Stuffed Pork Roast with Apples and Cranberries

apple cranberry stuffed

Tis the season for entertaining and this stuffed pork loin with apples and cranberries is perfect for a gathering you might be having.

It certainly looks complicated but actually it’s very easy to put together, it can even be done a day ahead of time. The confusing part to some might be how to butterfly the meat. You actually open it like a book and then each side of the “book” you open that up. Here’s a visual that will help you, and you’ll see just how easy it is.

stuffed loin

Once you open it up fully you can spread your flavored filling all around. Here I used apple with dried cranberries, garlic, thyme and a sprinkle of bread crumbs. You’ll then roll it up tightly and tie it with butchers string.

pork loin

The apples and cranberries compliment the pork so well, serve it with a green vegetable on the side and maybe some cranberry sauce, a simple and elegant meal to serve your guests.

plated stuffed loin

Add or subtract anything in the stuffing/filling that you choose, choose your favorite variety of apples, maybe dried apricots instead of cranberries or dried cherries, toss in some mushrooms, chopped spinach, make a full bread stuffing if you wish, the stuffing possibilities are endless!

Stuffed Pork Roast with Apples and Cranberries
An elegant dish to entertain with and easy enough for week night meals.
  • Pork loin, the size of your choice but for my post here I used a 3 lb. roast
  • 1 shallot, chopped finely
  • 1 large apple of your choice, chopped finely
  • dried cranberries, a good handful
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • thyme
  • butter
  • a sprinkling of breadcrumbs
  • fresh herbs to place under twine
  • ********
  • You can double everything depending on how big your roast is, don't worry about exact measurements, taste and go along.
  1. Slice open the pork with a sharp knife lengthwise but not slicing it all the way through, it should open like a book. Then each side needs to open like a book as well. Please refer to the link in my post to see a visual on how to do it easily.
  2. After it's butterflied open, cover with some plastic wrap and with a meat tenderizer pound it as even as you can all around. Then season with salt and pepper.
  3. For the stuffing; In a sauté pan add a nice dollop of butter, add the shallot and garlic, then the apple pieces and cranberries, saute til softened but not mushy.
  4. Season with salt, pepper and the thyme to your taste.
  5. Sprinkle the mixture with breadcrumbs, it will help hold the filling together better.
  6. Let it cool down a little bit then spread the mixture all over the opened pork, not quite all the way to the ends.
  7. Roll up and secure with butchers twine in a few places so it doesn’t open.
  8. Season the outside with salt and pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil.
  9. Sear the pork roast all around on each side then place some fresh herbs under the twine.
  10. Place into a 375F oven til internal temp reaches 145. After 30 minutes or so keep checking the temp in the middle so you know where you're at because you don't want to overcook it and dry out.



Baked Squash with Ricotta, Parmesan, Lemon and Sage

5 stuffed squash

No secret here that I love squash, actually any squash is ok by me. There are so many beautiful varieties out there and I can honestly say that I haven’t found any that I really don’t like.

Although my top three would have to be butternut, acorn and these sweet little things called honeynut, pictured here. They’re hard to find in my neck of the woods, but when I do I grab them!

Here’s another idea using kabacha squash, using a different filling and a different way to cut the squash.

stuffed acorn squash

Any type of squash is tender and delicious when roasted and of course chock full of vitamins.

honeynut squash stuffed

These sweet squash are filled with creamy ricotta, a touch of lemon, parmesan and sage, a match made in heaven! Feel free to stuff any type of squash you want this filling will go nicely with any variety.

If you have leftovers they heat up nicely the next day, no problem.

Baked Squash with Ricotta, Parmesan, Lemon and Sage
Stuffed squash, perfect this time of year and as a side to your holiday table.
  • Squash of choice, sliced lenghtwise with seeds scooped out
  • 2 cups of ricotta, drained of moisture if need be
  • 1 tablespoon of sour cream or creme fraiche (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon, fresh lemon juice, plus zest of one lemon
  • 1 egg
  • 1 smashed garlic clove
  • ¾ cup or grated pecorino romano or parmesan, plus extra for finishing
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • a quick drizzle of olive oil, just a little on top and some extra for later
  • Sage leaves
  1. Heat oven to 400F
  2. Place your squash on a parchment lined baking sheet.
  3. Drizzle them with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.
  4. Incorporate all the filling ingredients into a bowl, mix well.
  5. Spoon filling into the cavities of the squash, top with fresh sage leaves.
  6. Lay a sheet of foil over the squashes and crimp it around the baking sheet. Bake for around 50 minutes or until squash is tender, test with a knife for doneness.
  7. Remove the foil, sprinkle more grated cheese on top, a. little drizzle of olive oil and turn up the oven to maybe 425F until you get a light golden brown and ricotta is set.
  8. Enjoy!



Braised Chicken with Artichokes, Shallots, Tomatoes and Olives

braised chicken

If you’re looking for a one-pan meal thats warm and comforting and easy to make, this is the one for you. A wine braised chicken dish with tender shallots, fresh tomatoes, briny olives and sweet artichoke hearts.

one pan chicken dinner

I suggest dark cuts of meat for this dish, I used bone- in, skin on legs and thighs. Dark meat pieces work very well for braising, they’re very forgiving and tend not to dry out like white meat breasts do.

I served this dish with mashed potatoes but polenta would be amazing, especially in the dead of winter, also couscous and rice would work as well.

plated chicken dish

Comfort food with an intoxicating smell as it’s cooking in the oven, and I can assure you that  the leftovers, ( if you have any), will be just as good the next day!


5.0 from 2 reviews
Braised Chicken with Artichokes, Shallots, Tomatoes and Olives
Braised chicken, warm and comforting a one-pan meal with Mediterranean flavors throughout.
Recipe type: one-pan meal
  • 5 legs, 3 thighs, bone in, skin on or dark meat pieces of your choice
  • 2 shallots, quartered
  • 1 pint, cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 cup of good white wine
  • a good sized handful of your favorite olives, I used castelvetrano
  • 10 oz. frozen artichokes
  • ½ tube of tomato paste
  • ¾ cup, chicken broth
  • herbs such as parsley, thyme and rosemary
  • olive oil
  1. Pre-heat oven to 400
  2. Make sure you use a heavy bottomed pan that goes from stove top to oven.
  3. Pat dry and season chicken on both sides with salt and pepper.
  4. Get the pan hot then drizzle with olive oil and sear the chicken on both sides til deep golden.
  5. Remove the chicken and set aside.
  6. Add the shallots, garlic and sauté a little bit.
  7. Deglaze with the white wine.
  8. Toss in the fresh sliced tomatoes, chicken broth and tomato paste, combine well.
  9. Place the chicken back in and scatter with some herbs.
  10. Toss in your olives and artichokes.
  11. Drizzle the top with olive oil and place into the oven.
  12. Cook til internal temp reaches 165.
  13. The last few minutes you can stick it under the broiler or if you have a convection setting put it on convection roast til nicely golden.



Butternut Squash Ricotta Tart With Puff Pastry

squash torte with ricotta

Butternut squash is hands down one of my favorite veggies. When fall comes around I get excited to see it popping up in all the markets. It’s so versatile and you can make so many different meals using it.

One way I like using it is in a savory tart like this one with a cheesy spinach and ricotta base, the flavors compliment each other so well which brings out the sweetness of the squash.

butternut squash

Now you don’t actually have to cut the squash like I did, you can just cube it up, but if you want to fancy it up a bit and give it a showstopper look, do what I did.

Cut the squash right above the seed section, peel the skin off and scoop out the seeds, now cut side down make thin slices. A little more time consuming but it does give it a pretty look.

squash tart

This time I used puff pastry but in the past I’ve used phyllo and even a piecrust as the crust foundation.

savory tart

I have to say store-bought puff pastry is really time saver, you just defrost and it’s ready to go, and it always turns out nice and crispy!

squash and ricotta

The ricotta mixture is flavored with garlic, grated fontina and pecorino cheese and a good handful of fresh chopped spinach.

savory tart with salad

Serve this with a salad of your choice and you have a great lunch, brunch, light dinner or meatless meal, it’s fantastic and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Butternut Squash Ricotta Tart With Puff Pastry
A savory tart with butternut squash and creamy ricotta cheese, the perfect combination with crispy puff pastry as the foundation.
  • butternut squash, cut above the seeds, then peeled with seeds scooped out and sliced thin, or just cut in cubes
  • 1 sheet of store-bought puff pastry, defrosted according to directions
  • 2½ cups of ricotta, drained well
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 large garlic clove, crushed
  • ¾ cups of grated pecorino or parmesan, plus a little extra
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • olive oil
  • 1 cup of grated fontina cheese or grated mozzarella
  • 1 handful of chopped fresh spinach
  • a sprig of thyme for garnish
  1. Pre-heat oven to 400.
  2. After you slice the squash, place on a parchment lined and olive oiled sheet pan, and also lightly drizzle some olive oil on top. Roast at 400 until just softened, not browned ,about 5 or 6 minutes. Check because ovens vary.Then cool down.
  3. Mix up the filling in one bowl, the ricotta, eggs, garlic, grated pecorino or parmesan, shredded fontina or mozzarella and chopped spinach. Mix well.
  4. On another sheet pan place parchment paper and the puff pastry sheet.
  5. Roll the puff pastry with a rolling pin til it takes. the shape of a rectangle and not a square.
  6. Lightly score a border around the entire edge using a paring knife, then prick the surface inside the border all over with a fork.
  7. Spread the ricotta mixture all over the inside surface but not the border.
  8. Arrange and layer the butternut squash on top of the ricotta mixture.
  9. Brush some olive oil on the border adding a little pepper and grated cheese.
  10. A finishing touch of grated cheese on top of the squash a pinch of salt and pepper and quick drizzle of olive oil all over, then add a few thyme leaves.
  11. Bake at 400 for around 25 to 30 minutes. Check your oven, the bottom of your puff pastry should be nice and crispy golden and the ricotta will be set.



Homemade Chicken Soup With Broken Spaghetti

homemade chicken soup

Fall is officially the start of soup weather and here’s a good one to start you off on, plus you can keep it in rotation throughout the winter. It’s my homemade chicken soup with broken spaghetti pasta.

It’s a simple basic recipe, not a lot of ingredients, but all the ingredients I promise will yield you a most delicious pot of soup!

chicken soup

Can you add other veggies to it? of course you can, and that’s up to you. The key to this flavorful broth is using chicken thighs with the bone and skin on, you need that, it won’t be the same without it.

pot of chicken soup

There’s two steps, first you you need to make the base, the broth, which comes from simmering the chicken bones with lots of aromatics, once done the aromatics will be removed, the chicken will be pulled out, skin and bones removed and the shredded chicken set aside.

You’ll then place all the shredded chicken as well as fresh chopped veggies and herbs back into the both, season for taste and when the veggies are tender it’s all done.

broken spaghetti

We like to make some broken spaghetti on the side and add it into your bowls as needed, so delicious!

chicken soup with spaghetti

Cold a flu season is around the corner and this is just the kind of comfort chicken soup that you’ll be needing.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Homemade Chicken Soup With Broken Spaghetti
Soup season has officially started, and this soup is just what you need for comfort during the cold and flu season.
  • 4- bone in, skin on chicken thighs
  • 2 -1 quart boxes of low sodium chicken broth, or water but I prefer adding the broth
  • 3 large garlic cloves, cut in half
  • 2 celery stalks, cut in half
  • 1 medium onion, cut into quarters
  • 2 large carrots scrubbed clean and cut in half
  • 2 cheese rinds, either Pecorino or Parmigiano
  • a handful of parsley
  • a pinch of dried thyme and salt and pepper
  • a drizzle of olive oil
  • ½ of a large onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 large celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, sliced
  • a handful of parsley
  • ½.- lb. of broken spaghetti, cooked on the side
  1. Heat up a large heavy bottom pot, drizzle with olive oil.
  2. Pat dry the chicken thighs and season both sides with salt and pepper.
  3. Place the chicken thighs skin side down and get them golden brown, then flip them over and cook the other side.
  4. Add the 3 cloves of garlic and cook til golden.
  5. Place into the broth, the quartered onion, pieces, carrot and celery halves, cheese rinds, parsley, thyme, salt and pepper.
  6. Get it to a boil and simmer low for a couple of hours, give it enough time for the vegetables and chicken to be tender and where you can see the collagen broken down to a gelatine and producing a delicious bone broth, taste for seasoning.
  7. Remove the chicken thighs and let them cool down, then scoop out and discard all the large pieces of veggies, parsley and the cheese rinds.
  8. Pull the skin and bones off the chicken and shred the chicken, then place it back into the flavorful broth along with all your freshly chopped veggies and herbs..
  9. Simmer until your veggies are tender but not mushy.
  10. Serve with your pre-cooked broken spaghetti into your bowls and some sprinkling of grated cheese.
  11. Enjoy!



