The Secret to Perfect Carbonara

Carbonara is one of Rome’s most beloved traditional pasta preparations, and also one of it’s most controversially disputed. While the dish itself is comprised of only a few simple ingredients- crispy pork, salty Parmiggiano or Pecorino cheese, and eggs, harmoniously blended together to form a rich velvety sauce served over pasta (most often spaghetti), the method is what has families divided. Lines have been drawn on the cobblestoned streets of culinary Rome, never to be crossed by deeply rooted Carbonara purists and their passed down family traditions.

For example, some preparations call for the eggs to be separated and whites whisked into a sauce, and yolk served whole atop a pile of pasta to be stirred in upon serving, while others call for whole eggs to be prepared ahead of time along with a mixture of cheese and freshly cracked pepper, to be waiting in the wings ready to be swiftly finished a la minute when the pasta is cooked. Ingredients are also up for debate: type of pork product, type of pasta, type of cheese- aye yai yai, how do you get it right? Choose what you love, and what is readily available in your local market.

The most important take away to making a fantastically delicious Carbonara is to absolutely 100% make sure the eggs are not scrambled. Eggs are the one absolute essential to the recipe, as they are the binder of all ingredients to form the ‘special sauce’. No matter your ingredient selection, or preferred secret tricks to pulling it all together, the eggs must not be scrambled! A bit of tempering, gently warming up the eggs with some of the pasta water, is what I find helpful, along with a careful hand. Always finish the sauce off heat, and keep the whole thing movin’ and shakin’ so that nothing can stick to the bottom and overcook.

Choose your own adventure! With this recipe as your guide, you can make the traditional comforting Carbonara Classico, or let a little Spring shine through by adding some sweet spring peas and fava beans into the mix (hence the ‘all Primavera’).

Carbonara alla Primavera

Serves 4


  • 1 lb. dry pasta (ie: spaghetti, or fuisilli as shown)
  • ¼ lb. diced pancetta or bacon
  • 4 eggs
  • 1c. grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese
  • kosher salt, as needed
  • freshly ground black pepper, as needed
  • 1 c. sweet peas (optional)
  • 1 c. fava beans (optional)
  1. To cook the pasta, bring 6 quarts of water to a boil along with 2-3 tablespoons of kosher salt. Cook the pasta 1 minute short of the package time instructions. (If the instructions say to cook for 8 minutes, cook for 7.) Reserve 1 cup of the starchy pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta in a colander and set aside.
  1. Prepare the egg mixture for the sauce: crack the eggs into a mixing bowl, and whisk together with ½ c. grated cheese and ¼ tsp. fresh ground black pepper until the eggs are combined.
  1. If using peas and fava beans, bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a sauce pan along with a teaspoon of salt. Blanch the peas and beans in the boiling water, cooking them for 1-2 minutes until bright green and just tender. Strain the peas and beans, and run under cool water to stop them from cooking. Set aside.
  1. Start the Carbonara. Heat a large high sided sauté pan over medium heat. Add the diced pancetta, and cook until it’s fat is rendered (melted off) and edges are lightly browned and crisp. Turn the heat down to low, and add the cooked pasta to the pan along with ½ c. of the reserved pasta water. Swirl the pan, and toss the ingredients with tongs until the liquid thickens slightly.
  1. Whisk ¼ cup of still warm pasta liquid into the egg bowl. Take the pasta pan off the heat, and pour the egg mixture, along with the remaining pasta liquid over the pasta, while swirling the pan and tossing the ingredients with tongs the whole time. Keep the pan moving, and continue to stir for another minute or two until the sauce has thickened, and nothing is stuck to the bottom of the pan. Stir in the blanched peas and fava beans if you’re using them.
  2. To serve, divide the pasta evenly between 4 bowls. Garnish with the remaining grated Parmigiano cheese and freshly ground black pepper.



Olive Oil Raspberry Upside Down Skillet Cake!

A little bit of warm sunshine really does a body good, and also has an interesting way of causing inspiration. Couple the sun-spiration with the piece of me that never quite came home from Italy (clearly I’ve been on an Italian cooking kick), and the seed of a recipe starts to blossom. The adventure through food effect is pretty fabulous- having the ability to transport a person through time and space to another place without having to book actual travel plans. In order to experience a bit of Italian sunshine, I decided to bake a light and bright olive oil skillet cake piqued with fresh raspberry for a splash of vibrant Spring flavor. This easy brunch cake or dessert is in the style of an old fashioned upside down cake, meaning it’s built from the bottom up with fruit layered in the pan first and then flipped onto a plate for serving.

