MUNSTER, Ind. — Father David J. Simonetti poured a thick, aromatic spaghetti sauce over pasta and meatballs as he put the finishing touches on a recent Italian meal at his home.
On his dining room table sat four jars of special blends that star in Simonetti’s line of Communio Sauces. Simonetti, associate pastor of St. James the Greater Church in Sauk Village, Illinois, recently debuted his Communio Sauces, which are being sold for charity.
The Communio line was introduced in the Chicago area and Northwest Indiana last March. The recipes for the various sauces were developed by Simonetti, who has enjoyed cooking since he was a child.
He learned the culinary craft from his mother and grandfather.
“The whole point of this is it’s for charity,” said Simonetti, about the nonprofit sauce company. He said the money goes to help organizations in the areas where the sauces are sold. Organizations include shelters, pantries and other groups. “This is a creative way for me to be charitable,” he said.
Communio Sauces are currently sold locally at The Shrine of Christ’s Passion in St. John, Rob’s Chop & Deli in Dyer, Walt’s Foods in Dyer and Welch’s Stop & Shop in St. John as well as various places in Illinois. The sauces also can be used for school fundraisers and other event fundraisers.
Simonetti, who grew up in Chicago Heights, said cooking for others is something that definitely brings him much joy.
“I like everything to be an event,” said the priest, as he placed a large plate of spaghetti and a large platter of roasted chicken on the table for three guests, including this reporter. Paul Anderson, general manager of The Shrine of Christ’s Passion, also joined Simonetti for lunch that day.
Simonetti, who is a convivial host with a joking sense of humor, said he usually cooks to a musical soundtrack. One often will find him playing varied tunes from Pavarotti and Bocelli to Sinatra and Springsteen.
The priest explained he named the product Communio, which, in Latin, is translated to “communion together in love.” The term also relates to the act of Communion and the sharing of the body of Christ in the Catholic faith.
“What I wanted to do with the Communio sauces is recreate an experience,” Simonetti said. He calls the sauces “more than a meal, it’s the way back home.”
“I want people to be able to go home again, and to (recall) being there at their grandparents’ (or family’s) table where they are loved and feel loved,” he said.
The recipes for the Communio Sauces have been perfected by Simonetti over the past year or two. He said he likes to experiment with different flavors and has fine-tuned his recipes.
“The first ingredient is love,” said the priest, as he pointed to the back of the jar and its list of ingredients. Sure enough, listed there is “love” in the No. 1 spot.
Four different versions of sauce are now available. They are Rustic Home Spaghetti “Gravy” Sauce; Fresh Mushroom Spaghetti “Gravy” Sauce; Pizza, Parmesan & Sandwich Sauce; and Padre’s Special Blend Vodka Sauce. A Creole Sauce and a Chunky and Spicy creation are also in the works.
While the sauces are Simonetti’s recipes, the product is manufactured in a plant in the Chicago area. He said he’s always on hand to taste test the product before it’s bottled. Simonetti also seeks out various stores and outlets to carry the sauces. He’ll often do tastings and demos at the stores where Communio is carried.
Communio, Simonetti explained, is made with high-quality ingredients, including San Marzano tomatoes, which are imported from Italy.
His mother taught him the basics of cooking, and Simonetti said he also learned about “the love of cooking for others and the (importance) of being together” from his family.
“When you eat together, it changes everyone. You go from a ‘me’ mentality to a ‘we’ mentality,” he said. “And when people feel loved and eat together, that opens you up more to the love of God.”