Zucchini Scarpaccia With Corn And Pecorino

zucchini and onion tart

Tis the season of zucchini and the trend right now seems to be zucchini scarpaccia. It’s basically a zucchini tart where the zucchini is the star, there are tons of  variations all over the internet right now.

It’s like a savory zucchini flatbread, baked until it forms a crunchy, golden brown top, it’s very delicious!

sauteed zucchini and onions

I changed mine up a little by adding to the zucchini and onion mixture, an ear of shucked. corn and in the batter some sharp, grated pecorino.

Several recipes say to add cornmeal to the batter, I used dry polenta.

zucchini scarpaccia

Grab a slice and have it as an appetizer, a side dish, a snack or a light main course served with a salad, like I did recently for dinner.

crispy zucchini scarpaccia

A perfect summer dish especially while zucchini is in an abundance right now.

scarpaccia slice

Easy to make, virtually a one pan meal and very soul satisfying!

Zucchini Scarpaccia With Corn And Pecorino
Grab. your garden zucchini and make this savory zucchini flatbread called scarpaccia.
  • 3 zucchini, medium size sliced into thin rounds
  • 1 white or red onion, medium size sliced
  • 1 ear of fresh corn, shucked
  • 1 large garlic clove, grated
  • basil
  • olive oil
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1¼ cup water
  • ⅓ cup polenta or corn meal
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • ⅓ cup of pecorino romano
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • ( batter should be loose enough to spread, adjust with a little more water if needed)
  1. Saute the zucchini and onion slices in a saute pan, along with the garlic for about 15 minutes until most of the moisture is gone.
  2. Let it cool down, now mix up the batter.
  3. To a bowl add the flour, water, pecorino cheese, polenta or cornmeal, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt. and pepper to taste, you could also add chopped basil or leave the basil for garnish.
  4. Generously olive oil a quarter inch rimmed sheet pan, or if you have a 9 x. 13 non stick pan, all the better.
  5. Fold in the zucchini, onion and corn mixture to the batter then spread it out evenly over the pan.
  6. Lightly sprinkle the top with a little polenta, grated pecorino and a drizzle of olive oil.
  7. Bake at 400. til golden and crunchy on top, time may vary according to oven temps. 35-45 minutes or so.
  8. Garnish with basil.
  9. Cool down and slice!



Summer Stuffed Shells With Zucchini And Corn

veggie stuffed shells

Looking for a lighter, summer take on stuffed shells? This summer dish consists of creamy ricotta, a little burrata, pecorino, with a hint of garlic and lemon zest and then fresh summer corn and zucchini sautéed and tossed into the mix.

It has a light tomato cream sauce that goes really well with all the fresh flavors.

stuffed shells

Serve this as a side or as a main course with a tossed salad. It was the first time I ever made these, as I always make stuffed shells the traditional way.

I fed them to a few family members to see what they thought and they all loved them, me included, so I decided it was worthy to share the recipe here in a blog post.

A light easy meal you can make mid week!

a pan of stuffed shells

You’ll want to garnish the top with more of the sautéed zucchini and corn, topped off with fresh basil from the garden.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Summer Stuffed Shells With Zucchini And Corn
A lighter take on stuffed shells with corn and zucchini tossed into the creamy ricotta mix. Perfect for summer eating!
  • 1 -12 oz. box of jumbo shells
  • 2 cups whole milk ricotta, drained well
  • 4 oz. hand shredded burrata
  • ¾ cup of grated pecorino or Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 2 medium zucchini, diced
  • 1- ½ cups of fresh corn kernels or frozen thawed
  • 2 small garlic cloves grated or 1 large
  • 1 egg
  • the zest of one lemon
  • 4 oz. of shredded mozzarella
  • basil
  • olive oil
  • 1 28 oz can of whole San Marzano tomatoes, or homemade marinara or a high quality store bought marinara
  • heavy cream
  1. Make a quick marinara by coating a heavy sauce pan with olive oil, warm up a couple of cloves of chopped garlic, add the canned tomatoes squishing them til smooth but with some chunks.
  2. Add a teaspoon of salt and fresh basil simmer for 20 minutes or so. When finished pour in some heavy cream, start with ¼ cup and see if that's good for you, if not, add a little more.
  3. Quick saute the chopped zucchini and corn together for a few minutes in a little olive oil, set aside.
  4. Boil shells according to directions on the box, the lesser time for further baking, then drain and cool down with cool water.
  5. Mix up the filling in a bowl with the ricotta, burrata, the egg, grated cheese, garlic, lemon zest, chopped basil, salt and pepper to taste, but not the shredded mozzarella.
  6. Fold in the cooled down sauteed zucchini and corn, reserve some to sprinkle on top.
  7. Grease the bottom of a casserole dish with olive oil, then spread a layer of the tomato cream sauce on the bottom.
  8. Stuff your shells and place them single layer on top of sauce.
  9. Spoon more sauce on each shell but don't drown them with sauce.
  10. Sprinkle the grated mozzarella cheese all around, along with more pecorino or Parmigiano and the reserved sauteed corn and zucchini.
  11. Drizzle the top with olive oil and bake uncovered in a 350 oven for 25 minutes, garnish with fresh basil.
  12. To serve spread some sauce on the bottom of the dinner plate, add the shells and topped them off with more warmed sauce.
  13. Enjoy!




Party Worthy Summer Fruit Salad With Honey Lime Drizzle

summer fruit salad

Summetime is here and we all need a good fruit salad to serve alongside your next cookout or party. This is the one, it’s certainly very party worthy as a side or even a light dessert.

fresh pitted cherries

Using the best fruit’s this season has to offer, like these fresh cherries, grapes, blackberries and my favorite, watermelon.

summer fruit

When you add in some crunchy cucumber, spicy arugula and a little salt from the feta cheese you have a delicious combination of flavor.

fruit salad

The  honey lime drizzle is clean, simple, refreshing and bright and it just takes the whole fruit salad over the top.

Serve this on your next special occasion, or just make it for yourself!

Party Worthy Summer Fruit Salad With Honey Lime Drizzle
A fruit salad worthy for your next party.
Recipe type: Fruit Salad
  • 2 cups watermelon cubes or balls
  • 2 cups fresh cherries pitted and sliced in half
  • 1 cup of black or blueberries
  • 1 cup of grapes, sliced in half
  • 1 cup of cubed Persian cucumbers or small chop on regular but remove seeds
  • 1 cup of good feta cheese, crumbled
  • a handful of arugula
  • ¼ cup of honey
  • 3 tablespoons of fresh squeezed lime juice
  1. Combine all ingredients together, then in a small bowl whisk together the honey and lime juice.
  2. Assemble the fruit onto a nice platter and right before serving drizzle the honey lime dressing all over top.



Whipped Ricotta Berry Tart

This is one of those desserts that is just so satisfying, its light, not to sweet, it uses fresh berries in season. There’s lemon and vanilla flavor in the background and it’s all surrounded by crunchy phyllo dough. It’s a whipped ricotta tart and you don’t even need to pull out your mixer!

berry ricotta tart

I love making tarts with ricotta and love using phyllo, which by the way is VERY forgiving. Of course this would be just as delicious if you make or buy your own pie crust and use that, but you’ll need to blind bake that as well. You can also mix up the berries you use, I did sliced strawberries, blackberries and blueberries.

I wouldn’t do too many strawberries they’re not as sturdy as the other ones I mentioned, they tend to soften the tart up much quicker, but if you’re eating it right away that won’t matter.

berry ricotta slice

The hardest part will be waiting for it to cool down so you can have a slice with some coffee, don’t forget to sprinkle it with a nice shower of powdered sugar! With Mother’s day around the corner this just might be one to make for that special mom in your life.

Whipped Ricotta Berry Tart
A berry ricotta tart, not too sweet but oh so delicious with a nice crunchy phyllo crust.
  • ½ stick of unsalted butter, melted
  • 8 sheets of phyllo dough
  • tart pan with removable bottom, I used an 11 x 8 rectangle pan
  • 2 cups whole milk ricotta, make sure it's well drained if it's from a deli, or use a good one from a grocery in the cheese section
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • ¼ cup of heavy cream
  • the zest of 1 lemon
  • ½ teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • a mix of berries, I don't measure those, I just fill in and cover the top of the tart to my liking
  • powder sugar for sprinkling the tart when cooled
  1. Heat your oven to 350F, you're going to pre-bake the phyllo for 15 minutes.
  2. With the melted butter, brush your tart pan all over.
  3. Working fast,add 1 sheet of phyllo at a time brushing it all over with the melted butter, repeat brushing the butter on to all the rest of the phyllo sheets.
  4. You're going to layer them on top of each other, squishing them around the sides of the pan, don't worry if they rip, no one will know, phyllo is very for giving.
  5. Put the tart pan onto a cookie sheet for easy in and out of the oven and place into your pre-heated oven for 15 minutes.
  6. If it puffs up when you take it out just press it down with the back of a spoon, set it aside, now make your filling.
  7. Raise the oven temp to 375F now.
  8. In a medium size bowl whisk together the ricotta, eggs, heavy cream, sugar, zest and extracts til nice and smooth.
  9. Pour the filling on top of the pre-baked phyllo dough.
  10. Sprinkle your berries all around filling in and covering the top of the ricotta mixture.
  11. Bake for another 30- 45 minutes, remember it all depends on your oven, everyone is different and also if the ricotta has a lot of moisture and is not drained properly, that could affect the cooking time as well, I didn't use the deli kind.
  12. Take the tip of a knife after 30 minutes and see if it comes out pretty clean in the center, if not check every 5 more minutes.
  13. Let the tart cool down before you slice into it then sprinkle powder sugar all over it.
  14. Enjoy this creamy, crunchy berry bite!



Summer Bean Salad

bean salad

I’ve been on a salad kick lately, I think it’s the change of weather and the fact that we started using our grill again. If you’re looking for a side dish to any of your grilled meats or fish you need to make this summer bean salad.

It’s quick to put together because it’s made with canned beans and jars of antipasto, usually sun-dried, packed in oil or marinated with some fresh ingredients added in as well.

cold side salad

I used a combination of cannellini and garbanzo beans but you can use all cannellini or all garbanzo, it’s your choice, same thing goes with the other ingredients, make it your own.

summer side dish

This keeps well for a couple of days in the fridge and delicious served cold or at room temperature, plus it can sit out and you don’t have to worry about it going bad, the dressing is simply olive oil and fresh lemon. A great side dish for all your summer parties!

Here’s how I made mine.

Summer Bean Salad
Make this side dish salad for all your summer grilling.
  • 1 can each, cannellini and garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained then patted dry
  • 1 jar of marinated artichoke hearts, drained
  • sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, scooped out and chopped
  • jarred roasted red peppers, drained and sliced
  • 2 small garlic cloves, minced finely
  • ½ teaspoon of Calabrian chili paste, (optional for a little heat)
  • olives of your choice
  • bocconcini balls, ( fresh mozzarella) drained and sliced in half
  • chopped red onion
  • chopped parsley
  • a few thin lemon slices
  • a handful of arugula
  1. Toss everything into a big bowl, let the flavors meld together then place into your serving dish!
  2. (Amounts of ingredients vary to your liking and how much you will be making.)
  3. The dressing is simply fresh lemon and olive oil whisked together and drizzled all around.