Olive oil cake is a big part of Italian tradition, due to the fruity flavor of the oil the country produces. Good quality olive oil is used in place of butter or other fat, resulting in a naturally light tasting and moist cake. The intensity in the flavor of the oil itself is will have a direct result on the flavor of the cake. Rich and fruity extra virgin olive oil will be much stronger than a mild and mellow basic olive oil. It also makes for a beautifully crumb-y golden brown cake, perfect for absorbing the caramelized raspberries on top/bottom.

Tricks and tips for this recipe include owning a well seasoned 10 inch cast iron skillet. Warm up the skillet on the stove top for about 5 minutes over medium heat, and then rub the bottom and sides all over with a teaspoon of olive oil until the pan is just shiny. Allow the skillet to cool, and then right before you’re ready to start this cake, grease the skillet with butter on the bottom and sides as well. Since the caramelized raspberries in the pan bottom of the pan actually make up the top of the cake, there is a flip involved. Make sure to cool the cake for 5 minutes before flipping. Run a knife around the edge of the skillet to loosen the cake. Working over the middle of the counter (to catch any mistakes), place a sturdy plate over the skillet, and flip the cake onto the plate in one swift movement. Cake, as picture here, is garnished with powdered sugar and some freshly torn mint leaves.

A special thank you to my great friend and fabulous pastry chef Robbi, who helped me in the brainstorming of this fantastic recipe.

Raspberry Olive Oil Skillet Cake


For cake batter:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • ¾ c. olive oil
  • ½ c. granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ c. flour
  • 1 Tbs. baking powder

For the pan:

  • 3 Tbs. butter, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 1/3 c. brown sugar, packed
  • 1 pint fresh raspberries

For garnish:

  • ½ tsp. powdered sugar
  • 2-3 freshly torn mint leaves

Tools required: 10” cast iron skillet


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Make sure the cast iron skillet is clean and well seasoned, with no moisture in the pan. Rub the bottom and sides of the skillet with butter, and set aside.
  1. Using an electric mixer on low speed, lightly beat the eggs until smooth and frothy. Add the vanilla and salt to the eggs, and while continuing to mix on low speed, slowly stream in the olive oil. Continue to beat until all of the oil is blended into the eggs, and the mixture has thickened slightly. Add the sugar and keep mixing, increasing to medium speed until all the sugar is incorporated. Sift the flour and baking powder together, and beat into the batter until smooth.
  1. Melt the butter in the skillet on the stovetop over medium heat. Sprinkle the brown sugar into the melted butter, and add the raspberries into the pan in an even layer. Pour the cake batter into the pan over the raspberries, and give the pan a shake to even out the batter. Put the skillet into the oven and bake at 350 degrees F for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted to the center of the cake comes out clean.
  1. Remove the cake from the oven, and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the skillet to loosen the cake. Working over the middle of the counter (to catch any mistakes), place a sturdy plate over the skillet, and flip the cake onto the plate in one swift movement. Sprinkle powdered sugar and freshly torn mint leaves over the top of the cake before serving.



Viva La Italia!

There is nothing like some quality time spent in and out of the kitchen in Italy. First things first- pasta making of course!

Handmade fresh pasta is one of life’s simple pleasures. It just tastes SO much better than the typical dried stuff out of a box. I’ve got a great recipe for handmade Garlic & Herb Paperdalle that doesn’t even require a pasta rolling machine- just your hands, a rolling pin, and a clean counter top.


Market Day spent at Campo di Fiori in Rome means a feast later on…

Look at those gorgeous Roman Artichokes! #yum

After roaming the market, and wandering in and out of shops around the square, I stopped into a local favorite Salumeria Roscioli for some of the best charcuterie of my life. Top it off with a glass of bubbles and I’m in heaven. Belissima!



Sweet & Spicy Tomato Jam

Wondering what to do with all those beautiful extra garden tomatoes? Skip the typical marinara sauce or plain ole’ canning, and whip up some deliciously Sweet & Spicy Tomato Jam.

This jam goes great as a sauce for grilled chicken or white fish, and is especially nice with scallops. Serve with a soft cheese, like brie, for a scrumptious party appetizer. Need a quick pick me up? Swirl a spoonful into some plain Greek yogurt or cottage cheese.

