This stylish grandmother who learned to cook at her mother’s side is now passing along her culinary knowledge to a new generation.
With decades of experience as a hair stylist and salon owner, Sara Sosa is an expert at making people look and feel beautiful. So it’s no surprise that she brings that same artistry into her kitchen, where she loves to turn simple ingredients into appealing, home-cooked goodness for her family.
“The food stands on its own,” she maintains. “Less is more.”
Her favorite dish to cook? Pasta. In fact, she has a cupboard filled with glass jars that hold a true connoisseur’s collection: shell-shaped conchiglie; rounded orecchiette; small, hollow ditalini; curly rotini; bowtie-shaped farfalle; long strands of bucatini…The humble pantry staple hearkens to her Italian heritage and was a budget-friendly meal starter when her two adult children were small. Nowadays she effortlessly transforms it into showstopper dishes.
With the lilting piano melodies and jazzy riffs of her favorite French “cooking music” providing inspiration, Sosa crafts one of her go-to meals—Linguine with Clams, a hearty entrée that comes together quickly enough for a weeknight dinner but presents elegantly enough to serve at a bona fide formal-dining-room dinner party. She and husband Rolando enjoy it paired with a chilled New Zealand sauvignon blanc.
“I like this because it’s easy,” she says. “And Rolando loves it. It’s a very easy dish so I think anyone—who’s not even a good cook—can master it.”
Sosa’s love of seafood undoubtedly came from her mother, who hailed from Naples, on the coast of Italy. She has fond memories of growing up in Manhattan and shopping the fish markets where her mother would buy fresh seafood, live eels and snails, and then helping in the kitchen, serving as her mom’s sous chef.
“There were some wonderful fisheries there. The seafood was so fresh,” she recalls, adding, “My mother was a master of fish.”
Her children and grandchildren don’t necessarily share her love for anything from the sea, but they do enjoy her pasta which means that even holiday dinners always feature one pasta dish.
Sosa’s 35-year-old son Roland and 33-year-old daughter Rita especially like her pasta with broccoli, she says. When they were growing up, she made sure they knew how to cook, for one simple reason.
“The whole idea of knowing how to cook for yourself is so that you never go hungry,” she asserts.
Now, in her role as grandma, Sosa is enjoying teaching another generation to cook. She cares for her two granddaughters, 9-year-old Sabrina and 7-year-old Savanna, four days a week.
“The oldest one loves to cook,” Sosa shares. “I got her a children’s cookbook and we do little recipes every day. The other day she made me lunch and it was delicious. She does it all by herself. She has such a wonderful curiosity about cooking. Her sister is not quite there yet. She’s the taster. Their favorite dish is pasta with peas and carrots.”
When Sosa prepares pasta, it’s firmly al dente, the way she likes it, something she and Rolando still like to laugh about after nearly four decades together.
“My husband likes it a little bit more soft, but I do not,” she explains with a laugh. He agrees, smiling, and describes her linguine as “really tasty and delightful.”
So how does she advise the grandkids to prepare their pasta? However they like it.
“There’s no right or wrong,” she maintains. “As long as you like what you eat, it’s right!”
Linguine with Clams (serves 4)
24 fresh clams
16 oz. Italian linguine
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup water
Extra virgin olive oil
Dry white wine, such as sauvignon blanc or chardonnay
Fresh parsley, chopped
Cover clams with salt water and soak overnight in the refrigerator. › Just before cooking, scrub clams under running water. › Cover bottom of large skillet with olive oil and heat. › Cook garlic on medium heat just until it starts to soften, being careful not to burn. › Add clams. › Pour in water and a splash of wine. › Cover and cook for around 15-20 minutes or until all clams open. › Remove clams with tongs and set aside, leaving liquid in pan (this is the sauce.) › While clams are steaming, cook linguine in salted water for 15 minutes or until al dente. › Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup of pasta cooking water. › Pour pasta into skillet with sauce and stir, adding reserved pasta water if needed to moisten. › Serve pasta with clams on top and garnish with parsley.