Grilled Eggplant With Fresh Tomato Salad

grilled eggplant

I can’t think of a more enjoyable salad to make during the warm summer months ahead than this grilled eggplant with fresh tomato salad.

It’s fun to serve for picnics, BBQ’s and any of your upcoming parties you’re planning. All I can say is that whenever I make this and lay it out on a buffet table people gravitate right towards it, not only is it super delicious, it has a pretty presentation and as an added bonus it holds up very well at room temperature.

charred eggplant

Grilling eggplant is so easy, just salt, pepper and olive oil both sides, place on the grill until tender with nice looking grill marks.

I like to look for medium size more slender eggplant rather than the rounder fatter kind, to me there’s less seeds, less bitterness. I also like to peel the skin off in strips, using a vegetable peeler go around the whole eggplant lengthwise making “zebra stripes”. If you take the skin completely off, the eggplant slices collapse and have no structure.

You can even grill up the eggplant the day before, then all you have to do is make your salad and assemble it all on serving day.

eggplant and tomato salad

Fan your grilled eggplant unto a pretty platter and then proceed to make your fresh tomato salad. Mine consisted of sliced cherry tomatoes, chopped cucumbers, red onions, olives, feta cheese, parsley, basil and olive oil. Here’s were you can add your own twist on it, you can replace the feta with any special cheese you like, I’ve changed it up many times myself by using provolone chunks, fresh mozzarella chunks, or even those cute little mozzarella pearls

grilled salad

Once you make this grilled eggplant salad I think it will become a regular for you throughout the summer months.



Spring Asparagus Salad with Crispy Prosciutto

spring salad

This asparagus salad is the perfect side to almost any main you prepare. The cast of characters are crunchy radishes, grilled or roasted al dente asparagus, goat cheese, nuts of your choice all sitting on a bed of arugula and spinach. Dressed and drizzled with a fresh lemon vinaigrette and then topped off with a garnish of crispy prosciutto chips.

Asparagus are in season now and at their peak in flavor, so now is the time to make this for your upcoming parties and get togethers.

crispy prosciutto

The crispy prosciutto chips add a delicious finishing touch to this salad and gives it a wow factor and pretty presentation.

asparagus salad

With Easter and Mother’s day coming up this could be your perfect side dish.

spring asparagus salad

I hope you enjoy every bite!

Spring Asparagus Salad with Crispy Prosciutto
A spring side dish featuring asparagus that you'll enjoy over and over!
  • 1 lb. grilled or roasted asparagus, cooked very al dente so it still has a nice bite, then sliced in half lengthwise
  • A mix of arugula and spinach, enough to fill a pretty platter
  • 3 or 4 thinly sliced radishes
  • 4 oz. chevre goats cheese
  • 3 Tbl. toasted hazelnuts or any nuts of your choice
  • 4 or 5 slices of prosciutto that will be oven crisp and broken in half
  • 4 Tbl. fresh lemon juice
  • 12 Tbl. of olive oil
  • a dollop of Djon
  • salt and pepper
  1. Roast your asparagus at 375 for maybe only 5 minutes. The asparagus should not be mushy or limp. Let them cool and then slice in half lengthwise.
  2. Lower temp to 350 and place the prosciutto on a parchment lined baking sheet, roast maybe 10-15 minutes, keep checking they could burn fast, ovens vary.
  3. In a large bowl add the goat cheese and a couple of tablespoons of the vinaigrette, soften it up a little then toss in the sliced, cooked asparagus and coat well.
  4. Add the greens, nuts and radishes tossing gently.
  5. Place everything onto a platter and spoon more of the vinaigrette all over, as much to your liking.
  6. Garnish the salad with the shards of crispy prosciutto that you broke in half.



Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Lemon Curd and Berries

lemon ricotta pancakees

Spring is around the corner with Easter, Mother’s day, Father’s day and summer in the near future. I can’t think of a better breakfast or brunch option than these lemon ricotta pancakes during the warm weather.

The lemon and the ricotta remind me of spring and time to lighten up, no more heavy winter foods.

The pancakes are enhanced by a dollop of lemon curd spooned on top that warms up with the heat of the pancake and mingles together with the maple syrup as you cut through them, the flavors are out of this world!

six inch pancakes

I chose to make 6 inch size pancakes, but you can certainly make smaller ones but I would suggest to double the recipe if your making them they’re that good! I yielded 6, six inch pancakes with this recipe.

pancakes with lemon curd

The lemon curd is a must, don’t bother making it from scratch, there are some great store bought brands which are good quality and taste terrific.

pancakes and berries

Garnish with fresh seasonal berries and I promise you this will be a hit with your family and friends in the months to come!

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Lemon Curd and Berries
Fluffy texture bright flavor in these lemon ricotta pancakes.
Serves: 6 -6 inch pancakes
  • 1 cup of full fat ricotta cheese, if using deli kind let the moisture drain out, otherwise purchase a full fat variety that is typically located by the cream cheese, mozzarella area in a grocery store.
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole milk ( you definitely want the consistency of pancake batter, you might want to add a little more or less depending on how thick it is when mixed.)
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 3 Tbsp of sugar
  • zest of a whole lemon
  • 1 jar of lemon curd
  • fresh berries
  • butter for swiping the pan
  • powdered sugar for dusting
  1. In a medium sized bowl add the drain ricotta cheese, then add in the eggs, milk, vanilla, lemon zest and whisk well to combine.
  2. In a smaller bowl add the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt, whisk well to combine.
  3. Now add the flour mixture to the wet ricotta ingredients folding gently with a spatula until you see no dry flour areas.
  4. Heat up your pan, swipe with a little butter, like I said i made 6 inch pancakes so I poured about a third or so on the bottom and shook the pan to spread the batter evenly around.
  5. I kept heat at medium and didn't flip until bubbles were showing up in the middle and edges of the pancake, you can peak underneath to make sure you see an nice golden brow, then flip over.
  6. Give the other side a couple of minutes then place onto a wire rack instead of paper towels, you don't want them to get soggy.
  7. Eat them warm dust with powdered sugar and serve them with a dollop of lemon curd on top along with fresh berries.



Chicken Francese with Angel Hair Pasta

lemon chicken with pasta

Chicken Francese is an Italian-American dish that consists of thinly pounded chicken cutlets, dredged in flour then egg, then fast sautéed and which will ultimately end up in a delicious lemon, butter and wine sauce.

It sounds like chicken piccata but it’s really not. Picatta has capers, this does not. Picatta is dipped in egg then flour, Francese is dredged in flour first then egg, and it really makes a difference.

francese process

You must have thinly sliced chicken breast, so you’ll need to slice a whole breast lengthwise and then pound it down a little, of course unless you can find it already done for you like I did.

Another important thing is you’ll want to heat your pan up really good and hot, add the oil and when the olive oil shimmers you can do your fast cooking on each side, but don’t over crowd the pan!

lemony chicken with pasta

I love serving this dish with angel hair pasta better known as capellini,  the thin strands soak up all the juices, it’s perfect!

chicken and pasta

For something green I made some rapini on the side which went very well with it all.

teen enjoying food

My family came over and we made this dish together, a fun night together and we enjoyed every bite!

5.0 from 2 reviews
Chicken Francese with Angel Hair Pasta
Chicken swimming in a delicious lemony butter sauce served with capellini pasta.
  • 4 whole chicken breast, thinly sliced lengthwise to equal 8 pieces all together pounded down to make them nice and thin
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup of white wine
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 3 cloves, chopped garlic
  • 1 lemon zested and sliced
  • butter and olive oil
  • fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 lb. of angel hair pasta/ capellini
  1. Set up all your ingredients first, have everything chopped and ready. to go because this goes pretty fast, while you're doing that start heating up your pan, don't use a nonstick pan, stainless is best for this.
  2. Have your dredging stations set up, in the flour add salt and pepper, in the egg mixture also add salt and pepper.
  3. Add a good amount of. olive oil to the hot pan and when its starts to ripple you're good to go.
  4. Dredge your cutlet into the flour first then into the egg, don't over crowd the pan do it in stages if you have to, I did 3 at a time.
  5. Quick fry on each side about 3 minutes, then set aside.Chicken should be tender and golden crispy.
  6. No need to clean your pan, now add the lemon slices and lightly brown on each side then remove and place with the chicken.
  7. Now add a good knob of butter and more olive oil and saute your shallot and garlic together.
  8. Now deglaze with the white wine and let it reduce to half.
  9. Add another knob of butter and stir in around 3 tablespoons of flour to make a roux.
  10. Now add the stock, lemon, juice and zest, then keep stirring till it thickens up a bit.
  11. Now it's time to put the chicken and sliced lemons into the lemony sauce, I actually got a bigger pan and just poured all of the sauce on top.
  12. Let it all simmer together for a little bit making sure chicken is cooked through.
  13. Have your pasta cooked, make sure to scoop some of that sauce into the cooked pasta, it's time to eat!
  14. Garnish with chopped parsley, a little drizzle of olive oil
  15. This dish is best eaten right away, I wouldn’t make it ahead.
  16. Enjoy



Mushroom Bolognese

mushroom and pappardelle

If you’re a mushroom lover then this mushroom bolognese is the dish is for you. It’s hearty, so satisfying, a definite cold weather food, quick to make and so full of flavor.


It’s a vegetarian take on traditional bolognese where savory mushrooms replace the meat.

baby bella mushrooms

Look how hearty that is, savory mushrooms enhanced with thyme and a little bit of rosemary is the main show stopper, along with the veg, garlic and other savory goodness.

stove top bolognese

Thick ribbons of pappardelle pasta tossed into the sauce is what I prefer, but honestly feel free to use any kind of pasta you like.

mushroom bolognese

Like I said this dish is quick to make so it would be great for a midweek meal or a special impromptu dinner party.

plated mushroom bolognese

During the cold winter months this hearty bowl of mushroom bolognese will become your new comfort food.

Mushroom Bolognese
Savory mushrooms replace the meat in this vegetarian version of bolognese.
  • 1 lb. of pasta, papardelle or pasta of your choice.
  • 1- ½. lbs. cremini mushrooms, or a mix of your choice
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 1 medium onion
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • ¾ cup tomato paste
  • ¾ cup white wine
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • rosemary and thyme
  • ¾ cup grated parmigiano reggiano
  • butter and olive oil
  • pasta water
  • parsley
  1. In a food processor add the carrot, celery ,onion and garlic, pulse it until you get a nice uniform course chop. ( otherwise finely chop by hand). Remove veg from bowl and set aside.
  2. Next in 2 batches do the same with the mushrooms, pulse til coarsely chopped (or by hand).
  3. In a large heavy bottomed pan drizzle ¼ cup of olive oil and a pat of butter.
  4. Add the veg, with some salt, pepper thyme and rosemary to taste, saute around 5 minutes til softened.
  5. Add the chopped mushrooms and saute until you see little moisture, about 5 minutes.
  6. Stir in the tomato paste
  7. Add in the wine until it evaporates.
  8. Add in the milk and a little pasta water if need be to loosen it up.
  9. Season to taste, add the grated Parmigiano, a nice drizzle of olive oil and garnish with fresh parsley.
  10. Toss the cooked pasta into the mushroom mixture and after plated, more cheese, parsley and a drizzle of olive oil for garnish.



Labor Day Salads For End Of Summer

green beans

It’s a fact, the end of summer is here. The light is changing already and soon fall and comfort foods will be on the horizon.

Labor Day is just a few days away and there’s still a surplus of summer veggies still available. These salads are easy to put together and great to bring to any cookout, BBQ or just as a side dish for your own personal grilling.

Most salads here have no recipes linked because visually you can see all the ingredients I used, and as far as dressings go you can make your own favorites, but I’ll mention the ones I used.

On the bean salad above I used a balsamic vinaigrette tossed with a mix of colorful veggies and haricot verts.