This is not your mama’s jam recipe. First of all, its got quite a hot kick to it. If you aren’t a fan of too much spice, then you’ll definitely want to tone down the crushed red pepper flakes. For a more mild jam, go for ¼ — ½ tsp. of flakes. Those who can’t resist the heat will want to stick with the suggested 1 Tbs. Secondly, I decided to skip the Pectin (used for thickening and stabilizing many jams and jellies). Pectin occurs naturally in some fruits like apples, berries, and citrus peels, but is most commonly seen in powdered form for jam making. When combined with sugar, and quickly brought to high heat it creates that desirable jelly-like thickened texture, and helps with stabilization. While it does shorten cooking time substantially, it requires almost double the sugar. In this recipe, I used an apple for it’s pectin properties as well as to round out the tomato flavor. Just make sure to check on your jam and stir it every few minutes to prevent scorching on the bottom of the pan, and this au natural method works wonderfully.

Sweet & Spicy Tomato Jam

Yields 4-5 cups

  • 4 lbs. ripe tomatoes
  • 4 cloves garlic, mashed & pasted w/ salt
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored & diced
  • 2 c. sugar
  • ¼ c. confectioner’s sugar
  • ¼ – 1 Tbs. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 c. water or leftover strained tomato juice

1. Peel and core the tomatoes & remove the seeds. Dip in a bowl of cool water to remove any remaining seeds. Strain the liquid and set aside to use in place of water for the jam.

2. Combine all ingredients in a medium sauce pan over moderate heat. Allow to simmer for 1.5 – 2 hours, until reduced by half  and texture is thick and syrupy. Be sure to stir the mixture every few minutes, especially when reduced, to avoid burning the bottom of the pan.

3. Carefully pour the jam to sterilized jars for canning if desired, or transfer to another container and allow to cool fully before serving.




Sweet Garlic & Basil Paperdalle with Roasted Tomatoes and Goat Cheese


In Tuscany, I learned all about the Italian (country of romance) philosophy of food made with love, and always by hand. It’s in that rooted connection with the ingredients, and the process that makes Italian cuisine some of the finest in the world — and also why their handmade pasta is so delicate, tender, and mouthwateringly irresistible. After you’ve had a taste of the fresh stuff, it’s almost impossible to go back to the boxed alternative. Though it takes a bit of pre-planned effort, the result is well worth it. Have fun with your food, its more delicious that way.

Chef’s note: Pasta dough needs to rest for at least one hour wrapped in plastic on the counter before rolling. Semolina (durum wheat flour) makes for really soft, elastic dough, but if you can’t find it regular AP flour will work just fine.

Sweet Garlic & Basil Paperdalle w/ Roasted Tomatoes and Goat Cheese

For Pasta

  • 4 cloves garlic, roasted
  • 2 Tbs. fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 3/4 c. Flour, preferably semolina if available
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbs. good Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Tbs. water

1. Pour the flour & salt into a neat pile On a clean counter or in a mixing bowl. With a fork, create a well in the flour pile, and crack the egg into it. Slowly begin to incorporate the flour into the egg. Once the mix has formed shaggy pieces, add the EVOO and water, and continue to gently incorporate the ingredients until you can form a loose dough ball.

2. Turn the dough ball out on to a lightly floured surface and begin to knead using the palm of your hand until dough is soft and smooth, about 8-10 min.

3. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and set aside to rest for at least one hour.

4. Divide the dough into 4 sections. Roll out into thin sheets, until you can barely see your hand through the dough. Cut into 1-2″ strips. Toss the raw pasta dough in a little flour to keep from sticking, and cover while you prepare the rest of the Paperdalle.

5. Cook the pasta in boiling salted water for about 3-4 minutes until tender and cooked though. Toss the cooked pasta with a little olive oil, and portion onto serving plates.

For Topping

  • 2 large heirloom tomatoes, rough chop
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 Tbs. EVOO
  • 1/4 tsp. Salt
  • Goat cheese crumbles
  • Fresh basil

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. In a roasting pan, toss tomatoes, shallots, Evoo, & salt together. Roast at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

3. To serve, top paperdalle with roasted tomatoes and goat cheese crumbles.




Arabian Days: Dubai Adventure

I recently took a trip to the Middle East to explore the glittering city of Dubai where I strolled the streets of the old town and new searching for all things delicious. My adventure led me to the world famed Spice Souk where ambitious salesmen stood outside tiny family storefronts beckoning customers to come inside and select from a huge array of exotic fragrant spices.

The sands of the Arabian desert were calling my name and so therefore an off-roading dune excursion and jaunt to a tradational Arabic BBQ were necessary. Huge fire pit grills were filled with chicken, lamb and fish. The scent of heavily spiced meat wafted through the air inciting a hungry desire that I didn’t even know was possible.

