Jim Blumetti’s Pasta Sauce

enterprisesphoto by Scott Light

{xtypo_dropcap}L{/xtypo_dropcap}ocal movie producer, writer, and actor Jim Blumetti just happens to whip up some of the best pasta sauce you can find outside of Nonna’s kitchen. Jim and I met up for coffee not too long ago, and as we settled in for a talk, his stories quickly carried us from suburban coffee shop to his expat Italian family’s homestead in the 1930s. There, vegetables grown in the farm’s rich Ohio soil traveled quickly to his grandfather’s grocery store and grandmother’s table, where the tomato sauce served as a mainstay of the family cuisine. “We didn’t have anything in those days but we had no idea; we felt rich because we had food on the table,” said Blumetti.

Jim Blumetti is a study in seeming contrasts: former buttoned-down corporate marketing maven, actor/director/producer/writer in the film industry and, of course, creator of his Classic Italian Gold Pasta Sauces that evoke his grandmother’s magical medley of flavors. So what’s the tie that binds? Vision and invention: “There’s a creative process in making both films and sauce,” he reports. Blumetti has his hand in every step of both processes, from soup to nuts (or from antipasti to limoncello, in the Italian vernacular). Businessman, chef, marketer and alchemist, he takes films and sauce alike from twinkle-in- the-eye concept to execution in space and time, relishing each phase of the process.

Blumetti’s Italian roots go deep. Jim lived with his first-generation Italian grandparents until he was eight years old, and the lessons he learned from his grandmother’s spoon made a lasting impression. Her secret ingredient? Love. Fast forward to the present: After a dinner party at the family home in Dallas in the 1990s, Blumetti’s four-year old son ruefully observed his father jarring up the last of the leftover sauce to give away as gifts for departing guests. The boy asked his dad what it was that made the sauce so special. Blumetti paused, connecting his son’s question with his own a lifetime ago and replied “I put the love into it.” After speaking his grandmother’s words, he felt anew the family blood humming through his veins, moving on to a new generation. Then and there, Blumetti decided to create a business with the family recipes, to teach his young children the family heritage and give them a connection to their roots.


Even those of us without Italian roots most likely have a Nonna’s (or Grandma’s) spaghetti sauce recipe lurking in our (read old, handwritten, spattered, non-electronic) recipe file. Simply reading those old recipe cards can summon a scene of a sputtering pot languishing on the stove for hours, filling the kitchen with aromas of comfort and joy. After all, there is a reason why those recipe cards are pining away in dusty boxes in the back of the pantry. The perfectionists among us won’t even start a sauce if we can’t source fresh ingredients and dedicate a morning or afternoon to the task. We alternate between expensive restaurant meals that rarely satisfy and desperate last-minute freezer fare for which we have no expectations.

“So how do you convince people to buy your pasta sauce for $8 per jar or so?” I asked Blumetti, who responds that you have to offer real value, a discernable difference. How, then, does he coax that love into his sauce? What’s the secret of his secret? More love? Sort of. He starts with what he says are the finest ingredients, keeping close watch over his suppliers to ensure that the quality and flavor profile remain constant. He won’t share his secrets, but the label on the jar says he uses vine-ripened plum (Roma-style) tomatoes; they’re favored for sauces due to their high tomato meat-to-liquid ratio. Also featured is first cold press extra virgin olive oil, more flavorful and nutritious than olive oil extracted using either a heat or chemical process.

Blumetti’s process for making the sauces also adds to the upgrade in taste. He makes his sauce here in Dallas in micro batches, using kettles that are much smaller in size than those used in commercial production. This creates fuller, more consistent flavor, but results in a less streamlined production process. He cooks the sauces for significantly longer than conventional methods to allow the flavors to develop and meld. (How much longer? He’d have to kill us.) However, the longer cooking time produces less volume of finished sauce due to evaporation. The combination of these two factors causes the price of the sauces to soar. Add to that the top dollar paid for the ingredients and you begin to understand why the sauce sells for a premium: $7.99-$8.99 for a 24-ounce jar at Central Market or Whole Foods in the DFW area.

Once you taste it, however, Blumetti says you’re hooked. I bit and took a jar of his Zesty Marinara home to try. Marinara comes from the Italian word marinaio, or sailor; this kind of sauce was traditionally served on nights when the sailors returned with no catch.

The deeply rich flavor and satisfying mouthfeel of this kind of sauce made up for the lack of protein on the table. Blumetti’s marinara serves as the base for all of his other sauces.

One glance at the jar told me I was holding something special: bright red tomatoes studded with herbs and suspended in sparkling olive oil. The taste did not disappoint; however, I’m a stickler for texture as well as flavor. As the unctuous tomato particles slid across my tongue, punctuated with basil, herbaceous notes and a spicy finish, I thought, “Oh yeah.” Is it my own Nonna’s sauce? Nope, not enough carrots and sugar. Did it make a weeknight pickme- up dinner special? Absolutely. Don’t scrimp on the pasta; it adds even more texture and flavor to Blumetti’s mix. Load up on some Rustichella d’Abruzzo or other pasta either made by hand or extruded through bronze dies. So you spent $20 on a pasta dinner for four? Great! Sounds like you’ve got enough left over for a nice bottle of red. Try a Chianti-style wine, restrained in flavor and with a cleansing tannin finish.


In fact, the perfect way to enjoy a lovely evening of pasta with Blumetti’s is what we’ll call Movie Night. Blumetti’s daughter Gabrielle wrote and stars in The Key, a short feature directed by proud papa Jim that has already caught critics’ attention. As we go to press, her film has been selected for a screening at the Red Rock Film Festival this November. Buy the movie online, throw the disc in the DVD player, and settle on the couch with a bowl of pasta nestled on your lap. A kid-friendly fantasy, The Key explores a search for connection after loss, pretty heady stuff for an adolescent’s debut film.

You’ll wonder what Nonna Blumetti would think; perhaps she too would have had a penchant for the screen as well as the sauce.

enterprisesGrandmotherGrandmother Mary was the inspiration for Jim Blumetti’s pasta sauces.

enterprisesFrankMaryGrandparents Frank and Mary owned
Blumetti’s Grocery Store in Youngstown, Ohio.

enterprisesVinceBlancheJim and his parents, Vince and Blanche lived with his grandparents at
410 Garfield, the name he later gave to his film production company.

enterprisesBlumettiThe Blumetti family:
Jim, wife Pamela, daughter Gabrielle, sons Tristan and Vincent

enterprisesJimsMomFamilyJim’s mother’s family, the Bertellis

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NANCY KRABILL is a native Texan and freelance writer, equally and possibly schizophrenically passionate about local food roots and Italian culture. In her other life, she organizes media trips to Tuscany and Le Marche with a focus on food and wine. Contact [email protected]