Greek salad

For this Greek salad I used a good quality olive oil with Greek oregano, salt and pepper.

burrata cheese

Beautiful heirloom tomatoes that I’m dearly going to miss! Adorned with burrata cheese, homemade basil pesto and olive oil.

fresh figs

Figs are coming in strong for their last hurrah, here’s the link how I put it together.

summer tomatoes

More tomatoes of course, on a bed of arugula with my favorite castelvetrano olives, red onion and a generous olive oil drizzle.

tomato salad

Mix up a “salsa” of small diced corn, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, fresh mozzarella and chickpeas, over a layer of cooked green beans or haricot verts with a healthy dose of olive oil.

zucchini asparagus salad

With this panzanella salad you could easily replace the asparagus with green or yellow beans, here’s the link how I put it together.

tomato and cucumbers

I can’t put a number on how many tomato and cucumber salads we had all summer, it’s a staple in my house, it’s quick to make and the perfect side for summer eating. Good quality olive oil, fresh basil from the garden, it  doesn’t get better than that! You can toss in some toasted. bread cubes or not!

grilled potato salad

Grilled potatoes and grilled corn get tossed together with a combination of Mediterranean ingredients as shown below, the dressing I used was a white balsamic vinaigrette.

salad ingredients

I hope these salads inspire you to use up the best and the last of summers bounty, I know I’ll be dreaming about those exquisite summer tomatoes in the dead of winter!


Fresh Summer Tomato Risotto

fresh tomato risotto

When summer comes and tomatoes are ripe and juicy I look forward to making this fresh tomato risotto. It’s not heavy as you might think, it’s a summer version that’s actually refreshingly light.

You can eat it as is for dinner or lunch on a hot summer day or pair it with grilled meats, veggies or fish, either way you’ll love the delicate flavors of the sweet tomatoes along with garlic, onions, white wine and grated parmesan.

summer tomatoes

Make this while the tomatoes are at their peak at farmers markets, produce departments and especially your home gardens.

making risotto

The process is pretty much the same as making any risotto, sautéing the veg, adding the rice, stirring in the broth.

pot of simmering risotto

The sweet, fresh tomatoes get tossed right into the pot until everything absorbs and mingles together.

cooked tomato risotto

Toss in some freshly grated Parmigiano and a hunk of butter at the end.

plated risotto

Now shower it with fresh torn basil!

stuffed. risotto tomatoes

Now if you so happen to have any leftovers, grab a few  more summer tomatoes, hollow them out, add the pulp to the existing leftover risotto and stuff them into the tomatoes, drizzle with olive oil and bake until tender and soft!

Fresh Summer Tomato Risotto
A summery version of risotto that features sweet fresh tomatoes.
  • 1-1/2 cups of arborio rice
  • 3 cups of cubed, ripe summer tomatoes, not. cherry tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion, diced, red or yellow
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½. cup white wine
  • 1 box of low sodium broth, chicken or veggie
  • ½ cup grated Parmigiano or Pecorino cheese
  • butter
  • olive oil
  • basil
  1. Simmer broth in a pot on top of the stove
  2. In a heavy bottom pan on medium heat add a knob of butter and drizzle with olive oil.
  3. Add the chopped onion, stirring til soft but not brown.
  4. Add in the garlic and rice, stirring til coated.
  5. Add the white wine and tomatoes, let it all absorb a little.
  6. Toss in the warm broth a ladle full at a time stirring with a wooden spoon until the liquid is absorbed, continue doing this until the rice is cooked but slightly al dente.
  7. You may have some broth leftover, the key is you want your risotto, loose and creamy but of course cooked.
  8. When finished turn off the heat, stir in the grated cheese along with a knob of butter, taste for salt and pepper.
  9. Sprinkle with fresh torn basil.
  10. Enjoy!



Batter Fried Zucchini Fritters With Lemon Aioli Dipping Sauce

fried fritters

Zucchini season is upon us and here’s an easy way to whip up some delicious batter fried zucchini fritters. The key method here is using a batter instead of any breadcrumbs, the batter is highly seasoned and it takes seconds to mix up.

You won’t need to do any shredding of the zucchini either, something I never liked doing because the zucchini gets water logged and then you have to spend time squeezing all that liquid out and not to mention it’s such a messy job!

fried zucchini

Batter fried zucchini fritters will give you an end result of nice crispy edges with a soft and tender inside, perfection in the fritter department!

chopped zucchini

What you need to do is take your zucchini, cut it right down the center, then quarter each half then with a knife slice off the seed portion as shown above, you’re not going to get all of it off and that’s ok, you’ll get most of it. Then proceed to dice up the rest.

chopped zucchini in batter

After you whip up your batter you’ll just drop your chopped zucchini right inside and toss to get it well coated.

frying fritters

Then just scoop out and start frying!

fried fritters

And before you know it you’ll have a tray full of crispy and delicious fritters!

eggplant batter

Back in the day my mother in law would make this versatile batter to fry up her eggplant slices and zucchini this way. For the eggplant she would just do a quick swipe on each side into the batter, then into the frying pan, her old school method never fails!

fried eggplant

The picture above is a tray of eggplant slices made with her batter, so good you just want to eat them like that!

fried zucchini fritters

I hope you try this easy batter method for your zucchini fritters and whatever other veggie you want to try. My mother in law never had a specific recipe for this, she would always say you just want the end result to be the consistency of pancake batter, some what loose but not runny. I did however try to give you specific amounts in the recipe below, but make it your own.


Batter Fried Zucchini Fritters With Lemon Aioli Dipping Sauce
Zucchini fritters, quick and easy!
  • 3 good sized, medium zucchini, sliced in half then each half into quarters, slice off most of the seed section then small dice the rest. ( refer to picture in blog post)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 2- 3 heaping tablespoons of chopped parsley, you could do basil as well
  • ¾ to 1 cup of grated pecorino romano cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • sparkling water like Pellegrino
  • olive oil
  • 1 cup full fat mayo
  • fresh lemon juice, enough to thin out the mayo
  • 1 small garlic clove, grated
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a bowl whisk together the eggs, flour, cheese, parsley and sparkling water until you get a nice pancake like batter consistency, not too thick and not too loose. salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Toss in your chopped zucchini pieces and. coat well.
  3. Get your skillet nice and hot add olive oil to coat the bottom. ( I used a non stick pan.)
  4. Scoop the zucchini batter with a quarter cup measuring cup, then press down a little to make a patty shape.
  5. Fry til deep golden on each side and place on a wire rack not a paper towel, sprinkle lightly with salt while hot.
  6. For the lemon aioli just mix everything together in a bowl using enough lemon juice to thin out the mayo to a nice consistency.
  7. A great snack, appetizer, side dish, light lunch or dinner.
  8. You can also dip them in warm marinara sauce.
  9. I yielded 18 fritters with this amount.



Grilled Pork Tenderloin Stuffed With Olive Muffalata

Muffuletta stuffed tenderloin

Fire up your grill to make this gorgeous looking stuffed pork tenderloin, it’s tender and juicy and it’s becomes a beautiful presentation for a main course.

It’s actually filled with an olive relish that’s store bought which makes it come together super easy. An addition of a few extra ingredients that I added makes the flavor out of this world!

muffuletta mix

You should be able to find several brands of olive salad packed in oil at a regular grocery store, it’s pretty popular. The one I used was a muffalata style but I’ve seen them as a relish or an olive salad in a jar.

olive mix

This is the one I used.

stuffing tenderloins

Just remember to drain your oil based olive salad well before you begin layering.

Next up you’ll want to take your pork tenderloin and first remove the silver skin all around, it’s easy to do just take the tip of a sharp knife, lift up underneath and pull off, be careful not to grab the tender meat.

Once that’s done you’re going to open the pork tenderloin like a book slowly slicing from top to bottom to open it up.

Cover the open pork with plastic wrap, take a meat mallet and pound it flat evenly all around, then you can start the layering process.

I used a thin sliced, sharp provolone cheese as my first layer which goes very well with the olive mix. The cheese also helps anchor the olive mix when it’s all grilled together, but feel free to use your favorite cheese

tenderloin rolls

Then roll into a nice bundle and secure with kitchen twine, rub down with olive oil and now they’re ready for the grill!

grilled tenderloins

First sear the meat on both sides using direct grilling, once the searing is done use indirect grilling keeping the heat around 375F until internal temp reaches 140-145, then take it off. Anything past that it and the meat will start to dry out, and you don’t want that.

Start checking the temp after 20 to 25 minutes.

A delicious and pretty main course to serve with any side dish of your choice!

5.0 from 2 reviews
Grilled Pork Tenderloin Stuffed With Olive Muffalatta
A super flavorful main course with a great presentation that gets some help with a store bought olive mix.
  • I used 2 pork tenderloins because that's how I buy them from Costco. Silver skin removed as per instructions in the post
  • 8 oz, of muffalata olive mix, drained
  • 6 whole sun dried tomatoes packed in oil, cut into small slices
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • a handful of chopped parsley
  • sliced, sharp provolone, enough to cover the bottom of your opened pork tenderloin
  • olive oil, salt and pepper
  • kitchen twine
  1. Follow directions in the post for removing the silver skin, opening up the pork tenderloin like a book and pounding it flat.
  2. Drain the olive salad well into a mesh strainer, then place into a small bowl.
  3. Add the chopped sun dried tomatoes, garlic and parsley, mix together.
  4. Onto the flattened, open pork, season with a little salt and pepper.
  5. Layer your sliced provolone all around.
  6. Spread the olive mixture all over on top of the cheese.
  7. Roll up tight and secure with kitchen twine.
  8. Rub all sides with olive oil, now ready for the grill.
  9. Place rolls directly on heat to sear but sides with grill marks then turn down to indirect heat. to finish cooking, keeping it around 375 degrees.
  10. After 20- 25 minutes check temp with an instant read thermometer. Temp should be between 140 to 145 internal, anything after the meat will start to dry out and be overcooked.
  11. Let it rest a bit, remove the twine and cut into slices.



Cedar Planked Eggplant Parmigiana

planked eggplant

Here’s a fun and unique twist on the classic way you prepare eggplant parmigiana. First the eggplant slices are grilled then layered and stacked together with the sauce and cheese and placed onto a smoky charred cedar plank.

It’s not fried in the traditional way so it’s less messy and not so heavy, preparing it this way is cleaner and lighter for hot summer days plus it’s a fun presentation.

grilled vegetables

The eggplant is brushed on both sides with olive oil cooking them slightly firm but still soft when grilling. I never waste grill space when I’m out there, I like to take whatever veggies I have on hand and cook them up all at once.

Another fun way to present vegetables is my cedar planked portobellos stuffed with summer veggies.

oil drizzle

Using cedar planks that you slightly char on both sides beforehand infuses the eggplant stacks with a light smokiness.

grilled eggplant

This technique was developed by Steven Raichlen with my version being slightly adapted. He used a smoked tomato sauce, I used a thick marinara. You can also sub out the cheese of your choice. I used fresh mozzarella but in the original recipe burrata was used.

The crunch on top was done with a small amount of breadcrumbs mixed with olive oil and grated parmigiano cheese, which I think gave it a nice finishing touch, but if you want it low carb just eliminate it.

For all you eggplant parmigiana lovers, here’s your new summer version!

Cedar Planked Eggplant Parmigiana
A unique and tasty twist on traditional eggplant parmigiana
  • 1 large eggplant, you'll need 12 slices to serve 4
  • fresh mozzarella, 8 slices
  • 2 cups or so of chunky marinara, homemade or store bought
  • ¾ cup of grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
  • ¾ cup homemade bread crumbs or panko
  • fresh basil
  • olive oil
  • cedar planks
  1. Soak your cedar planks for 1 hour then pat dry and set aside.
  2. Then char the planks on one side for about 2 minutes on direct grilling long enough to darken and smoke but not burn, set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, trim the top and bottom off the eggplant, then with a vegetable peeler, remove every other strip lengthwise.
  4. Cut the eggplant crosswise ¼ inch thick.
  5. Brush olive oil on each side then season with salt and pepper then grill until slightly firm but softened.
  6. Transfer the grilled eggplant slices to a rimmed sheet pan and let cool.
  7. Now assemble the parmigiana onto the smoky planks.
  8. Layer like this... 1 slice eggplant then sauce spread on top, next 1 slice of fresh mozzarella, a sprinkling of the grated cheese and a few basil leaves.
  9. Repeat the second layer ending with an eggplant slice on the top, a dollop of sauce and topped off with the breadcrumbs then more grated cheese and a good drizzle of olive oil.
  10. Place the planked stacks of parmigana onto the grill using indirect heat until the cheese melts nice and gooey and the tops are browned, 10 or 15 minutes.
  11. Serve on their planks.



