Bucatini Amatriciana

The base of Amatriciana is guanciale (pork cheek), pecorino romano cheese and tomatoes. It is a fairly simple recipe to put together and you can use pancetta as a substitute for guanciale. Dried pasta is preferred – I prefer bucatini, but spaghetti or penne are perfectly acceptable. The recipe that follows is not mine – I got inspiration from Top Chef contestant Buddha and his “marry me” pasta. This is almost completely his recipe and we absolutely loved it. It has a lot of depth and flavor and is best served piping hot. Make sure to use a pan or cast-iron skillet/enamel ware that you can stick in the oven.


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 8 oz guanciale or pancetta
  • 2 medium red shallots (finely diced)
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 (28 oz) can whole San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1 oz finely chopped thyme
  • 1 lb (16oz) bucatini
  • 1 cup finely grated pecorino romano cheese
  1. Over medium heat, add guanciale or pancetta to pot and cook for 5-7 min. Using a slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to a small bowl lined with a paper towel and set aside, leaving any rendered fat behind in the pot.
  2. Add shallots, red pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt to the pot, and cook for 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Add tomato paste and continue stirring constantly. Add canned tomatoes and place a lid on the pot. Then take the pot and place in a 380F oven for 45 min.
  3. When you pull the pot from the oven, with a crush the tomatoes with a whisk into a sauce and add the crispy guanciale back into skilled and stir into the sauce until all the ingredients are incorporated. Season with salt to taste. Keep the sauce on low simmer.
  4. Boil bucatini until just shy of al dente. Using a large, slotted spoon transfer the pasta directly into the skillet and toss with the sauce and mix. Reserve a little pasta water to work into the sauce as needed until pasta is creamy and coated.
  5. Serve with finely grated pecorino, red pepper flakes and a splash of olive oil.
Italian · Mediterranean

Pasta Arrabbiata with sun-gold tomatoes

Pasta arriabbiata refers to a tomato, red chili peppers, and garlic-based sauce. I found this recipe* using sun-gold tomatoes and butter and found it absolutely simple, yet delicious. You can use dry pasta, but we made homemade and the flavor made all the difference. You can also use traditional cherry tomatoes, but we absolutely loved the flavor of the sun-gold tomatoes, cooked down. Fresh parmesan, of course is preferred, but store-shredded is also fine. In the end, the sauce itself is very simple – both in ingredients and assembly. If you prefer to make this vegetarian, simply leave out the anchovy paste and add a bit more salt to taste.

If you are going to make homemade pasta, you will need to do so about 2 hours ahead: for assembly, and hour and 1/2 to rest and dry. If not, any shape will do. We made ours with orecchiette, but it is truly your preference. The recipe is here: Pasta – Orecchiette.

You will need:

  1. 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  2. 2 pints sun-gold cherry tomatoes, halved
  3. 4 tbs butter, unsalted
  4. 1 tsp anchovy sauce
  5. 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  6. 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, dried
  7. 1 cup shredded parmesan
  8. Handful of fresh basil, torn
  9. Kosher salt, as needed
  10. 1lb dried orecchiette or
  11. 3 cups semolina flour (fine) & salt for fresh orecchiette (for making fresh pasta)

To make the sauce

  1. Heat olive oil in heavy pot (like a dutch oven) over medium heat. Also heat separate pot with salted water for your pasta.
  2. Add garlic and crushed red pepper. Cook until fragrant (about 2 minutes)
  3. Mix 1 pint of the tomatoes, a pinch of salt and cook until tomatoes burst and become saucy (about 8 -10 minutes)
  4. Cook fresh pasta in salted water (2-4 minutes, depending on type).
  5. Using slotted spoon or tongs, transfer pasta to tomato pot. Be sure to save a little starchy pasta water as a reserve.
  6. Add butter, anchovy sauce, and remaining tomatoes to the pot and stir. Cook until glossy, adding pasta water as needed, until it is creamy. Season with salt and stir in parmesan. Top with fresh basil.

*Pasta recipe is my own. The recipe for the sauce is from Bon Appetit.