After a quick camel ride (had to!), I washed down heaping portions of shwarma, tandori chicken, hummus, chickpea and lentil salads, baba ganoush and baklava with crisp Red Horse lager.

Many a mezze platter has been shared overlooking the shimmering Persian Gulf. Typical in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean Diets, a Mezze platter is served to the table before the meal to be shared. Usually consisting of various spreads, cheeses, roasted veggies and small bites, our afternoon Mezze consisted of garlic hummus, baba ganoush, tabbouleh salad, roasted pepper spread, Arabic pickle platter and fresh and fried pita for dipping.

I couldn’t leave Dubai without a dip in the warm, crystal waters of the Persian Gulf. Until next time, I’ll be dreaming of Arabian days.

heart, shiso.

Lemon Biscuit Cookies

For a light and flakey biscuit-meets-cookie experience, these lemony treats are a dream to sink your teeth into. The texture contrast of soft yet slightly crisp cookie with a citrusy tang, drizzled with a delicate sweet icing makes for a delicious spring treat, perfect for keeping on the counter, or as a dessert delight. Inspired by sun and outdoor afternoon iced tea, I bring you Lemon Biscuit Cookies.

Before we get to the cookies, let’s talk about baking powder. I don’t know about you, but for a long time, I had no idea what the difference between baking soda and its powder counterpart was. To break it down simply, both are leavening agents that cause dough and batter to rise, and both use carbon dioxide produced by a trigger in order to do so. Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, is activated by the addition of acid (think: volcano science project), and used along side brown sugar (slightly acidic!) in most recipes. The magic happens when wet ingredients are incorporated. You baking soda to cookie recipes so that you won’t get flat, cracker-like cookies. Baking powder is like your all-inclusive rising kit, and includes baking soda plus something acidic (a la cream of tartar). Add wet ingredients, and ‘poof’ you’ve got your reaction, and light fluffy flakey baked goods.

Back to the cookies. For the best flavor, use a fresh lemon and it’s peel for the zest. If you don’t have a zester you can use a veggie peeler to lightly peel off the thin yellow outer layer of skin, and then mince with a knife. I’m a big proponent of using a Silpat (silicone baking mat) for a natural nonstick surface that is reusable and really easy to rinse off. The result is evenly browned cookie bottoms that definitely won’t have you scrubbing the pan for burnt on dough. If you’re not convinced to run out to the store and buy one, you can also use parchment paper just as easily.

Lemon Biscuit Cookies


  • ½ c. butter (1 stick), cubed & softened
  • ½ c. granulated sugar
  • ½ c. powdered sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • ½ tsp lemon zest
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 ½ c. flour

For Icing:

  • 1/3 c. powdered sugar
  • water as needed (about 2 tsp.)

Mix sugar and water together until icing drizzles off the back of a spoon in a slow stream.


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Using an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugars.

3. Add egg, vanilla, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Mix to incorporate all ingredients.

4. Add baking powder & salt & mix to incorporate.

5. Add flour, and mix until a dough is formed.

6. Cover dough with plastic, and let rest in the refrigerator for one hour.

7. Portion dough into 1 inch balls, and gently flatten to form little cakes about ½ inch thick.

8. Arrange on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat mat about 1-2 inches apart.

9. Bake for 8-10 minutes until bottoms are golden.

10 Allow to cool, and then drizzle with icing if desired.

Chili Lime Shrimp with Thai Coconut Pan Noodles

Chili Lime Shrimp with Thai Coconut Pan Noodles is a recipe inspired by dreams of warmer weather. It’s a quick and super simple disht, and a healthy substitute for the greasy take-out version. If you’re yearning for a moment of temporary transport, or just looking for a snappy supper idea, head to the Asian aisle of the grocery store with this recipe in hand.

For added depth of flavor, I’ve used coconut oil, which is a high-heat cooking oil that infuses food with a subtle hint of the fruit and a layer of richness that you can’t achieve with most other cooking oils. If you can’t find coconut oil, then regular canola oil will suffice. Also, if you feel like firing up the BBQ, grilling the shrimp skewers would be a delicious alternative, you’ll just need to soak the skewers in water first, and also give your shrimp a little brush of oil before placing them on the grill.

Chili Lime Shrimp

  • 1 lb. colossal (U15) shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 1 tsp. fresh ginger, grated
  • juice of 1 lime
  • ½ tsp. chili powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • coconut or canola oil
  • pepper
  • 6-8” wooden skewers

1. Combine the shrimp, grated garlic and ginger, lime juice, chili powder, salt and a pinch of pepper in a bowl. Toss well to coat the shrimp thoroughly. Marinate for 30 minutes.