Side Dish Ideas For Summertime Cookouts

caprese and avocado

Every cookout needs a fabulous spread of side dishes to go with it, it’s not just about the main course.  Here are a few of my favorite go-to sides.

For the most part, I’ll just briefly explain how I put them together, you don’t need an exact recipe it’s all about tossing the components together using as much as you want of each, and hopefully the photos will give you a good visual to make it your own.

You can’t go wrong with a caprese salad which I’m sure many of you have made, I layered the tomato and mozzarella on top of a bed of arugula, added some chopped avocado around the center then drizzled it all with olive oil, balsamic glaze and plenty of chopped basil.

tomato cucumber and mozzarella balls

This is another version of a caprese salad using sliced colorful cherry tomatoes and small bocconcini balls, chopped cucumber, plenty of basil and a generous amount of olive oil with salt and pepper to taste.

italian pasta salad

A pasta salad is always welcome at a cookout and because it doesn’t have a mayonnaise base it’s safe to keep out for a while.

I also like changing up different pasta shapes, so feel free to use your favorite, just cook it ahead of time.

pasta salad ingredients

My pasta salads consist of chopped cucumbers, red onion, some type of colored peppers, sliced cherry tomatoes, olives and  arugula.

Sometimes I add chopped Genoa salami and sometimes not. I also like to add a sharp cheese like provolone, fontinella or asiago which I cube up.

Toss everything together with your pre-cooked pasta and use a homemade Italian dressing to bring it all together.

I like to whisk together 3 parts olive oil to 1 part white balsamic vinegar add in some granulated garlic, a splash of lemon, oregano, salt and pepper. If you want to thicken it a bit add a dollop of Dijon.

pasta salad

Same pasta salad as above with the dressing and all, minus the salami which I replaced with fresh corn kernels.

fish salad

If you like doing seafood on the grill this is a nice salad to put together. Here I used pre-cooked octopus that I cut up along with calamari and shrimp, everything was tossed in olive oil, lemon rind, oregano, salt and pepper beforehand, I would also add chopped parsley, which I didn’t have that day. Stick it on a grill pan and grill altogether.

Layer the seafood on a platter with an arugula base, some tomato wedges, kalamata olives and oregano with a fresh lemon and olive oil dressing.


italian potato salad

Here’s a potato salad minus the mayo that can be prepped ahead of time, cut the potatoes in half and roast them til golden and blanch up your green beans.

Then toss them all together with red onion, fresh parsley, oregano, slices of those tiny colored peppers, a sprinkling of grated pecorino with a dressing of fresh lemon and olive oil.

italian romaine salad

A tossed Italian salad with romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, artichoke hearts, radishes, olives, red onion, cucumber, provolone cheese and pepperoncini tossed together with an Italian vinaigrette of your choice, always a great side.

grilled artichokes

We’re big on artichokes in my family and grilled artichokes are a delicious side and labor of love,  here’s the link.

grilled vegetables

Any combination of grilled veggies is always a welcome so colorful healthy and delicious!


Adding some fruit into the mix with balls of cantaloupe and bocconcini drizzled with a light touch of olive oil whisked with a little fresh orange juice.

Watermelon and feta

Wedges of watermelon with feta, blueberries and pistachios drizzled with a balsamic glaze is always fun, and who doesn’t like watermelon.

grape salad

And last but not least the famous grape salad that was all the rage a couple of years ago. A combination of green and red grapes tossed into a creamy mix of half softened cream cheese and half sour cream but I like to lighten mine up a bit with some Greek yogurt.

Sprinkle the top with some brown sugar and walnuts or pecans, always a hit at a party

Just like Thanksgiving the sides are where it’s at, enjoy!



Spring Asparagus Tart For Mother’s Day Brunch

asparagus tart

This simple elegant tart is perfect for a special occasion brunch such as Mother’s Day which happens to be right around the corner. Start the day spoiling mom or those that are mother-figures in your life with this springtime tart and mimosa in hand!

ingredients for tart

The ingredients in this tart is what makes it so special, fresh spring asparagus, eggs, Parmigiano Reggiano and two types of cheese, Boursin which is a soft cheese filled with garlic and herbs, it really gives the tart a unique and delicious flavor. The other is a hard cheese which is a mix of cheddar and parmesan, although you can change it up with a gruyere or grated mozzarella if you can’t find it.

tart pan with phyllo dough

Another feature of this tart is the use of phyllo pastry for the crust, in my opinion it really makes it. The phyllo pastry serves as a crunchy base for the creamy filling.

If you ever were afraid to use phyllo, don’t be, it’s so forgiving! The key thing to remember is once you open up the package and lay the sheets out be sure to cover them with a damp cloth because they can dry out fast. If the sheets rip while you’re layering them no worries, just cover with another one, you won’t even see any flaws in the finished product.

asparagus tart

Phyllo gives the tart a rustic yet elegant look, here’s another springtime tart I made using phyllo with ricotta as the base.

savory asparagus tart

So golden brown and crispy!

slices of tart

A nice slice of this delicious tart alongside a fresh salad is the way to go.

arugula salad

I like to serve this arugula, avocado and cucumber salad with shaved parmigiano and a fresh lemon and olive oil dressing, it’s the perfect accompaniment.

plated asparagus tart

Serve warm or at room temperature, either way you’re in for a treat!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Spring Asparagus Tart For Mother's Day Brunch
A simple, elegant tart perfect for a special occasion
  • Tart pan with removable bottom, I used a 12x8 pan
  • 1 lb. or bunch of fresh asparagus, preferably not thick ones, cleaned and trimmed
  • 7-8 sheets of phyllo pastry, be sure to cover the sheets with a damp cloth while in use
  • 1 stick of melted butter, unsalted
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 package of Boursin cheese, garlic and fine herbs, 5.2 oz
  • 1 very heaping cup of shredded cheese such as the cheddar parmesan mix I had or gruyere or mozzarella ( not fresh)
  • 2 heaping tablespoons of grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese plus extra for sprinkling between. sheets
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • zest of half a lemon
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat oven to 375F.
  2. Place the asparagus single layer on a sheet pan and into the oven for 5 minutes just to soften slightly.
  3. Smash the room temperature Boursin cheese in a medium bowl to get most of the lumps out.
  4. Add the six eggs into the bowl and whisk together along with the heavy cream, zest, Parmigiano, thyme, and then fold in the shredded cheese, set aside.
  5. Put the tart pan on a rimmed sheet pan for easy in and out of the oven.
  6. Butter the tart pan sides and bottom with the melted butter.
  7. Then 1 x 1 layer a sheet of phyllo, overlapping sides then brush all over quickly with melted butter.
  8. On each sheet you can sprinkle a little Parmigiano and some black pepper.
  9. Repeat on each layer brushing the butter on top and sides adding a little Parmigiano and black pepper or you can do every other layer if you wish.
  10. When you reach the top fold in the sides to make a nice crust all the way around, don't worry if it doesn't look perfect, remember phyllo is forgiving.
  11. Butter the top crust all around the edge.
  12. Pour in all the creamy filling over the pastry crust.
  13. Arrange the asparagus stalks in a nice pattern on top of the cheese mixture.
  14. Bake at 375F 35- 40 minutes and it reaches a nice deep golden color.
  15. Cool it down before removing the sides of the pan then slide it onto a platter without the bottom which should slide off easily.
  16. Serve warm or at room temperature.



Citrus Vanilla Biscotti With Pistachio

spring biscotti

These citrus and vanilla biscotti have just the right amount of sweetness with lots of crunch, a nice treat when you want a little something with your coffee or tea.

They’re light and satisfying, a nice seasonal change with the citrus and you can eat them plain, drizzle with a lemon glaze ( which is really good) or if you want to fancy them up, dip the ends in white chocolate and add some sprinkles for a nice colorful spring treat.

sliced up biscotti

You can also switch up the nuts that you use, I chose pistachios but slivered almonds would work as well, or just eliminate them if you’re not a nut lover.

cut biscotti

If you’re a dunker leave them plain like this and dunk away! I on the other hand am not a dunker, I prefer some crunch and frills.

decorated biscotti

Biscotti are sturdy, they pack well and stay fresh for a long time so they’re also great for gift giving too.

platted biscotti

Who wouldn’t enjoy this for an afternoon treat?

citrus vanilla biscotti

Get the coffee going!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Citrus Vanilla Biscotti With Pistachio
Spring and summer Citrus vanilla biscotti, you'll want to keep a stash of these!
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 eggs
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • 6 Tablespoons room temperature unsalted butter
  • 1½ teaspoons of baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon each of lemon, orange and vanilla extract
  • zest of.1 orange and 1 lemon
  • ⅓ cup of pistachios or slivered almonds (optional)
  1. Heat oven to 350º Line a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. In a large bowl cream together the butter and sugar, add the eggs, extracts and zest.
  3. In a small bowl whisk the flour, salt and baking powder, then incorporate that to the wet ingredients.
  4. Fold in the nuts if using.
  5. Form two logs right on the parchment around 3x12 then pat them down to ¾ of an inch thick.
  6. Place into the oven for 25 minutes, then remove and let them cool completely.
  7. Turn oven down to 325 degrees.
  8. Then make slices with a serrated knife and stand them straight up on the baking sheet.
  9. Bake an additional 30 - 35 minutes according to your liking.
  10. You can eat them plain like that, or dip the ends in melted white chocolate, adding sprinkles, or finish them with a drizzle of lemon glaze made with 1 cup of powdered sugar and the juice of fresh lemons to reach the right consistency.



Baked White Fish With Vegetable Salsa

veggie salsa on baked fish

Here’s a quick, easy, go-to meal you can make mid week or anytime. Baked white fish topped with a delicious and super flavorful vegetable salsa.

After you’ve chopped up your veggies for the salsa you’ll have dinner on the table in minutes!

flounder filets

I used flounder in this recipe because I came across some nice fresh filets, flounder is a delicate fish with tender flakes, but honestly any white fish will do.

Cod is a wonderful substitution as well as grouper, halibut and sole to name a few.  If the fish is more thick and dense your going to have to adjust the cooking time a little, but other than that the delicious results will be the same.

vegetable salsa

The vegetable salsa is the shining star of this dish, the bright colors and vibrant flavors make whatever fish you use really shine.

uncooked fish

fish ready for the oven

Just generously cover the uncooked filets all over with the salsa and then let the oven do it’s magic.

baked fish

The flavors will all meld together in great harmony.

baked whitefish

Such a light, healthy, colorful and good for you meal, enjoy!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Baked White Fish With Vegetable Salsa
A quick, colorful and intensely flavorful fish dish.
  • 1½ lbs. white fish filets of your choice such as cod, flounder, sole, grouper
  • 1 small zucchini, diced small
  • ½ red onion, diced small
  • ½ each of a yellow and orange pepper, diced small
  • a good handful of pitted mixed olives, slightly chopped
  • a good handful of sliced grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • a handful chopped parsley
  • olive oil
  • paprika
  • lemon wedges
  1. Place all your chopped vegetables into a bowl, add the parsley, garlic, everything for the salsa, then drizzle in enough olive oil to make it a loose consistency, salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Place your filets into a glass baking dish that has been drizzled with olive oil.
  3. Salt and pepper the filets and give them a light sprinkle of paprika.
  4. Generously top the filets with the vegetable salsa, covering the fish all over, add in a few lemon wedges.
  5. Place into a 400 degree pre-heated oven for 15-18 minutes.
  6. NOTE: I used flounder which is more delicate and less dense, but if using a thicker fish adjust the time accordingly.



