Inspired by the "gravy" made by his Italian great-grandmother Neal McTighe decided he had enough and decided to start "Nello's pasta sauce"
Earning his PhD. from the University North Carolina Chapel Hill, entrepreneurship was not always the plan for McTighe, after graduating college, McTighe searched for an academic job, eventually settling in an academic publishing job at Duke University.
Now known as "Nellinos", McTighe's signature pasta sauce is sold in over 1,200 stores across the country. McTighe said he never felt Italian growing up, despite the ancestry on his mother's side. What little memories of Italian traditions he had usually relegated to his great-grandmothers Philadelphia kitchen.
McTighe said he didn't always have entrepreneurship passion. Spending a total of three years abroad in Italy before he started Nellino's, a trip to "il grottino", a tiny restaurant in the small town of Carife is where McTighe once again fell in love with tomato sauce and was able to uncover his passion.
In 2011, McTighe began to make, hand fill, and label each jar of Nellino's pasta sauce which he sold on Facebook. After demand began to grow, McTighe moved his operation to local farmers markets where he would sell his all natural pasta sauce.
McTighe credited his trips abroad to Italy for sparking his culinary passion, without it, McTighe admitted there is no way he would be where he is today.
"One hundred percent, [Nellino's pasta sauce] is entirely dependent on those experiences," McTighe said.
With hard work, natural ingredients and passion, Nellino's has been substantially successful. McTighe's sauce is found in stores including Whole Foods and Earth Fare with a current lineup of four different sauces. McTighe said he plans to only add one more sauce before pressing pause on his business.
Growing up with a very Anglo-Saxon name and blonde hair, McTighe didn't fit the prototypical "Italian" role. But after earning his masters in Italian at Middlebury College, and spending years abroad in Italy, McTighe was able to reignite his passion and bring his grandmother's recipe to the current American public.