Living in New England, I am fortunate to have access to the freshest seafood. Hard to believe in 2021, an old fashion fish monger truck sells fish and seafood straight off the dock at our seasonal summer market. And this winter, after the market closed, the company is delivering weekly to our town. I just place the order on Monday, for a Wednesday delivery!
I don’t have time most weeknights to prepare elaborate meals. Instead, I serve meals prepared in under thirty minutes, or I defrost and reheat something I made ahead on a leisurely weekend.
One of my favorite easy dinners for two is Spaghetti and Clams in a light white wine sauce. I like to use meaty count neck clams, married with wine and herbs for a lusciously delightful taste.
Dinner in under thirty minutes!
2 tablespoon olive oil 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 shallot, minced 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely chopped 1 cup dry white wine pinch of saffron 1/2 teaspoon sea salt 1/4 teaspoon pepper 1 pound count neck clams, well-scrubbed 4 ounces thin spaghetti, cook according to package
In a saute pan, add olive oil, garlic, shallot, and thyme. Saute on medium heat for 8-10 minutes; garlic and shallots should be translucent, not browned. Add wine, saffron, salt, and pepper simmering for 5 minutes. Add clams, cover, continue to cook for 5-10 minutes. All the clams should be open; discard any that aren’t. Pour over cooked pasta. Serve with fresh grated Parmesan cheese.
Cooking should be fun! I am amazed when I hear people say they hate to cook! Why would you dislike something essential to survival and can be so creative? I like everyone who cooks has experienced disasters in the kitchen. I once made a cake that, when I frosted, slid off the plate and onto the floor.
Every misshape has made me the cook I am today, and I am grateful for all my cooking experiences.
If you are tackling a new recipe, my first suggestion is to read the recipe in total. Then gather all the tools you need and the ingredients and arrange them on your countertop in order of their use. This makes it so easy to follow the recipe for a novice. Even though I am an experienced cook, I take out my tools and ingredients before cooking.
Cooking is like any other skill; the more you practice, the better you become.
Butternut squash is one of my favorite vegetables. And so delicious with kale in a vegetarian lasagna. I roast both to bring out the flavor; instead of a traditional tomato, I used bechamel sauce. No-boil noodles cut the preparation time.
Butternut Squash and Kale Lasagna
1 package (20 ounces) butternut squash
4 cups kale, cut into 2-inch pieces and stems removed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
10 sage leaves
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Unsalted butter, for the baking dish1 cup grated fontina cheese (about 4 ounces)
1 cup grated low-moisture mozzarella cheese (about 4 ounces)
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
15 ounces ricotta cheese (can be part-skim)
2 eggs, beaten
9 no-boil lasagna noodles
Make the vegetables: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Toss the squash and kale with 2 tablespoons olive oil on a baking sheet; season with salt.
Roast, rotating the baking sheets once until the vegetables are tender, 18 to 20 minutes; set aside. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
Meanwhile, make the bechamel. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the sage and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the flour until smooth; cook, whisking, until the flour is lightly golden but not brown, about 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk until smooth. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, occasionally stirring, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Add parmesan cheese. Stir in the nutmeg.
Assemble the lasagna. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Toss the cheeses and the flour in a bowl; set aside 1/2 cup for topping. Evenly coat the bottom of the dish with 1/2 cup of the bechamel.
Lay 3 noodles side by side on top. Cover with one-third of the remaining bechamel. Sprinkle with half of the remaining cheese mixture, half of the ricotta cheese, and top with half of the vegetable mixture. Arrange 3 more noodles on top and repeat the layers (bechamel, cheese, ricotta, vegetables). Top with the remaining 3 noodles, then cover with the remaining bechamel; sprinkle with the reserved 1/2 cup cheese.
Loosely cover the dish with foil and bake until bubbly, about 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for 15 additional minutes until browned and bubbling. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.