Homemade Pasta – Orecchiette

Little ears – fun and easy to make

Orecchiette is my favorite short pasta. It means “little ears” and is pretty typical of southern Italy. I like it best because it holds the sauce in its little pocket, and when it is made fresh, the texture is absolutely delicious.

Count on prepping this two hours ahead. You will need 1/2 hour to rest the dough once assembled, a 1/2 hour to shape, and an hour to let the pasta dry. As a result, this is something I would only make on familia Sunday – maybe when I have extra hands to help or a little extra time. We are just too busy during the week.

Homemade pasta is the more flavorful than dried, and while you can certainly use all-purpose flour (I often do), a good quality fine-grade semolina flour makes a world of difference in texture and bite. Also, when you do little hand-rolled or knife shapes, I think it is a bit of fun. So if you have the time and resources, give it a try. This is a great-tasting semolina flour from Naples from Amazon and is the one I used for the recipe. Rimacinata refers to it being ground finely – this is idea for pasta and pizza dough. Pro-tip – when buying bags of flour of the internet, I put it in the freezer for 24 hours and then store in an air-tight container.

2 bags is around $10

Serving size – 5-6 adults

You will need:

  • 3 to 3 1/3 cups of semolina flour
  • 1 cup water, room temperature
  • 2/3 tsp fine salt


  1. Place flour on a large pastry or cutting board and make a well in the center with your hand. Add salt to the center.
  2. Add water a little at a time, working the dough with your hand and making sure it is incorporated before adding more. You can use a tablespoon or your hand, whichever is easier for you.
  3. Knead the dough for about 6-7 minutes, until it is elastic and put together. You don’t want to overwork it and get it sticky.
  4. Form a dough ball and let it rest under a kitchen towel for 30 minutes.
  5. When rested, use a knife to cut off a portion of the dough. Roll into a snake shape until it is about one inch thick.
  6. Cut off slices about 1 cm wide.
  7. Use a knife with a round tip (like a typical dinner knife). Roll the slice towards you, pressing down.
  8. Then, take the pasta and shape it around your index finger on the opposite side. Repeat.
  9. Be sure not to place them sticking together, but giving a little room. Let the pasta dry for an hour before serving.
  10. *You may need to dust the board a bit with additional semolina flour.
Kneading is fast and easy, maybe 6 minutes, tops.
Conscripting your children into helping you is always a good idea.
Italian · Mediterranean

Fra Diavolo – spicy shrimp & linguini

This fiery shrimp and tomato pasta is easy to make and very satisfying. The name Fra Diavolo translates to “brother devil.” The origins are southern Italy where there is abundant seafood, herbs and fiery peppers. If you know this blog, we also often make shrimp Diablo (a Latin American iteration with cilantro and avocado) when I have some good avocado. I love this dish when it is getting cold – the pasta comforts you and the chilis warm you up. They say not to put cheese on this because its seafood, but I often put a little fresh parmesan on top because it makes me happy.

This sounds means it’s about to smell amazing in your house 🏡

You will need:

  1. 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  2. 1 lb linguini
  3. 1 sweet bell pepper (yellow or orange), sliced thinly
  4. 4 roma tomatoes, halved – then quartered
  5. one 28 oz can, whole peeled tomatoes (preferably San Marzano), with juice
  6. juice of 2 limes
  7. 2-3 tbs olive oil
  8. 2 tbs salt
  9. 4 cloves garlic – crushed*
  10. 3 bay leaves
  11. 2 tsp dried oregano
  12. 1 tsp thyme
  13. 2 tsp crushed red pepper
  14. 2 tbs capers
  15. 2 tbs anchovy paste
  16. 2 tbs butter
  17. 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped


  1. Marinate the shrimp in lime juice and a bit of salt for 20-30 minutes.
  2. Fill a large pasta pot with water and bring to a boil.
  3. Heat large skillet over medium heat and add olive oil when warm. Add garlic and saute for a minute or so. Add pepper slices and stir and cook for 3 minutes until they soften a little.
  4. Add oregano, bay leaves, thyme and saute for 2 minutes. Then, add crushed pepper and capers, saute for 5 minutes until fragrant. Add roma tomatoes, saute for 5 minutes.
  5. Add canned tomatoes, you can crush them with your fingers beforehand or break them up with a wooden spoon, cook for 5-7 minutes. Add anchovy paste, and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occassionally. Add butter halfway through to add richness and depth.
  6. By now, the pasta water should be boiling. Add remaining salt and pasta. Cook until al dente. Reserve a little pasta water before draining (about a cup).
  7. While the pasta is cooking, add shrimp and cook until it just turns pink (4-5 minutes). Add parsley to finish. Use reserve pasta water if needed when you add noodles to the sauce and work it in.
Marinating the shrimp
Liquid gold ❤️❤️ and secret sauce weapon

*Note – if you have difficulty peeling fresh garlic, soak them in a dish of hot water for a few minutes. Voila! Easy to peel!

Soaking for 4-5 minutes will help

Side dish


There are so many different types of sofrito, depending on region and culture. At its essence, it is an aromatic vegetable base used as a base for rice dishes, stews and beans. It can also be used as a marinade or base layer of flavor for your meat and your side dishes. For the French, it is Mirepoix, which Cajun/Creole cooks might refer to it as the holy trinity (carrots, onions, celery). Italian cooks call the same base after adding garlic and parsley – sofritto. If you follow this site, you will notice that I often use this base for some of the Italian sauces/dishes. For Latin American cooks, different chiles and cilantro are often blended in. Spaniards add in tomatoes.

Our sofrito is a mashup of Spanish (Spain) and Latin American. We make a batch of it on Sundays and keep it in a glass jar in the refrigerator. We usually make romesco at the same time, which we add to our seafood and breakfast meals (eggs, sausage, potatoes).

Ways to use it:

  1. Marinate your chicken or pork in it, before adding other seasoning and cooking.
  2. Add to black beans, stews, or rice dishes
  3. As a base for paella.
  4. As a base to go with a meat filling for empanadas


  • 1/2 cup (120ml) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 medium yellow onions , finely diced
  • 2 large  green peppers, stemmed, seeded, and finely diced
  • 4 medium tomatoes
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tsps sweet smoked paprika
  • * handful of fresh cilantro (optional)
  • * a dash of cumin and/or oregano (optional)


  • Dice your onions, garlic, pepper, and tomatoes.
  • Place a large, heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat and add the olive oil, coating the bottom evenly.
  • When the oil is hot, saute the onions until transparent. Grind or add a little salt (1/2 tsp).
  • Add pepper and saute for another 5 minutes. Stir to avoid burning the vegetables, and reduce the heat if necessary.
  • Add the garlic and saute for a minute. Grind or add a little more salt (1/2 tsp).
  • Next, add the tomatoes and paprika, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Add in the fresh cilantro (about a handful of shredded leaves). Stir often and continue to cook for around 15 minutes, or until the mixture takes on the consistency of a thick sauce.
  • Scoop the finished sofrito into mason jars and store in the fridge for up to a week.
Side dish

Sliced Cucumber Salad

This is a recipe that goes way back in my family and is often served alongside rich, hearty stews and dishes. The vinegary paper-thin cucumbers pair well with rich food, or those with chilis and act almost as a cooling pickle. This is my mother’s recipe.

You will need:

  • 2-3 cucumbers, peeled, ends sliced off.
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1 tbs salt
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar (or champagne vinegar)
  • pinch of sugar


  1. Peel 2 – 3 cucumbers – taste the end to be sure they are not bitter.  If they are, cut them off and discard
  2. Using a mandolin on the thinnest setting, slice the cucumbers paper thin.
  3. Place cucumbers, 1 clove minced garlic, 1 tablespoon salt in large bowl and mix around with your hands. Let stand for 30 minutes, then wash the slices in a strainer under cold, running water.  Drain.
  4. Mix 1/4 cup white vinegar (I use Champagne vinegar) with 1 tablespoon cold water and a pinch of sugar.  Mix with cucumbers and chill.
Baking · Dessert

Chocolate Peppermint Brownies

This recipe actually derived from an accident. I was attempting to make a chocolate peppermint cake, and added way too much chocolate. At the time, I should have realized melting chocolate and adding it to a cake would make brownies, but I was busy, and in all honesty, I still have much to learn! So, what follows is my happy accident that I found absolutely decadent and delicious.

