From Woodstock via Sicily and now in your home kitchen, Pirro’s trio of pasta sauces are perfect complements to family gatherings across McHenry County.
Pirro's: Sharing Scrumptious Family Secrets
It began in Sicily. A family secret. Passed down one generation at a time, learned at the elbow of an elder. The oath to keep the secret was so strong that it crossed the Atlantic, traveled halfway across America and took nearly three generations to share. That’s the key word: share.
Sauces in High Demand
Terry Pirro and his wife, Mary, share the results of his family’s secret at Pirro’s Restaurante in Woodstock where, for the past 14 years, he has been serving authentic Sicilian recipes that have been passed down to him from his mother and grandmother, but with a new and creative twist.
Dave Graham, general manager at Pirro’s Restaurante, said “customers wanted [Terry’s] sauces bottled for years.”
That’s just what happened. Pirro began bottling three of his most popular sauces: marinara, puttanesca and rustic vodka. [“They] don’t have artificial ingredients or preservatives,” Graham said. “They are very wholesome.”
The sauces are made in Union, Ill., with as many local ingredients as possible, but some products just aren’t grown in McHenry County, like olives, he explained.
The sauces are available at a select number of grocery stores and at the restaurant (see sidebar for details).
“A lot of people love the sauces,” said Angel Alvarado, store manager at Joseph’s Marketplace in Crystal Lake. “The marinara is the most popular.”
Graham offers a serving suggestion and wine pairing for each sauce.
“The marinara is not a bold sauce,” Graham said. “It can be served traditionally over noodles.” A more inventive recipe is to use it as a pizza sauce. Graham recommends melting goat cheese into the marinara, then spreading it over dough and topping it with crumbled goat cheese. “You heat it until the cheese is hot and melted,” he said. “It’s really nice.”
Because it is a light sauce, Graham likes to pair it with a wine that doesn’t have a strong flavor profile, such as a pinot noir or a merlot. “You don’t want the wine to dominate” the sauce, he said.
Graham said the puttanesca is the polar opposite of the marinara. It is a boldly flavored sauce, full of big pieces of vegetables. “It’s more of a topping than a sauce because it is so chunky,” he said. “To make things dance together, you need a meat with a big flavor, a well-marbled piece, like a rib eye. Heat the sauce and pour it over the steak.”
Graham said a heavier wine like a Chianti or a Cabernet is a perfect complement.
“Swordfish, salmon or other hearty seafood go well with the Rustic Vodka,” Graham offered. “It’s a little spicy, but not overpowering.”
He recommends pairing these dishes with a sauvignon blanc or a Riesling.
Sidebar: Where to Buy the Sauces
Pirro's Restaurante: 228 Main St. in Woodstock.
Joseph’s Marketplace: 29 Crystal Lake Plaza in Crystal Lake.
Joe Caputo & Sons Fruit Market: 100 S. Randall Rd. in Algonquin.
Wisted’s Super Market: 330 N. Eastwood Dr. in Woodstock.
Sunset Foods: 1451 Peterson Rd. in Libertyville.