To make ahead, cover the unbaked lasagna with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. To bake, remove the plastic wrap and follow baking instructions.
To freeze, cover lasagna tightly with plastic wrap, then aluminum foil. Freeze up to 3 months. To bake, remove the plastic wrap, cover with aluminum foil, and bake for 90 minutes. Uncover, bake for an additional 10-15 minutes.
When I am short on time yet want to make a tasty, delicious meal, I turn to my repertoire of easy, quick delicious meals. Pasta is a go-to for me since I am of Italian heritage. My mother made fabulous meals every night for our family, and I was fortunate to have her as my gold standard.
When I cook, I remember sitting on the kitchen countertop as my mother worked her magic with a recipe. A pinch of this, a dash of that, combined with a few other ingredients, and she created a special dinner for her family.
My mother didn’t write her recipes down because when she cooked, it was a new adventure for her; she never made the recipe the same!
I inherited my love of cooking from my mother. And I get lost in the kitchen creating new recipes from old favorites, experimenting with different flavors and combinations. Every recipe isn’t a success; I’ve failed many times. With each failure, I’ve learned so much from the mistakes.
Have fun, experiment, add your spin when you cook!
1 package(9 oz.) Buitoni fresh Linguine
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1 pound porcini or baby portobello mushrooms halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices (smaller mushrooms can be left halved)
1/4 teaspoon dried red-pepper flakes, plus more for serving
1 tablespoon fresh thyme or 2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/2 heavy cream
1-ounce Pecorino Romano, finely grated (2/3 cup)
Porcini Butter Sauce Heat a large straight-sided skillet over medium. Add oil, butter, and garlic. When butter melts and garlic sizzles, add mushrooms; season with salt. Cook, occasionally stirring, until mushrooms are tender and golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Add pepper flakes and cook 30 seconds more. Add cream and stir until combined.
Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of generously salted boiling water until al dente, according to package instructions. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water; drain. Add pasta water to the skillet with mushrooms. Bring it to a simmer, stirring until half evaporated. Add cream, stirring until combined, coating the mushrooms.
Toss over pasta. Add half of the cheese, tossing to combine. Serve topped with remaining cheese, pepper flakes, and a drizzle of oil.
When I’m cooking with canned tuna I love to use Italian canned
tuna in olive oil, fabulously flavorful. Adding cauliflower and
tuna to pasta makes a deliciously easy mean that is ready
quickly for a weekday meal. And this is a healthy dinner for the
whole family. Serve with a large fresh salad, and crisp baked
16 ounces Cavatappi pasta
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small cauliflower head (about 2 1/2 pounds), cored and cut into
8 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 cans (4.9 oz.) Italian Tuna in olive oil, I use Tonnino Tuna
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons salted butter
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest, plus 2 tablespoons lemon
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
In a large pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add pasta and 1tablespoon salt and cook to al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water, then drain and set aside. Add two tablespoon olive oil to a 12-inch skillet and heat to simmering. Add cauliflower, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring, until light golden brown and crisp and tender.
Stir in the garlic, tuna, rosemary, pepper flakes, and 2 tablespoon butter. Cook, stirring until the garlic is softened, 4 to 5 minutes.
Add the pasta cooking water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Toss in the pasta and the remaining 2 tablespoon butter.
Cook, tossing until the sauce has thickened and coats pasta, about 1 minute.
Remove from heat, stir in lean juice. Transfer to a serving plate and sprinkle with the lemon zest and parmesan cheese. Serve with more parmesan cheese
Traditional Pasta e Fagioli is made with a pork product such as pancetta, ham or pigs’ feet(old-time Italian) but growing up my mother always made meatless Pasta e Fagioli on Fridays. I have fond memories of eating Pasta Fagioli on crisp fall nights before rushing off to a Friday night football game or for lunch on a snowy winter day.