2. Skewer the shrimp, about 3-4 shrimp per skewer.

3. In a medium sauté pan, heat enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. When the oil is hot, place a few skewers in the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side. Serve over Thai Coconut Pan Noodles

Thai Coconut Pan Noodles

  • ½ lb. large rice noodles (the fat flat ones)
  • 1 clove ginger, grated
  • 2 tsp. ginger, grated
  • 1 bunch green onion, finely sliced whites & largely chop greens
  • 1 T. black vinegar (or rice vinegar)
  • 2 T. fish sauce
  • 2 T. soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1/3 c. water
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 c. bean sprouts
  • fresh Thai basil
  • coconut or canola oil

1. In a small sauce pan, heat enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan, and sweat garlic ginger, and the whites of the green onion.

2. Stir in vinegar, fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar, coconut milk and water. Allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20-30 minutes to reduce sauce by about ½.

3. Cook noodles according to package directions, gently pat dry with a paper and set aside.

4. In a large sauté pan, heat enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. When the oil is hot, toss together noodles, sauce and lime juice, and sauté for about a minute so that all the noodles are coated.

5. Serve with Chili Lime Shrimp, fresh bean sprouts, torn Thai basil, and remaining green onion greens.

Warm Up with Turkey Chili

It is bitterly, bone-chilling cold outside. It’s so cold that my ears ring and cheeks sting, and the term ‘brain freeze’ takes on new meaning. In that case, we need some hearty stick-to-your-bones comfort food, and to me that means a huge hot pot of chili.

I love chili that has a huge variety of ingredients. Bring on the veggies, meat and beans! Some traditionalists are more inclined to the classic ‘meat only’ versions, but to me, the bigger the variety, the better. I like a harmonious blend of flavors, and so all are welcome in my chili pot: Poblanos for a little heat, sweet potato for a creamy balance, and turnips for a little added sass. The blending of white and dark turkey meat along with tri color beans rounds out the stew with full flavor.

Don’t forget to taste and season, season and TASTE!

Turkey Chili

  • ¾ lb ground turkey thigh meat
  • ¾ lb. ground turkey white meat
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled & diced
  • 1 turnip, peeled & diced
  • 1 poblano pepper, seeded and diced
  • 14 oz. red kidney beans (canned or dried)
  • 14 oz. pinto beans (canned or dried)
  • 14 oz. navy beans (canned or dried)
  • 14 oz. corn (canned, frozen or fresh!)
  • 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 Tbs. cumin
  • 1 Tbs. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 2 Tbs. brown sugar
  • salt, as needed
  • pepper, to taste
  • olive oil, as needed

1. In a large soup pot over medium heat, add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Sweat garlic and onion until translucent, but do not brown.

2. Add the ground meat  to the pan, and allow to brown. Salt the meat liberally to season.

2. Add sweet potato, poblano pepper, beans, corn, turnip and sweet potato. Stir in all spices, mix thoroughly so that all ingredients are coated.

3. Add tomatoes. Refill large can twice with water and add to pot.

4. Stir in sugar. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook for one hour before serving. If liquid reduces too much, just add a bit more water. Taste and season with salt and pepper to your liking.


Creamy Baked Brie with Red Pear

Nothing warms the holiday appetizer table like rich and creamy, ooey-gooey baked brie. A  classic staple in its own right, the first slice through this flakey crust and into the soft cheese is superbly satisfying. Topped with a little bit of cracked sea salt and sweet red pears, this dish is perfectly paired with a crisp white wine or bit of bubbly champagne.

Baked Brie with Pears


  • 1 ripe red pear
  • 1 7-8 oz. brie wheel
  • 1 orange
  • 1 package frozen fillo dough
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbs. water
  • sea salt

1. Core and slice pear. Place into a small bowl, and squeeze the juice of the orange over slices. Cover with water and set aside.


2. Make egg wash by whisking 1 Tbs. water with the egg until frothy. Set aside.

3. Coat a baking sheet pan with non-stick cooking spray. Lay one sheet of fillo dough onto the pan. Brush with egg wash, and layer with another sheet of dough. Repeat this process for 8-10 layers of fillo dough.

4. Lay brie wheel in the center of the dough. Wrap dough around the brie, and flip over so that all dough seams are on the bottom of the cheese. Brush all over with egg wash.

5. Arrange pear slices on top of brie, and sprinkle with sea salt.

6. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm with crackers, crostini, or fruit and veggie slices.