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FARGO -- We often choose our topics two to three months in advance, using the upcoming seasons as our guide to help us plan our recipe choices. Since mid-July, I’ve had my Grandma Sunny’s Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie on the roster for this week, and the timing couldn’t be more serendipitous.

This past weekend, my son Gio and I were in the Twin Cities to celebrate the baptism of my niece, the most-darling Zoe Clementine Lein. I love these family gatherings, not only because they are joy-inspiring, but they also have the potential to create the kind of story that will be told for years afterward.

On an extraordinarily beautiful October day, Zoe Clementine was baptized at the Basilica of St. Mary, a beautiful and grand church in downtown Minneapolis. With its signature copper dome, the basilica is a showcase of stunning architecture and sculpture, complete with a marble baldachin on the altar (like a canopy), colorful and intricate stained glass windows and an organ that can fill your spirit. Stepping into the church is like going back in time, and it certainly was for my family last weekend.

My grandparents, Don and Sunny Mathison, were married at the basilica in 1945 just after my grandpa returned home from World War II, which is evidenced by the uniform he’s wearing in their wedding pictures. Moreover, my Grandma Sunny and my mother were both baptized at the basilica, making my sister Paula’s choice of venue even more special for everyone attending.

More than just the religious component, this event took on its own significance for our family. Knowing that my 96-year-old grandmother was able to witness her 1-year-old great-granddaughter’s christening in the church that has played such a significant role in her life was a blessing for all of us. My Grandpa Don (100 percent Norwegian) passed away 10 years ago, but we knew he was there in spirit, winking at Zoe and sharing some of his signature Norwegian jokes with her.

My Grandma Sunny is the epitome of grace and organization, and she always seems to know just exactly how to honor an occasion with real significance. Not only did she make the trip from Fargo to Minneapolis to attend the event (I should disclose that she is the most active nonagenarian I have ever encountered), but she also lovingly brought the photo albums from her baptism and wedding, much to everyone’s delight. None of us will ever forget this weekend together.

Over the past two years, I’ve shared several family recipes that originated with my Grandma Sunny, and this pumpkin ice cream pie recipe from the 1950s is one of my all-time favorites. And, if you purchase a pre-made pie crust, it’s so easy to make it’s almost hard to take credit for how good it tastes.

The crust is baked in advance and then filled with a layer of vanilla ice cream (although you could choose any flavor) which is then topped with a heavenly spiced-pumpkin puree mixed with fresh whipped cream. We use canned pure pumpkin and add our own spices, so take care not to buy a can of pumpkin pie mix instead. Freeze the pie overnight or for at least 8 hours before serving.

I think I’ll serve this pie the next time I’m together with Grandma Sunny and little Zoe Clementine. There might be nearly a century between them, but I have a feeling they’ll both enjoy it.

Grandma Sunny’s Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie

Serves: 8 to 10


9-inch pie shell, baked and cooled

1 cup pumpkin

1¼ cup sugar

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon ginger

½ teaspoon nutmeg

½ pint whipping cream, whipped to stiff peaks

1 pint vanilla ice cream


Mix the pumpkin, sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg until blended together. Fold in the whipped cream. Fill the pie shell with one pint of vanilla ice cream, then top with the pumpkin mixture. Freeze for 8 hours before serving – overnight is even better.

Sarah and Tony Nasello own Sarello’s restaurant in Moorhead, Minn., and live in Fargo. Readers can reach them at dine@sarellos.com. All previous recipes can be found at http://thelostitalian.areavoices.com