My mother’s version of Pasta e Fagioli, I like to call Pasta e Fagioli meets Boston Baked Beans, She used canned baked beans as the base. I have no idea why one time she decided to substitute baked beans, no problem we loved her recipe. Over the years I have added my own touches to my mother’s Pasta e Fagioli to make it an easy totally vegetarian meal.
Pasta e Fagioli
1 cup chopped shallots
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup dry white wine
2 (16 oz) cans vegetarian baked beans, Bushes
1 can (8 oz) no salt Tomato Sauce, Hunts
1 can (15.5 oz) Garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained, Goya
1 can (14 oz) vegetable broth
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 cup dried ditalini pasta
1/4 cup snipped fresh basil or 1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon snipped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
Parmesan Cheese, optional
1. In large pot cook shallots, garlic and olive over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Sir in wine, baked beans, garbanzo beans, vegetable broth, and crushed red pepper. Bring to a boil: reduce heat. Simmer, covered for 20 minutes.
3. Cook, pasta al dente(firm but not hard), drain. Stir cooked pasta, basil, oregano into bean mixture. Simmer for 5 more minutes. Pasta e Fagioli should be thick like stew not soupy. Add more broth if thick and cook a little longer if too thin.
Growing up in an Italian-American family my relatives had strong opinions on making tomato sauce and many different methods. My Aunts would spend hours debating and comparing different sauce styles. I prefer the slow-roasting recipe that was used by my grandmother and mother. Roasting Marina Sauce creates a flavorful that is not acidic or bitter.
I love San Manzano tomatoes, and I use certified tomatoes. San Manzano tomatoes, named after a region in Italy, are less acidic because of the soil in that region. There are many brands and I prefer Cento certified San Manzano tomatoes. Just a suggestion, you can use any brand that works for you.
The recipe calls for the whole garlic bulb and roasting releases the garlic flavor without being bitter. Don’t shy away from the large quantity of garlic.
I use this sauce over pasta and with any recipe that calls for Marina Sauce. And an added benefit is that the sauce freezes beautifully for future use.
Classic Roasted Marinara Sauce
¼ cup olive oil
1 head of garlic, cloves chopped
1 large red onion, chopped
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
¼ cup dry white wine
2 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes, Cento certified San Manzano
¼ cup torn basil leaves
½ teaspoon dried oregano
Preheat oven to 350°. Heat oil in a large heavy ovenproof pot over medium. Cook garlic, stirring often, until golden, about 4 minutes.
Add onion, and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring often until onion is translucent about 5 minutes.
Stir in tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until slightly darkened, about 2 minutes.
Add wine, bring to a boil, and cook until almost completely evaporated about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, breaking up with your hands, and their juices; add basil and oregano and stir to combine. Swirl 1½ cups water into one tomato can, then the other, to rinse, and add to the pot. We don’t want to waist any delicious tomato juice: Season with salt.
Transfer pot to oven; roast sauce, stirring halfway through, until thick and tomatoes are browned on top and around edges of the pot, 2–2½ hours.
Let the sauce cool slightly. Pass through the large holes of a food mill or process in a food processor until mostly smooth. I like my sauce a little chunky. Taste and season with salt.
Sunday dinner was a tradition in my family growing up. My mother, an exceptional cook, would prepare a feast with enough food to feed our entire neighborhood. All were welcome to join us for dinner. When I married and started my own family, I continued having large Sunday family dinners.
One of my mother’s famous Sunday meals was her Italian Pot Roast. She preferred an Eye Round Roast, but you can use a Shoulder or Brisket. I like to make this just like my mother on a stove, but it can be cooked in a slow cooker. After the meat is browned on the stove place all the ingredients in a slow cooker and cook for eight hours.
