The Frugal Foodie: Stefano Frigerio

Gift giving doesn’t have to drain your savings. Stefano Frigerio of the Copper Pot Food Company shows us how to make gifts for four for less than $25.

In a matter of hours, Frigerio whips up blackberry/ginger jam and marinara sauce.

>>Check out more photos of Stefano Frigerio's gift-making in our slideshow.

>> See our full Holiday Guide


You’ve made a list. You’ve checked it twice. And now you’re wondering if you’re facing a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency.

Don’t despair, the Copper Pot Food Company’s Stefano Frigerio accepted the Frugal Foodie challenge—to make delicious gifts for four for less than $25.

We start at Target, where Frigerio looks for jars. He scores two packs of four eight-ounce containers for $9.83. (Frigerio points out that with a little advanced planning you can find jars for less.)

At the grocery store, he picks up a sliver of ginger, frozen blackberries, pectin, canned tomatoes, an onion, and a few other ingredients. The bill rings up at $11.78.


At my apartment, Frigerio simmers the blackberries, ginger, pectin, and sugar in a saucepan until the mixture begins to thicken. Meanwhile, he sautés an onion and adds canned tomatoes, simmering the mixture into a marinara sauce. It’s a simple sauce, but he says you can jazz it up with shallots, Parmesan, or bacon.

He suggests buying fresh fruit and tomatoes in bulk when they’re in season and making jams and sauce for the holidays a few months in advance. It cuts down on the cost and the holiday stress. And as long as you store the finished products in a cool, dark place, they’ll last up to a year.

When the jam and sauce are nearly complete, Frigerio sterilizes the jars by boiling them in hot water. If you’re working with large quantities, you can run the jars through the dishwasher with no other dishware and no soap.

Frigerio fills the jars while the jam and sauce are still warm. He closes the lid and places them in a large pot with a paper towel at the bottom to keep them from jostling. He adds just enough water to reach the jars’ lids, then boils them for ten minutes.

He removes the jars and tells me I’ll hear them pop when they are finally sealed. Test the seal by pressing on the middle; if it’s sealed, there’ll be no give. After just three hours, including shopping, Frigerio leaves me listening to the sounds of the holidays—that’d be the “pop, pop, pop” of my gifts sealing.

Recipes make enough for four.

Blackberry-Ginger Jam

2 bags frozen blackberries
1 packet pectin (from a 1.75-ounce box of eight packets)
1 cup sugar
1 small piece ginger, unpeeled and quartered

Add all the ingredients to a saucepan set over medium heat. Simmer 30 to 45 minutes, until thickened, regularly scraping the side of the pan with a spatula so the sugar doesn’t caramelize. While still warm, ladle the jam into sterilized jars. Close the lids and boil for 10 minutes to seal the jar.

Tomato Sauce

4 14.5-ounce cans tomatoes
1 onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons salt
1 clove garlic (optional)

Sauté the onion and garlic (if using) in a saucepan set over medium heat. Add the tomatoes and salt.
Cook until the tomatoes break down, about 20 to 30 minutes. Run the mixture through a food processor, pouring in the olive oil. While still warm, ladle the sauce into sterilized jars. Close the lids and boil for 10 minutes to seal.


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