An Italian lady’s legacy lives on in Mama Rosa’s Pasta
A little business with a big Italian heart…and a storyline worthy of a Hollywood classic.
That’s Mama Rosa’s Pasta – the wholesome home-made tagliatelle sold every first Saturday of the month at the Pure Boland Market in Brandwacht.
Owner Maria Cardoso and her right-hand lady, Rosie Tembisa, spend each month mixing up ingredients, stretching dough, shredding it to ribbons of equal size and drying them out until just right for for home-cooking. All according to a genuine generations-old Italian recipe – Mama Rosa’s.
Rosa Vescio Pileggi, Maria’s mother, arrived in South Africa in 1953. She was alone and illiterate and on her way to getting married to an Italian prisoner of war. Giovanni Pileggi had been brought to South Africa as one of thousands of Italians captured in North Africa during World War II. He sent for Rosa after she and Giovanni’s brother – Rosa’s fiancé – had drifted apart during his service in the army.
And so Giovanni, who did hard labour felling trees in Wolseley before owning a little store and later becoming a builder in Worcester, started his life in the Cape Winelands with his young Italian wife.
“My mom was from Calabria, the centre of the pasta Mafiosi,” says Maria. She came to South Africa armed with generations-old recipes for the dishes associated with the jovial Italian lifestyle. “She taught us all how to make fresh pasta, which she used for her lasagne, ravioli and cannelloni for our family get-togethers. We bottled our own tomatoes and made our special bolognaise sauce in bulk for a quick, delicious go-to meal.
“So since my days as a child, I helped my mom mixing the dough, rolling the dough and creating and perfecting fine home-made pasta.”
First came the market, then the business
When the Pure Boland Market – the Groenstoor as it is locally known – was first started in 2009, something urged Maria to try and sell her pasta. To this day she doesn’t know why she decided to do it, but it was the start of “her little business”, as she calls it. She hasn’t looked back. “People are interested in home-made pasta. I’ve also added the ready-made lasagne and the bolognaise sauce. We have definitely grown a lot since 2009!”
Mama Rosa’s Pasta is made with simple ingredients: flour, egg, oil and salt (and locally sourced fresh spinach for the spinach tagliatelle). But one helping is enough to convince anyone to walk past the supermarket shelves and go back to the Market for more Mama Rosa’s.
As if superior flavour and consistency (we tried it and it’s true) are not enough, the pasta also comes with superior convenience. The tagliatelle takes about four minutes to cook (until the ribbons rise to the brim) but will not easily overcook.
It’s no wonder Mama Rosa’s is so popular that Maria sells up to 2 000 packets – at various markets these days – in a season.
“For us, making pasta is a way of life. Enjoying pasta is part of our lifestyle,” says Maria. “My mom was the inspiration of this little business and with this her legendary name will live on. We believe Mama Rosa’s Pasta can be part of everybody’s healthy, happy life.”
Rosie Tembisa and Maria Cardoso, the ladies producing Mama Rosa’s Pasta.
Photos & Text by Elana van der Watt Breede River Buzz