Italian Pot Roast
4 lb. Eye Roast
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped onions
1 finely chopped celery stalk
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves, crushed
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon rosemary
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup tightly packed parsley leaves, chopped
3 tablespoons tomato paste
3 cups red wine
1(28-ounce) can whole San Marzano tomatoes, drained and chopped*
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup water
1 lb. penne pasta
Cut slits in eye roast and insert sliced garlic into slits. Season the beef with salt and pepper. In a large casserole, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil until hot but not smoking. Brown beef on all sides. Transfer beef to a plate. Pour off browning fat.
Add carrots, onions, and celery, stirring until golden. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Stir in bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, cinnamon, nutmeg, parsley and tomato paste. Add the wine and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the beef and tomatoes. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook at a gentle simmer for 3 hours, until meat is tender.
Remove beef, cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. Mix two tablespoon flour with 1/4 cup water. Add to the sauce to thicken. Simmer on low heat stirring until sauce thickens about 3-5 minutes. While sauce is thickening cook pasta according to package directions.
Place cooked pasta on a large plater, pour the sauce over pasta. Slice beef and arrange over pasta. Serve with fresh grated Parmesan cheese.
The history behind the name of this pasta is quite interesting. As the story goes the dish Spaghetti Alla Puttanesca (“spaghetti in the style of a prostitute” in Italian”.) originated in the mid-twenty century in the seaport of Naples. The prostitutes of the city would make this dish and place on their window sill, where the aromatic scent lured sailors for their services. Whether that is true or not there is no denying this flavorful sauce has over the years attracted many devotees. My sauce is a no-cook version with the original is a simmered sauce served with pasta. I love making this easy recipe in the summer and serve with a crisp salad, fresh Italian bread, and dry white wine.
1 cup Kalamata or Castelvetrano olives, pitted and halved
2 Tbsp. drained capers
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
12 oz. spaghetti
¼ cup finely chopped basil
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Pulse beefsteak tomatoes, garlic, red pepper flakes, anchovy fillets, and 2 tsp. salt in a food processor until smooth; transfer sauce to a large bowl and mix in cherry tomatoes, olives, capers, and ¼ cup oil.
Cook spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain pasta, reserving ¼ cup pasta cooking liquid.
Add pasta, parsley, and butter to the sauce. Toss vigorously with tongs, adding a splash of pasta cooking liquid or more as needed to create an emulsified sauce that coats the pasta. Divide among bowls and drizzle with more oil.
Cooking and good food is in my blood. Both my grandmother and mother were accomplished cooks who could combine a few ingredients into a memorable feast that you would never forget. I learned from both these exceptional women that their love of cooking for family and friends was their secret ingredient that flavored their dishes better than any expensive seasoning or ingredient. Being of Italian heritage, tomatoes, basil, garlic, olive oil, and pasta were the basis for many of the meals they cooked when I was growing up in Bucks County, Pennsylvania along the Delaware River. The Delaware Valley before all the housing developments was rich land with farms that went for miles. My grandmother and mother’s summer season gardens overflowed with the most beautiful fresh produce perfect for making Linguine with Cherry Tomatoes and Pesto Sauce. I’ve attempted to create the flavors from one of their signature dishes. Both women never used a recipe they just added a pinch of this, a dash of that magically creating breathtaking food!
Linguine with Cherry Tomatoes and Pesto Sauce
1-pint cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 cup pesto sauce*
12 oz of fresh linguine
1 tablespoon butter
Preheat oven 425F. Place the first six ingredients in a baking dish ad roast for 20 minutes until tomatoes are hot and bubbly. Cool. Add pesto sauce to tomatoes; stirring until combined. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and reserve 1/4 cup water from the pasta. Place pasta in large bowel toss with 1 tablespoon butter and reserved water. Add tomato/pesto sauce and toss again. Serve with fresh grated Parmesan cheese.
4 cups packed fresh basil
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup pine nuts
2 cloves garlic
1/2 parmesan cheese
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Combine basil, oil, pine nuts, and garlic in a blender. Blend until paste forms, stopping often to push down basil. Add both kinds of cheese and salt; blend until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl.Freeze unused pesto.