Marblehead resident Maria Sansone comes into homes four mornings a week over the traditional TV airwaves as the host of “The Hub Today” and “Mom2Mom” on NBC-10 Boston, the latter also an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning podcast.
But she has her social media following to thank for her latest project.
About five or six years ago, when her son was very small, she turned a camera on as she was making dinner and broadcast it out over Facebook Live and Instagram.
“And the rest is kind of history,” she says.
The impromptu low-tech cooking show developed a following, especially once Sansone began to introduce sidekicks, the “colorful characters that are my family.”
At times, Sansone would poll her online viewers on what she should make.
“Overwhelmingly, they always wanted me to make the thing that was super simple,” Sansone says.
Over time, Sansone had built up a repository of recipes that had both proven popular and could be prepared within a half hour.
“My viewers kept saying to me, ‘Where can I find these recipes? When are you writing a cookbook?’” she says.
Those viewers now have their answer with the publication of “Oh $#!% What’s For Dinner?: No-Fuss Weeknight Recipes You’ll Swear By.”
Unlike her recipes, the book was a long time in the making, with Sansone sending out the initial proposal to publishers over three years ago.
And the book never would have made it over the finish line without a little hometown help.
Sansone says that even before trying any of the recipes, early purchasers of the book are telling her they are wowed by how it looks. For that, she has another Marblehead mom to thank.
Sansone says Katie Ring, whose studio is in Salem, first caught her attention “because during the pandemic, she was hustling so hard, and shooting food photos for restaurants out of the back of her trunk.”
Sansone interviewed Ring over Zoom, and a friendship — and partnership — was born.
Sansone also has a Marblehead resident, Lisa Sugarman, to thank for introducing her to her publisher, Familius.
“Lisa is the type of person who is passionate about helping people do the things that they want to do,” Sansone says.
As Sansone’s cookbook project crystallized, she says she and Sugarman met for coffee many times at Shubie’s Marketplace, where their books will now sit side by side on the shelf.
As is evident in the book’s title, Sansone believes that there is nothing wrong with a dash of salty language in the kitchen — one of the recipes is “Maria’s Big A$$ Sheet Pan Quesadilla”
— especially when a busy mom is trying to feed her hungry family.
“I feel like it’s still very classy — it’s just tongue-in-cheek enough,” she says.
As with her online cooking, readers will get a flavor of Sansone’s extended family, which includes her husband, Marblehead native Josh Guthartz. Sansone explains that Guthartz was the first boy she met upon arriving at Syracuse University.
“It was only maybe a matter of a week before he sat me down and made me watch the Marblehead-Swampscott football game on VHS tape in the dorm room,” she recalls with a laugh.
Sansone’s career took her to New York City and Santa Monica, where their kids were born. But in a familiar tale, the couple decided that they wanted to be closer to family and raise their children — Grace, now 9, and Benjamin, 5 — in a community.
In those initial installments of the digital cooking series, “Benny was on my hip and Gracie was sitting on the counter and Josh was coming in and out and eating all the food before it was prepared,” Sansone says.
As time marched on, Sansone would have her Italian-American family come and visit, and her parents became regulars, her father making his famous pizza and sauce.
But the real scene stealer — at least on Sansone’s side of the family — is her Aunt Ray, whom Sansone considers a consultant on the cookbook.
“She really has the keys to my past,” Sansone says. “She is great with remembering my grandmother’s recipes and the things that we grew up eating — and she’s a hoot.”
Josh’s parents then got their big break when Sansone and her family moved in with their in-laws while their house was being renovated, which shifted the filming location to “Bear and Rah-Rah’s” kitchen.
“Bear became a huge sensation — dentist by day and then my sous chef by night,” Sansone says.
In all, the book contains 65 entrees and 10 side dishes meant to mix and match easily with the entrees, “because Mama don’t have time for appetizers or desserts on a weeknight,” Sansone says.
“We need to cut to the chase and get a healthy, delicious dinner on the table that our family will actually eat,” she says.
Sansone owns plenty of cookbooks herself, some she considers the “little black cocktail dress” she pulls out on special occasions.
She hopes her book, with its recipes for “Fried Chicken n’ Waffle Tenders” and “10-Minute Spaghetti Carbonara,” is more like “your comfiest pair of worn-in jeans.”
“These are the ones that you put on, you know they’re gonna work, you know you’re gonna feel good, and they stand the test of time,” she says.
If she has one hope for the book, it is that it will foster confidence in her fellow parents that they can put a delicious meal on the table.
“I was surprised how many of my friends — grown women with lots of children — are spending a ton of money on takeout and just spinning their wheels and really don’t feel competent to do it,” Sansone says.
She continues, “Dinnertime is unfortunately a very stressful time for people, and I would like it to be a happy time. It’s my happy place.”
Meet the author
Just in time for Mother’s Day, Marblehead resident Maria Sansone will be signing copies of her new cookbook, “Oh $#!% What’s For Dinner?: No-Fuss Weeknight Recipes You’ll Swear By” on Saturday, May 13, noon to 3 p.m. at Shubie’s Marketplace, 16 Atlantic Ave.