Shrimp Oreganata With Homemade Breadcrumbs

stuffed shrimp

Shrimp Oreganata is a super flavorful, Italian American baked seafood dish. What’s nice about this dish is that it can be prepared ahead of time and it only takes a few minutes to bake. It’s perfect for a party, midweek meal or just a great seafood option when you need one.

Shrimp oreganata can be the ultimate appetizer or served as a main along with a salad or vegetables of your choice or just pair it with some pasta, you can’t go wrong.


What I feel takes this recipe to another level is making your own breadcrumbs by using up leftover chunks of bread you might have around.  In my house it most certainly is a baguette, crusty Italian bread, ciabatta, or I’ve even used sourdough, good bread really makes a difference here it’s so much better than store bought which is too finely ground with no flavor.

It’s a simple procedure to make your own, take your chunks of bread and whirl it in a food processor into small chunks, then spread it onto a baking sheet single layer, bake til light golden at 350 degrees F. tossing and checking them and making sure they’ve also dried out.

After they’ve cooled down you can either place them back into the food processor and whirl to your desired crumb size, or put them into a zip lock bag and tap the bag a little with a rolling pin to get your desired size, that’s what I did.

breadcrumb mix

The breadcrumbs are then seasoned well and drizzled with olive oil which will eventually create a delicious golden and crunchy crust on top of the shrimp.

butterflied shrimp

Speaking of shrimp, don’t waste your time using small shrimp, only large or jumbo will do. I used the large size for this and I prefer buying deveined with the easy peel so I can leave the tail on. Side note: I usually buy mine at Whole Foods.

It’s also important to butterfly the shrimp because as you can see above it leaves you with a nice flat area to pack on your seasoned oreganata breadcrumbs.

To butterfly shrimp, make sure they’re cleaned and deveined, take off the shell up to the tail but leave the tails on. Use a knife and slice along the back curve starting from the head area but don’t cut all the way through, then open it up like a book.

stuffed butterflied shrimp

Bake them on a foil or parchment lined sheet pan drizzled with olive oil, then drizzle a little more on each stuffed shrimp before placing them into a pre-heated 425 degrees F. oven for maybe 10 minutes or so depending on the size of the shrimp.

platter of shrimpshrimp oreganato

Serve immediately and enjoy every bite!

Shrimp Oreganata With Homemade Breadcrumbs
  • 1 dozen large or jumbo shrimp, in the shell
  • 2 cups homemade breadcrumbs (as stated in post)
  • 2 Tablespoons of very soft, room temp unsalted butter
  • ½ cup, chopped parsley, (more for garnish)
  • 2 finely chopped garlic cloves
  • 3 tablespoons, grated cheese
  • pinch of red pepper flakes, (optional)
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • lemon wedges and parsley for garnish
  1. Peel, devein and butterfly the shrimp leaving the tails on, then pat them down of any moisture, (directions are in the post).
  2. Drizzle a little olive oil on the shrimp along with a small sprinkling of salt and pepper.
  3. In a small bowl add the bread crumbs, butter, garlic, zest, parsley, red pepper flakes and grated cheese, mix well.
  4. Drizzle olive oil into the mixture until you see a wet sand look, then taste for seasoning to your liking.
  5. Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees F. then line a sheet pan with foil or parchment, drizzle lightly with olive oil.
  6. Top each shrimp with a good amount of the seasoned breadcrumbs.
  7. Place shrimp on sheet pan, drizzle them with a little olive oil and bake around ten minutes or so more or less according to your oven and size of shrimp.
  8. Don't overcook them, place on a platter garnished with lemon wedges and parsley and serve immediately.



Neapolitan Semolina And Ricotta Cake

semolina and ricotta cake

I’ve been wanting to do a post on this recipe for years, now that I know the proper name, Migliaccio I knew it was time. This recipe has been handed down in my family from my mother and aunt who would make it together, it’s a special cake made with semolina and ricotta along with flavors of citrus, vanilla and rum soaked raisins.

In my family it was always called “mul-yach” and I knew that couldn’t be the proper name because every time I mentioned it to anyone they had no idea what I was talking about.

It wasn’t until about a year ago when I posted a picture of it on Instagram and asked if anyone knew the proper name of this recipe and that’s when I got my answer.

Migliaccio di Carnevale, it’s a traditional sweet dish that comes from Naples and it’s served at Carnival.

cooking semolina

What’s unique about this cake is that it uses cooked semolina as an ingredient along with ricotta which results in a semi firm texture and holds up well to the flavors and any additions added. This cake is crustless and pudding like.

cooked semolina

The first thing you want to do is cook the semolina until it’s nice and thick where it clumps up and you can see the bottom of the pan, then you have to cool it down before you add it to the other ingredients.

semolina ingredients

There are many variations to this recipe with little tweaks here and there, if you do a Google search you’ll see what I mean. You can also bake this cake in a rectangle dish like I always make mine or you’ll see many using a spring form pan as well, it’s totally up to you.

semolina cake

I have to tell you, in my opinion the rum soaked golden raisins are key to this, if you don’t like rum try Grand Marnier, or just plump them up with hot water. If you don’t want raisins you can just add some of the flavorings, make it your own.

migliaccio cake

Here is my tried and true recipe, enjoy!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Neapolitan Semolina And Ricotta Cake
A traditional Neopolitan sweet cake made with semolina and ricotta known as Migliaccio
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • ¾ cups semolina flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 8 oz. ricotta, drained if full of liquid
  • ¾ cups sugar
  • 5 whole eggs
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 1½ teaspoons, vanilla
  • ¾ cups of golden raisins
  • rum, enough to cover the raisins
  • powdered sugar
  1. Butter a 9x6 rectangle casserole dish or use an 8 or 9 inch spring form pan.
  2. In a medium pot add the milk and bring it to almost a boil then add the. semolina and whisk until it thickens in a clump and pulls away from the pan, 5 minutes or so, then take it off the heat and let it cool.
  3. Put the raisins into a small bowl and cover them with the rum, place into a microwave for 2-3 minutes, set them aside for 15 minutes, when ready to incorporate drain them of the existing rum.
  4. In a large bowl using an electric mixer add the sugar and ricotta beat together then incorporate the eggs one at a time til nice and creamy.
  5. Add in the cooked and cooled semolina along with the zest and vanilla, beat slowly until nice and smooth.
  6. Lastly add in the raisins and incorporate.
  7. Pour the mixture into baking dish and place in a 400F. pre-heated oven and bake for 35-40 minutes.
  8. Let it cool down then sprinkle with powdered sugar right before cutting into it.
  9. Store in fridge.



Cod Fish Cacciatore Style

cod stew

With Lent soon approaching fish dishes will become front and center and although there are multiple ways to cook fish, this is one of my favorites, cod fish made cacciatore style.

Cacciatore means hunter in Italian and it refers to a meal prepared hunter-style, usually in a pan with tomatoes, vegetables, herbs, wine and other things.

wild caught cod

There are numerous chicken cacciatore recipes if you search for them, I even have one here on my blog, but this recipe is changed up by using fish, fresh wild caught cod.

Actually you can use any firm white fish, I just like using cod because it’s readily available in my area and also reasonably priced and super delicious.

cod cacciatore

The cod poaches in a full-bodied sauce and the fish takes on all that delicious flavor in every bite.

cod Italian style

Crusty bread is a must for sopping up those juices but you might also want to serve this with pasta, rice or potatoes as well.

plated cod dinner

I opted for some roasted asparagus to keep it on the lighter side but believe me I’ve had it with angel hair pasta and it’s amazing!

5.0 from 7 reviews
Cod Fish Cacciatore Style
A healthy fish option loaded with flavor!
  • 1½ lbs. of fresh wild caught cod, or other firm white fish cut into 3 inch chunks and patted dry
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced into strips
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced into strips
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 4 cloves chopped. garlic
  • 6 or 7 campari tomatoes ( they're the size of a golf ball, if you can't find them use grape tomatoes to match equivalent size. You just want to use fresh tomatoes and have enough so that the fish can nestle in among the veggies and when it cooks down creates a sauce, large chop the tomatoes
  • tomato paste, a good 2 or 3 tablespoons
  • red pepper paste for heat, (optional) according to your heat level or some a pinch of red pepper flakes
  • olives, kalamata or castelvetrano your desired amount
  • 2 tablespoons, capers
  • dry white wine, a good splash
  • broth, to even out sauce
  • fresh chopped basil, parsley and thyme
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a heavy bottomed pan drizzled with olive oil, add the peppers, onions, garlic, sauté til softened.
  2. Add a good squeeze of tomato paste and optional red pepper paste or pepper flakes onto the veggies.
  3. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Splash in the white wine and incorporate it with the veggies and let it cook down for a minute.
  5. Add the tomatoes, capers, olives, herbs and a little broth, and let it simmer til tomatoes break down and thicken up, taste for seasoning adding more of what you like, if too thick, add some broth, or too thin add more tomatoes.
  6. When sauce has thickened up and pretty much finished cooking add the fish and nestle it all around spooning some of the sauce on each piece.
  7. Simmer and slightly cover the pan, fish cooks quickly, when it looks opaque it's done.
  8. Sprinkle with more of the herbs for garnish.
  9. Serve alone with crusty bread, green veggie, pasta, rice or potatoes.



Savory Baked Ricotta Cheese Dip

dip and crackers

If you’re looking for a warm dip that’s perfect for game day, a special occasion or just a snack at anytime, look no further, my savory baked ricotta cheese dip is the one for you!

It’s warm and creamy, filled with cheese and herbs, a touch of garlic and a bit of cherry tomatoes for extra added flavor. It’s a recipe I guarantee you’ll want to double or triple.

ricotta dip

Decorate the top like an Italian hummus with more herbs, olive oil, red pepper flakes to enhance every scoop. You can serve it with toasted baguette slices, fresh veggies or your favorite crackers, it’s all good.

baked ricotta

A nice shallow baking dish works well for this because it gives you a nice surface to spread the cheese onto and to put on your toppings.

Whip up this savory baked ricotta cheese dip for a special treat!

Savory Baked Ricotta Cheese Dip
Game day, special occasion or just a delicious snack, this dip is the one for you, you'll definitely want. to double or triple the recipe!
  • 1½ cups. of ricotta, if too liquidy drain in a strainer over a bowl for a couple of hours or overnight in the fridge
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup of grated romano or parmesan cheese
  • 5 or 6 sliced cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon each chopped basil and parsley
  • zest of half a lemon
  • 1 grated galic clove
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • OPTIONAL, you can add some sliced olives if you like, extra chopped herbs for the top, red pepper flakes, more parmesan or romano and olive oil of course
  1. Pre-heat oven to 375F. then. oil a shallow baking dish.
  2. In a bowl hand whip til smooth and incorporated the ricotta, egg, grated cheese, basil, parsley, garlic, zest then fold in the sliced cherry tomatoes.
  3. Bake for 20 minutes or until set.
  4. I like to finish it under the broiler for a minute or two to get it nice and golden.
  5. Decorate the top with more herbs, red pepper flakes, (optional) a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of grated cheese.
  6. Serve warm with crostini toasts, crackers or fresh veggies.
  7. I highly recommend doubling or tripling this recipe!



Lemony Sweet Whipped Ricotta with Fresh Berries

berries and ricotta

If. you’re looking for a quick, no bake very impressive dessert, this is the one for you. Sweet whipped ricotta with fresh berries. When ricotta is whipped, by means of a food processor it becomes very creamy and velvety and takes on a whole new life and then layered with fresh berries it becomes the perfect dessert.

You can sweeten it up with different sugars, zests, extracts and juices and even a little liquor if you like.

triple berries

A light and healthy dessert using fresh berries of your choice, it’s low in carbs and so quick to make.

processing ricotta

You’ll want to use good quality whole milk ricotta and if you get it from a deli it’s usually holding on to some liquid and if that’s the case you’ll want to drain it overnight in the fridge with some cheesecloth or a fine strainer over a bowl, at least for a couple of hours then you’ll be good to go.

