 2005, by way of a spam email ad I was THIS CLOSE to marking as trash. Meet Single Christians! My cheese alert siren sounded loudly, but for some reason, I unchecked the delete box and clicked through to the site. We met face-to-face that Thanksgiving. As I awaited your arrival in my mother’s kitchen, my dad whispered to my little brother, “Hide your valuables. Stacy has some guy she met online coming for Thanksgiving dinner.” We embraced for the first time in my parents’ driveway. I was wearing my black cashmere sweater with the...

Keep Reading

To The Mother Who Is Overwhelmed

In: Inspiration, Motherhood
Tired woman with coffee sitting at table

I have this one head. It is a normal sized head. It didn’t get bigger because I had children. Just like I didn’t grow an extra arm with the birth of each child. I mean, while that would be nice, it’s just not the case. We keep our one self. And the children we add on each add on to our weight in this life. And the head didn’t grow more heads because we become a wife to someone. Or a boss to someone. We carry the weight of motherhood. The decisions we must make each day—fight the shorts battle...

Keep Reading

You’re a Little Less Baby Today Than Yesterday

In: Journal, Motherhood
Toddler sleeping in mother's arms

Tiny sparkles are nestled in the wispy hair falling across her brow, shaken free of the princess costume she pulled over her head this morning. She’s swathed in pink: a satiny pink dress-up bodice, a fluffy, pink, slightly-less-glittery-than-it-was-two-hours-ago tulle skirt, a worn, soft pink baby blanket. She’s slowed long enough to crawl into my lap, blinking heavy eyelids. She’s a little less baby today than she was only yesterday.  Soon, she’ll be too big, too busy for my arms.  But today, I’m rocking a princess. The early years will be filled with exploration and adventure. She’ll climb atop counters and...

Keep Reading

Dear Husband, I Loved You First

In: Marriage, Motherhood, Relationships
Man and woman kissing in love

Dear husband, I loved you first. But often, you get the last of me. I remember you picking me up for our first date. I spent a whole hour getting ready for you. Making sure every hair was in place and my make-up was perfect. When you see me now at the end of the day, the make-up that is left on my face is smeared. My hair is more than likely in a ponytail or some rat’s nest on the top of my head. And my outfit, 100% has someone’s bodily fluids smeared somewhere. But there were days when...

Keep Reading

Stop Being a Butthole Wife

In: Grief, Journal, Marriage, Relationships
Man and woman sit on the end of a dock with arms around each other

Stop being a butthole wife. No, I’m serious. End it.  Let’s start with the laundry angst. I get it, the guy can’t find the hamper. It’s maddening. It’s insanity. Why, why, must he leave piles of clothes scattered, the same way that the toddler does, right? I mean, grow up and help out around here, man. There is no laundry fairy. What if that pile of laundry is a gift in disguise from a God you can’t (yet) see? Don’t roll your eyes, hear me out on this one. I was a butthole wife. Until my husband died. The day...

Keep Reading

I Can’t Be Everyone’s Chick-fil-A Sauce

In: Friendship, Journal, Living, Relationships
woman smiling in the sun

A couple of friends and I went and grabbed lunch at Chick-fil-A a couple of weeks ago. It was delightful. We spent roughly $20 apiece, and our kids ran in and out of the play area barefoot and stinky and begged us for ice cream, to which we responded, “Not until you finish your nuggets,” to which they responded with a whine, and then ran off again like a bolt of crazy energy. One friend had to climb into the play tubes a few times to save her 22-month-old, but it was still worth every penny. Every. Single. One. Even...

Keep Reading

Love Notes From My Mother in Heaven

In: Faith, Grief, Journal, Living
Woman smelling bunch of flowers

Twelve years have passed since my mother exclaimed, “I’ve died and gone to Heaven!” as she leaned back in her big donut-shaped tube and splashed her toes, enjoying the serenity of the river.  Twelve years since I stood on the shore of that same river, 45 minutes later, watching to see if the hopeful EMT would be able to revive my mother as she floated toward his outstretched hands. Twelve years ago, I stood alone in my bedroom, weak and trembling, as I opened my mother’s Bible and all the little keepsakes she’d stowed inside tumbled to the floor.  It...

Keep Reading

Sometimes Friendships End, No Matter How Hard You Try

In: Friendship, Journal, Relationships
Sad woman alone without a friend

I tried. We say these words for two reasons. One: for our own justification that we made an effort to complete a task; and two: to admit that we fell short of that task. I wrote those words in an e-mail tonight to a friend I had for nearly 25 years after not speaking to her for eight months. It was the third e-mail I’ve sent over the past few weeks to try to reconcile with a woman who was more of a sister to me at some points than my own biological sister was. It’s sad when we drift...

Keep Reading

Goodbye to the House That Built Me

In: Grown Children, Journal, Living, Relationships
Ranch style home as seen from the curb

In the winter of 1985, while I was halfway done growing in my mom’s belly, my parents moved into a little brown 3 bedroom/1.5 bath that was halfway between the school and the prison in which my dad worked as a corrections officer. I would be the first baby they brought home to their new house, joining my older sister. I’d take my first steps across the brown shag carpet that the previous owner had installed. The back bedroom was mine, and mom plastered Smurf-themed wallpaper on the accent wall to try to get me to sleep in there every...

Keep Reading