Lazzarone family wins Italian Festival sauce contest — again


Yes, they did it again.

The Lazzarone family, a longtime Reno clan, bested about 40 other cookers from around the West to win the pasta sauce contest at the 37th annual Eldorado Great Italian Festival, Sept. 6-7 in downtown Reno.

This year marks the third win for the Lazzarones in the last five years. The family emerged as the top cooker in the 2014 and 2017 competitions and also placed third in 2015.

@RGJTaste, food writer Janelle LaSalle and Ivano Centemeri, executive chef of the Eldorado Resort Casino, rated the sauces on appearance, aroma, flavor and consistency. Judging was blind.

The judges praised the Lazzarone meat sauce for its inviting aroma, balanced flavor (including deft use of herbs), and its ability to coat pasta properly.

The Domenichelli family from the Bay Area and the DiQuarto family of Reno placed second and third, respectively.

Old recipe

The Lazzarones have participted in the sauce contest since the debut of the Italian Festival. Their 2014 victory, the first in 33 years of trying, came just a few months after the death of matriarch Dorothy Lazzarone, whose sauce the family competes with.

The recipe is based on a sauce that’s been in the Lazzarone clan for more than a century. (The family originally hails from Asti, in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy.)

The sauce features, among other ingredients, fresh tomatoes at home (but more pratical canned tomatoes for the festival), ground Italian sausage, onions and celery, and herbs from the family garden.

There’s also a secret ingredient Dorothy Lazzarone used to black out on the recipe card. 

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Johnathan L. Wright is the food and drink editor of RGJ Media, part of the USA Today Network. Join @RGJTaste on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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