I used a little limoncello and lemon zest for mine but lemon extract or juice plus zest is wonderful as well.

whipped ricotta

Don’t be afraid to give it a good processing, up to five minutes because you want that creamy, velvety texture.

lemon whipped ricotta

You can make your sweet whipped ricotta a few hours ahead and store it in the fridge until dessert time

berries and ricotta

You can serve it parfait style with multiple layers or simply the way I did, I highly suggest adding some nuts to top it off. Enjoy this simple, elegant light dessert!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Lemony Sweet Whipped Ricotta with Fresh Berries
Transform ricotta into a super velvety texture by whipping it in a food processor.
  • 1 lb. whole milk ricotta, drained of liquid if "wet" by using a cheese cloth or fine strainer overnight in the fridge
  • ⅓ cup of sugar, either powdered or regular
  • Zest of a lemon
  • Additional flavors ( at this point taste for sweetness and lemon flavor, you can add some lemon juice or a little lemon extract,( start out small) or even limoncello liquor, start with a small amount and taste to your liking.
  • Assorted mixed fresh berries
  • nuts for garnish
  1. Add the drained ricotta into the bowl of a food processor and process till velvety smooth, could be up to 5 minutes.
  2. Add the sugar, zest, and any flavorings, then taste to your liking. Feel free to sub in orange zest and juice if you prefer that over lemon.
  3. Process until all the flavors are all mixed together.
  4. Layer with fresh berries and nuts.
  5. You can make this a few hours in advance and keep in the fridge until dessert time.



Savory Vegetable Ricotta Tart

veg tart

A savory vegetable tart that features creamy ricotta studded with fresh spinach, roasted butternut squash and red onions that are packed into a crispy phyllo crust.

First of all don’t let phyllo pastry scare you, it’s so forgiving, you could accidentally rip or tear it and no one would know the difference, it hides imperfections beautifully. I use to be afraid of it, in fact I did a post about it here. That being said there’s always a box sitting in my freezer now for sweet and savory dishes.

creamy ricotta

Besides phyllo dough the other important element to this tart is a good quality ricotta. I always buy mine in the deli section of my Italian grocer and it usually has  some watery liquid that clings to it when they scoop it out for you. You’ll want to drain the ricotta for a couple of hours or even overnight, you’d be surprised how much liquid comes out, this should be done to ensure your ricotta tart doesn’t bake up soggy.

savory tart

Honestly you can top your tart with any roasted vegetables of your choice, I chose butternut squash because it’s perfect this time of year. You can also tailor this tart to what veggies are in season and what goes together well, like I did here with spring vegetables.

ricotta veggie tart

The creamy ricotta compliments the crunch factor of the phyllo crust with every single bite. You’ll love this tart for lunch, brunch or dinner with a green salad on the side, enjoy!

Savory Vegetable Ricotta Tart
Creamy vegetable ricotta filled tart with a crunchy phyllo crust
  • 4 cups good quality ricotta, drained of any excess liquid
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 a nice handful of fresh chopped spinach
  • 3 small garlic cloves grated
  • ½ cup grated pecorino or parmigiano
  • 1 generous cup of shredded provolone or shredded mozzarella
  • 1 medium butternut squash, diced and 2 red onions sliced
  • 8 sheets of. phyllo pastry, defrost according to package directions
  • olive oil
  • fresh thyme
  • olive oil spray for ease of coating the phyllo
  • tart pan with removable bottom, I used a rectangle pan 11-1/2 x 7 -1/2
  1. Peel, dice and roast the squash at 400F til slightly golden and tender on a baking sheet drizzled with olive oil, salt, pepper and a little fresh thyme ( you'll definitely have extra leftover). Slice your onions leaving root in tact so they stay together when roasting.
  2. In a large bowl add the ricotta, eggs, spinach, garlic, pecorino and shredded provolone and mix it all up very well to a smooth consistency, add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Spray or oil your tart pan, then one by one add a sheet of phyllo, spraying or brushing oil on each one as you go, layer by layer into your tart pan, at the same time being careful to cover the remaining sheets with a damp cloth so they don't dry out.
  4. When all the layers of phyllo are completed and oiled and into the tart pan, spread the ricotta mixture all over evenly.
  5. Top the ricotta with your roasted vegetables evenly spacing it all over. (I'm sure you'll have some extra squash leftover.)
  6. Tuck the ends of the phyllo all around the ricotta and tart pan.
  7. Spray or oil the crust all around.
  8. Add some fresh thyme, a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of pecorino all around.
  9. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and roast at 400F for around 30 or so minutes until ricotta is set and the crust is deep golden.
  10. Let it cool down before cutting into it.




Hearty Rainbow Veggie Salad and Beyond

veggie salad

It’s January, the holidays are over and if you’re like me there’s a need for a little detoxing, more veggies, less sugar. Although I enjoyed every carb ladened dish I had I’m now craving veggies and greens.

Chopping and prepping hearty vegetables in season is the perfect and ready to go stash for creating heathy meals that you can use in salads, soups and frittatas  during the week.

rainbow colored vegetables

Grab any of your favorite veggies, I used some I recently bought and some that needed to be revived in my fridge, you’d be surprised the amount you get when you slice a single pepper or a small head of broccoli.

roasted squash

I also roasted a butternut and acorn squash, two things I buy often during the fall and winter.

winter salad ingredients

This is definitely a substantial meal in itself with the addition of the roasted squash and some avocado resting on a bed of kale.

hearty winter salad

What kind of dressing would you use? I chose a hearty tahini dressing which really stood up to all the vegetables, bright lemon, garlic and creamy tahini, a recipe I slightly adapted from the What’s Gaby Cooking website.


Make sure to make enough it’s pretty amazing!


You can always make a big pot of minestrone loaded with sautéed vegetables, simmered with broth, water and some spices. I like to add some beans and always a parmigiano cheese rind, it’s healthy, warms you up and it just screams detox!

veggie frittata

And finally you can never go wrong with a frittata. So many ways you can use up those veggies and it’s such a delicious and satisfying meal, here’s some ideas. 


Lighten up this January by adding more colorful veggies to your meals.

Hearty Rainbow Veggie Salad and Beyond
This Tahini recipe is adapted from What's Gaby Cooking
  • ½ cup of organic tahini
  • 1 Tablespoon, olive oil
  • 2 small garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 or more tablespoons, fresh lemon juice
  • enough water to make a creamy consistency
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a bowl whisk everything together, tasting for enough lemon juice, salt and pepper.
  2. Slowly add some water little by little to reach a nice creamy consistency.
  3. Place into a jar and keep refrigerated.
  4. If it thickens up add a tiny bit more water to loosen it.



Party Size Lasagna

full pan lasagna

Lasagna is the perfect party dish when serving a crowd, almost everyone loves it and the best part is you can assemble it the day before so all the dirty work is done and you can enjoy your guests the day of the party.

There’s nothing like the comforting smell of lasagna cooking in the oven. Who can resist layers of a rich meat sauce, creamy ricotta, melted cheese and pasta sheets that meld together and become one.

cooked lasagna

This is an Italian-American version of lasagna, sometimes known as Christmas lasagna in many households. An authentic Italian recipe is made with a Bolognese sauce and bechamel, both versions are delicious in their own special ways.

There’s also hundreds of variations using fresh pasta sheets, dry pasta, no boil and boil pasta. I’m using dry pasta that I pre-boiled just until it starts to get limp. I never got into the no-boil trend, although I’ve tried several times I always go back to my “old school ” ways.

lasagna pan

Since this recipe is all about feeding a large party size crowd I recommend using a large roasting pan, about the size 15 x 11 x 4 inches deep or close to those dimensions, I’ve seen 16 x 12 inch roasting/baking pans on Amazon, even the blue speckled kind that I have.

One of the benefits of using this type of pan is that the filling is contained so well with no drip overs or spillage, plus you can make it several layers deep and it’s easy to cut.

lasagna ingredients

I would advise making your meat sauce one or two days ahead of assembly day so it’s done and you’re ready to go!

pasta layer

Make sure the pasta completely covers the whole bottom of the pan.

pasta layers

Spread your meat sauce and ricotta, you don’t need to completely cover each layer, with six layers deep it all gets covered in the end.

cheese layer

Mozzarella and pecorino cheese a must.

party size lasagna

Almost to the top!

prepped lasagna

Six layers deep all prepped for the next day.

deep layered lasagna

At this point just top it with foil and stick it into the fridge.

cooked lasagna

Baked to perfection the next day.

lasagna layers

A real crowd pleaser! Serve it as a main with a big green salad on the side along with some crusty bread.

sliced lasagna

The secret ingredient is love ❤️

Party Size Lasagna
There's nothing like a big lasagna to get the party going!
  • 1 lb. mild Italian sausage
  • 1 lb. ground chuck
  • 4 - 28 oz. cans of whole San Marzano tomatoes
  • 8 cloves of garlic, minced
  • fresh basil
  • 3- 1 lb. boxes of curly edge long lasagna noodles
  • 3 lbs. good ricotta from an Italian deli which should be drained overnight so liquid is released
  • I heaping cup of grated Pecorino, plus extra for each layer
  • 3 eggs, whisked
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • ¼ cup chopped basil,
  • or ½ cup chopped frozen spinach that has been squeezed of all liquid
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • heaping ½ cup of shredded mozzarella, (dry, not fresh) plus an additional pound or so for the layers.( depending how cheesy you want it, I tend to go lighter).
  • olive oil
  1. Make your meat sauce ahead of time 2 or 3 days before assembling the lasagna.
  2. In a large heavy bottomed pan, brown your two meats together, breaking up any large chunks with a wooden spoon.
  3. When meat is brown, remove onto a paper towel to soak up any grease and wipe out any excess grease from pan.
  4. Add a drizzle of olive oil to the pan along with the chopped garlic, when golden add in all your tomatoes with a teaspoon of salt per can, use an immersion blender to make it smooth or squish them down.
  5. Add the meat back in along with some fresh basil and let it simmer for an hour or so.
  6. ********
  7. The day of assembly add your drained ricotta into a large bowl along with the grated Pecorino, ½ cup of shredded mozzarella, parsley, basil or chopped spinach. (at this point taste it for seasoning
  8. before you add the raw eggs, maybe you like more salt and pepper or more grated cheese, do it to your liking). Mix the. eggs and everything together well.
  9. Prep the noodles 1 lb. at a time, unless you have a huge pan, cooking them in salted water and a short drizzle of olive oil in the pot to prevent sticking, boil until the noodles are limp then pull them out one by one with tongs and place onto an oiled rimmed baking sheet to cool down.
  10. Repeat. Add more water to the pot if need be and get it to boil again before adding more pasta.
  11. *****For Assembly***
  12. Have your noodles, meat sauce, ricotta mixture, shredded mozzarella and additional Pecorino assembled in front of your roasting pan.
  13. Oil the pan on sides and bottom.
  14. Add sauce enough to cover the bottom of the whole pan.
  15. Add pasta noodles.
  16. Top with sauce then ricotta mixture, sporadically placed.
  17. Spread the shredded mozzarella and pecorino all over on top.
  18. Repeat up to six layers.
  19. Top layer will be sauce and pecorino.
  20. At this point, cover with foil and refrigerate.
  21. *****
  22. When ready to bake remove from fridge an hour before to take the chill out.
  23. Loosen the foil and place in a pre-heated oven at 375F.
  24. After 30 minutes remove the foil and top it with shredded mozzarella, as much to your liking and bake in for another 20- 30 minutes, then check it.
  25. The middle needs to be hot so check with a thermometer, temp should be at least 165 internal in the center and all around,
  26. Cook more if needed.
  27. Let it rest for at least 30 minutes or so, you want. nice cuts.
  28. Garnish with basil and more pecorino.
  29. Serve with extra warmed sauce on the side.
  30. Servings depend on how big you cut them, 15ish or so.
  31. You might have extra pasta sheets left over but you definitely need more than 2 boxes.
  32. NOTE: You can also make this with a marinara sauce as well and eliminate the meat. (I have a recipe on my website.)



Linguine with White Clam Sauce

pasta with clams

Linguine and clams or as Italians call it, Pasta Alle Vongole is the kind of dish that can make a midweek meal feel special as well as a date night dinner or a fabulous dinner for entertaining and the holidays.

