The story behind Derbyshire's Teresa Lambarelli Pasta Sauce
PUBLISHED: 00:00 10 January 2020
In search of that authentic taste of Italy? You can't do better than a Teresa Lambarelli Pasta Sauce. Catherine Roth visits her in Chesterfield
If you're looking for a taste of Italy here in Derbyshire then open a jar of Teresa Lambarelli's award-winning pasta sauces with their traditional and contemporary flavours. Three times winner of the Chesterfield Food and Drink Awards, Teresa cooks authentic pasta sauces from the kitchen in her Italian Caffé and Pasta Bar in Chesterfield.
Teresa has always had a love of food and cooking. Her father ran Lambarellis, an Italian restaurant and takeaway in Chesterfield, and it was he who taught Teresa how to cook authentic Italian dishes.
Teresa says, 'Dad wanted me to take over the takeaway but I was going through a divorce at the time and wasn't in a position to do so.' She left the family business in 2004 and enrolled instead on a beauty course at college. Whilst she was there a lecturer - previously one of Teresa's customers who visited the takeaway - asked her if she would make a bolognese sauce for her. It was the beginning of Teresa Lambarelli's pasta sauces, later followed by a selection of oils, salad and balsamic dressings, olive pastes and Italian biscotti.
Despite having cooked countless sauces for people to take away, fulfilling this request required Teresa to take a completely different approach. Not only would she be working from her kitchen at home but she also had to consider the shelf life and packaging of what she produced. Teresa set herself a budget of £1,000, which included adapting her kitchen and turning a storeroom into one suitable for food storage to meet necessary food hygiene requirements. Six weeks later she was producing pasta sauces in small tubs.
Teresa says, 'That's how I started - I used to take them to college in cool bags and sell them there!' She then began attending food fairs and local farmers' markets before supplying retail outlets including the farmshop at Chatsworth, Dobbies and Derby Garden Centre, as well as restaurants and a local school. She says, 'I know some people who buy my sauces and then pretend they've cooked it themselves when they have friends come round!'
Before long Teresa's sauces began to outgrow the space she had at home so when her father's restaurant became available, she took that on in 2011. Teresa says, 'It was a good time for me as my kids had grown up a little bit.'
Whilst Teresa initially used the premises predominantly to manufacture her pasta sauces, she opened the café that same year as well as the restaurant four evenings a year for special Pasta and Prosecco evenings accompanied by live music. These events, which to Teresa are just as much about the atmosphere as the food, proved so popular that in 2017 she refurbished the dated interior and now opens every Saturday evening. Just like the sauces, Teresa cooks every dish herself.
Born in England, Teresa has always had a love of Italy. As a child she would spend the six weeks of the summer holiday in Accadia where her father was from. Teresa says, 'Accadia is a very picturesque, southern Italian village. It's very rural, very traditional with not many tourists.' She continues, 'I love Italy. In the morning, when you're walking down the street, you can smell pasta sauces cooking as you pass by everybody's homes! They would put the sauce on at 11 in the morning - or even earlier - and wouldn't eat until half past one.
'The sauces I make remind me of those happy childhood memories and I want to share them with my customers. I call my sauces "Italy in a jar!"'
The sauces are free from added sugar, additives, preservatives, artificial flavours and colours, and use the same basic ingredients that her Italian grandmother used. These include olive oil, Italian tomatoes, fresh basil and oregano and Teresa adapts the sauces according to whichever flavour she wants to create. She says, 'I don't watch cookery programmes. It just comes from within me somewhere!'
Every sauce can be used either as it is or as a base for other ingredients. Teresa says, 'With the Marinara sauce you can add mascarpone cheese to make a nice creamy base for prawns and seafood. The Olives and Caper sauce is delicious with chicken and the Roasted Red Pepper is fantastic blended with a little milk or water to make a lovely wholesome soup. The sauces are all special in their own way,' she smiles.
Just like in Italy, Teresa starts making her own pasta sauces early in the day and has four large pans simmering away in her restaurant kitchen, tastes of Italy escaping into the air. Teresa smiles, 'People could be a mile away and would say, "I can smell your cooking today!'"
Teresa cooks her sauces for two to three hours and thinks of Italy as she continues to stir. She explains, 'The sauces need to cook for a long time. This gives them their flavour and makes all the difference. It also helps to get rid of the acidic flavour.' Once the sauce is ready, Teresa ladles it into jars, which are left to cool before placing them in the store room ready for her to deliver to customers.
Always keen to introduce new products, Teresa will soon launch her new range of Stir Naked products, a powdered pasta sauce with added collagen that she is aiming at the health shop market. Teresa says, 'There is nothing else like this on the market and I just wanted to do something different. Just add olive oil and water and you have an instant delicious pasta sauce! Taste wise it is very similar to the sauces I produce in jars but it's so light and has a long shelf life.' Developing the product enabled her to work with Sheffield University which, thanks to a grant, helped design the packaging.
With business being so busy Teresa finds herself continually juggling her work with her home life. She says, 'As a single parent I wanted to be there for my children but I also had to make a living and wanted a successful business.' When Teresa isn't working she travels to Italy to visit her relatives, including Rome where one of her daughters now lives. One day she thinks she might perhaps move to Italy but, in the meantime, she dreams of the country as she stirs her sauces bringing the authentic taste of southern Italian cooking to Derbyshire.
For further details visit www.teresalambarelli.co.uk