Neal McTighe quit his very stable job at Duke University Press in January to follow his sauce-making dream.
Now Nello's Sauce is available at Whole Foods and other retail stores across North Carolina and throughout the Southeast. (Nello is Neal in Italian.)
Despite McTighe's Irish surname, his great grandmother is from Italy. He was so intrigued by that family history that he ended up getting a doctorate in Italian.
Two years ago, McTighe, who lives in Raleigh, started playing with making an all-purpose tomato sauce for pizza, pasta and dipping. It was the result of an "a-ha" moment he had one morning; he knew he had to find a career that was going to drive him.
His sauce is made with whole plum tomatoes, good olive oil and a balance of seasonings (pepper, basil and garlic). He describes it as having a brighter tomato taste as opposed to most commercial sauces that taste like tomato paste, which he does not use. He also doesn't use sugar or a lot of salt in his sauce.
McTighe makes each jar by hand at the kitchen incubator in Hillsborough. Each jar has a handwritten date of production on the label.
Much of McTighe's inspiration to create this sauce comes from his great grandmother, Angelina Freda, who came to the United States as a teenager from near Naples. "My memories of her were hanging on her legs in the kitchen and eating her tomato sauce," he says. His desire to know more about her led him to learn Italian and sent him down this path. "She's very much a part of it," he says.
A 12-ounce jar costs between $4.49-$4.99 and a 24-ounce jar costs $7.49-$7.99. To find a store near you, go HERE.
Photo credit: Staff Photographer Juli Leonard