Speaking of holidays, Christmas is a couple of weeks away and The Feast Of The Seven Fishes will be celebrated on Christmas Eve, and this is the perfect dish to feature as one.

ingredients for vongole and pasta

My white sauce version consists of good olive oil, lots of garlic, white wine and fresh clams. It’s so easy to make, very affordable and down right delicious!

In my version I like to use a mix of Little Neck clams in the shell and some raw chopped sea clams that I discovered over at Whole Foods from my fish monger. They’re freshly shucked and then frozen.schucked clams

If you can get your hands on these frozen chopped clams I highly recommend, very tender and delicious clam meat that tastes really fresh.

If you can’t find them you can replace it with 2 jars of shelled baby clams, drained of the liquid, I like going heavy on the clams, the more the merrier!

little neck clams

Although it’s not mandatory to add clams in the shell to this dish, I personally love the presentation and the mix of them both together.

opened clams

This dish comes together in less than 30 minutes, just get the water going for the pasta and start to make the sauce.

The longest part in making this dish may be the cleaning of the whole clams, I think I do a little over kill of that because one time, very long ago I left sand inside and ruined the whole meal, so I tend to rinse and rinse and rinse, so you’ll want to do that ahead of time.

Linguine and clams

It’s all so worth it in the end when you have this sweet and meaty clam and pasta dish filled with wine and garlicky goodness sitting in front of you!

Linguine With White Clam Sauce
A special weeknight, date night, entertaining and holiday dish, linguine and white clam sauce will never disappoint.
  • 1 pound linguine or spaghetti
  • 1 lb. fresh shucked clams, previously frozen which I buy at Whole Foods, or ask your fish monger if they carry them, defrosted in fridge
  • (NOTE:) You can replace the frozen shucked clams with 2 7 oz. bottles of whole shelled. baby clams, drained of liquid
  • 1 dozen whole fresh clams in the shell like Little necks or steamers. ( I always get a few more in case some don't open.)
  • 1 bottle of clam juice
  • 6 garlic cloves chopped
  • ⅓ to ½ cup of dry white wine such as Pinot Grigio, Chardonay or Savignon Blanc
  • ¼ cup and more of olive oil
  • chili flakes enough to your liking
  • a big punch of fresh chopped parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • a squeeze of lemon, not too much, just a little
  1. You can store your fresh clams in a bowl with ice cubes on top a day ahead, do not submeergee in water.
  2. When ready to use the clams, scrub them first on the shell then place them into a bowl with cold water and a small handful of cornmeal, the cornmeal is said to draw out the sand, so I always do it. Let it sit for 10 minutes and scoop them out and discard the sandy water.
  3. Do the rinsing several times until you don't see any sand at the bottom of the bowl.
  4. In a big pot start your water boiling for the pasta, don't forget to add a nice handful of salt to the water.
  5. In a deep large skillet add the olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes, saute til lightly golden.
  6. Add the Little neck clams and the wine and let it reduce a little.
  7. Pour in ¾ of the bottled clam juice, (depending on juicy you want it you can decide to toss in the rest) the fresh shucked and defrosted clams or the 2 drained jars of clams plus a squeeze of lemon, put a lid on top and cook and steam til the whole clams open up and everything melds together, it doesn’t take very long.
  8. Discard any unopened clam shells or broken shells as well.
  9. Cook your pasta til al dente and toss into the clam sauce mix.
  10. Add the parsley, maybe more red pepper flakes and a good drizzle of olive oil all over.
  11. Enjoy!



Deep Dish Apple Galette

deep dish apple

Are you looking for a showstopper dessert that’s easy to make with warm flavors of cinnamon and apples? If so, this deep dish apple galette is the one for you.

I’ve always liked making fruit galettes, they’re rustic and freeform but always look amazing when finished, but I have to admit this deep dish galette is a step above all the others!

instructions for deep dish

The deepness comes from using a 9-inch spring form pan. I first saw this concept from a recipe Alison Roman created and I thought it was such a brilliant idea.

The deep sides of the pan allow you to really pack in the apple slices which makes for a beautiful and delicious presentation in every slice. I adapted her recipe by subbing in my way of making an old fashioned apple pie/galette. Alison’s is a little more elaborate for me by adding honey and sesame seeds.

cool down pie

Galettes are usually flat, no pan needed, no crimping or fancy adornments on top. Same concept here only the pan will allow you to stack those apples nice and high.

You’ll also be using more pie crust dough than a typical one crust for most galettes, you’ll need it to fit in the pan and also have enough dough to hang down the sides so after filling it with the apples you can drape the crust 1-1/2 to 2 inches over the apples.

I used a good quality store bought pie crust and ended up using 1 whole crust and half of the other so it was nice and easy, but feel free to whip up your own crust if you like just make enough.

top galette

The worse part will be waiting for it to cool down so you can eat it!

deep dish galette

I would’ve shown you a nicely cut slice but it completely vanished in an instant when I served it, but trust me the slices come out big and bold.

Deep Dish Apple Galette
A twist on the typical galette, this one is stacked high with apples.
  • Pie crust, store bought using 1 whole crust and half of another, or homemade pie crust enough to fill a 9 inch spring form pan with excess to drape half way down the sides of the pan
  • 8 heaping cups of thinly sliced apples of your choice
  • 1 cup granulated sugar plus more to sprinkle on dough before baking
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of cinnamon ( at this point taste for sweetness and if you want more or less cinnamon)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • butter to dot on top
  • 1 egg whisked for brushing on dough
  1. Heat oven to 375F
  2. Lightly grease a 9-inch spring form pan then place pan on a foil lined rimmed baking sheet to prevent any drips.
  3. Roll pie dough out big enough to fit into pan and hang half way down the side of the pan, then place the rolled out dough into the pan.
  4. In a large bowl add the sliced apples, sugar, lemon juice, desired cinnamon, salt and flour, mix well.
  5. Place apple mixture into the prepared pan with the pie dough making sure it reaches the top
  6. Fold and drape remaining dough on the sides up and over the edge of the apples, no more than a 1½ to 2 inch border all around, so if you have excess just cut it.
  7. Brush border with egg mixture then sprinkle sugar over it.
  8. Dot some butter over the top.
  9. Place pan into the oven and bake til deep golden and you see the apple juices start to bubble.
  10. ( Note: mine took 1½ hours but ovens do vary so keep checking.)
  11. When finished baking let it cool for 2 hours and then release the spring gently on the pan.
  12. Make sure it's really cooled down before you cut into it, I used a serrated knife and slowly sliced each piece.
  13. Serve with ice cream!



Brussels Sprouts Holiday Salad

sprout salad

The holidays are fast approaching and menu planning is on the way. Brussels spouts have long been a tradition on holiday tables. Some people have a fondness for them and some do not, but brussels sprouts have come a long way since I was a kid.

This salad uses raw, shaved sprouts, you may think they would taste bitter raw but actually they taste mild compared to the old way of boiling or over cooking them.

shredded brussel sprouts salad

With all the rich heavy foods that are served up during the holidays it’s nice to have something fresh, green and lighter on the table as well as a festive presentation.

Another reason I like serving this salad is because it holds up really well at room temperature, so you don’t have to worry about it wilting as it sits out.

holiday salad

Fresh grapes, dried golden raisins, decadent marcona almonds with lots of shredded parmigiano make up this fresh take on a brussels sprouts salad.

I hope you give it a try, even the leftovers are good the next day!

brussels and sausage

If you’re looking for cooked brussels sprouts here are two of my favorites, this delicious combination of roasted sprouts with Italian sausage and balsamic glaze, and you can even have some fun with the presentation using the glaze.

smashed sprouts

And finally these addicting smashed sprouts with parmesan and lemon aioli, they’re made similar to the popular smashed potatoes but on the healthier side. They’re crispy and caramelized on the outside and tender on the inside, another perfect side dish to your holiday table and they’re gluten free!

Brussels Sprouts Holiday Salad
Shaved brussels sprouts with fresh and dried fruits and nuts makes up a colorful and festive holiday salad.
  • 4 heaping cups shaved brussels sprouts, prepare them by cutting off the stems and tearing off any brown leaves and thinly shaving them by hand with a knife, mandoline or food processor
  • ½ cup plus more, for finishing the salad of freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
  • 1 cup fresh red grapes, sliced in half
  • ½ generous cup of plump golden raisins
  • ½ cup marcona almonds
  • handful of mixed greens or arugula
  • 1 part fresh lemon juice to 3 parts olive oil
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 small garlic clove grated
  • a dollop of djon mustard
  • a teaspoon of honey
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Whisk up or shake in a jar all the dressing ingredients, taste to your liking by adding more or less of the ingredients.
  2. Place all the salad ingredients into a large bowl, tossing everything together then spoon in the dressing ( you don't want it soggy, add a little at a time).
  3. Taste for seasoning then either mound it high in a pretty bowl or serve it spread out on a pretty platter.
  4. Shower the top with additional grated parmigiano reggiano.
  5. Enjoy




Pumpkin Tiramisu the Ultimate Fall Dessert


Yes it’s October and we’re deep into all things pumpkin. This pumpkin tiramisu that I’m featuring is perfect for any fall gathering that you might be having. It’s very quick to make, no baking involved, easy for the upcoming holidays and it doesn’t include any raw eggs in the ingredients like the classic tiramisu does.

Espresso soaked layers of store bought lady fingers with just a hint of your favorite liquor, slathered with a pumpkin mascarpone cream mingled with whipped cream and warm spices.

pumpkin dessert

I like making my tiramisu freeform without a pan just layered onto a platter similar to my pistachio tiramisu. If you’re making a larger amount, maybe doubling the recipe it would be best to use a glass pan like a 9×12.

cake presentation

This is such an easy dessert to pull together and fun to make with your kids and grandchildren. You can omit the liquor and decorate the top however you wish.

pumpkin tiramisu loaf

So this fall and the upcoming holiday season you might want to add this twist on the classic tiramisu as a delicious alternative to pumpkin pie!

Pumpkin Tiramisu the Ultimate Fall Dessert
A twist on the classic tiramisu and perfect for the fall season.
  • 1 package of savoiardi lady fingers or 18 total
  • 8 oz, mascarpone cheese, room temperature
  • ½ cup pumpkin puree, (not pumpkin pie mix)
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 1-1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar, 1 for the espresso and 1 for the whipped cream
  • 1- ½ cups brewed espresso, cooled down
  • 2 Tablespoons liquor of choice like amaretto, spiced rum, kahlua or you can just leave it out or use less.
  • nuts to garnish the top or a dusting of chocolate
  1. Brew your espresso, when cooled pour into a flat bottomed bowl and add the liquor which is optional and 1 tablespoon of the white sugar, mix well to disolve.
  2. TIP: If you open your canned pumpkin puree and you notice a lot of moisture and it's watery I like to briefly cook it on the stove in a pot or a skillet on medium low with constant stirring so it doesn’t stick or burn. Don't overcook it, just let it release some of the liquid and then let it completely cool down making sure you yield ½ cup puree.
  3. In a large bowl add the room temp mascarpone cheese, brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla and the pumpkin puree, with a hand mixer just mix till blended, don't over mix, mascarpone can curdle.
  4. In a small bowl add the heavy cream and the 1 remaining tablespoon of white sugar, beat til you reach medium peaks.
  5. Fold the whipped cream into the mascarpone pumpkin mixture until well incorporated.
  6. Have your flat bottomed platter ready for plating and one by one quickly dip the lady fingers into the espresso, don't let them get soggy just a quick dip will do.
  7. When you have 6 in a straight row smear on a generous layer of the pumpkin cream, then repeat with next layer of dipped ladyfingers on top of the others, more pumpkin cream on top of that then one last layer.
  8. All together you should have three layers using 18 lady fingers in total.
  9. Make sure the top layer is nicely covered with the pumpkin. cream and then garnish with chopped nuts or a dusting of chocolate or a sprinkling of pumpkin spice.
  10. Then into the fridge it goes so the flavors can meld together either overnight or at least for four hours.
  11. Serve in slices.
  12. You can get 6 to 8 slices depending how big you cut them.