This recipe proves that even if you have some experience and knowledge, we still can make mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes are actually better than what you were intending in the first place. What I have come to love about this recipe is that it is fairly easy, and not much longer to put together than a box mix; however, the flavor is so much better.

You will need:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 16 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1/2 tsp peppermint extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9×13 pan. Whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder.
  2. Use a double boiler (or the bowl/saucepan method) and warm butter and chocolate until completely melted. Stir to combine.
  3. Whisk sugar, peppermint and vanilla until combined with butter/chocolate mixture. Whisk in eggs and buttermilk until combined. Fold in flour mixture.
  4. Pour cake batter into bans and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for an hour on wire racks before topping with whipped cream.

Italian · Mediterranean

Sunday Sauce

Sunday sauce is a rich meaty traditional sauce to serve for a big family meal. It is best cooked low and slow for several hours. You can also add Italian sausage and or meatballs to the sauce, depending on the size of your meal. This makes a very double portion. I use it for a meal for 5-8 people, and freeze the rest for another meal in the future.

You will need:

  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided 
  • 4 pork short ribs (around a 1lb)
  • 1/4 pound pancetta
  • several Italian sausage links, spicy or sweet depending on preference*
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 medium onion chopped 
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 5-6 fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/3 cup red wine
  • Two 28-ounce cans whole peeled Italian tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • Two 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes.
  • 2 pounds penne, ziti or pasta or your choice (one that can support a hearty meat sauce)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste* if needed
  • 1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
  1. In a large enameled cast-iron pot, heat 2 Tbs olive oil until shimmering. Season the short ribs with salt and pepper and add them to the casserole in a single layer along with the sausage links. Cook over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until browned, around 10 minutes. With tongs, transfer the short ribs and sausages to a plate and set aside..
  2. Pour off all but 1-2 tablespoons of fat from the pot. Add 2 more Tbs of olive oil. Add the onions & carrot, and a generous pinch of salt; cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until browned, 7-9 minutes. Add the garlic, oregano, pancetta and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Deglaze the vegetables and pancetta with 1/3 cup red wine until the liquid is evaporated.
  3. Add the tomatoes with their juices. Be sure to rinse a little of each can with some extra water to get all the bits, swirl it around and add to the pot. Season with red pepper flakes and the bay leaf. Bring to a boil.
  4. Return the short ribs, sausages and their juices to the pot, cover partially and simmer over low heat, turning the short ribs occasionally, until the meat is very tender and the sauce is thick, about 3 1/2 to 4 hours.
  5. 30 minutes before serving: Set a large pot of salted water to boil for your pasta. For your Sunday sauce – add fresh basil leaves 30 minutes before serving. Add more oregano or salt as needed. If necessary, add tomato paste in the last half hour to thicken the sauce as needed. Finish off the sauce with fresh grated parmesan cheese.
  6. 20 minutes before serving: In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water. and set aside
  7. Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Transfer the pasta and toss well with some of the sunday sauce and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add some of the reserved pasta water and work it in. Top with additional cheese and pieces of meat from the sauce.


Central American

Slow cooker Beef Chili

This is a very simple recipe I use in the wintertime. I have a few different chili recipes that I like, but I always return to this one when I need something quick and convenient, and relatively healthy. The end result is very chunky, and not too spicy – so I this is one I prefer to serve to kids and my parents. Those who want more heat should add some chilis into the mix, according to taste.

This takes about ten minutes to assemble, and then you can throw it in the slow cooker and forget about it. I usually cook it on a lower setting, because the longer you let it cook, the more the flavors blend and deepen. It’s a simple, clean chili – I hope you enjoy it.

You will need:

  1. 1 pound beef (use less than 10% fat if you want something lighter)
  2. 2 cloves, garlic minced
  3. 1 small onion, chopped
  4. 1 red or yellow pepper, seeded and chopped
  5. 1 can black beans, drained
  6. 1 can kidney beans, drained
  7. 1 can (28oz) crushed tomatoes
  8. 2 tbs of tomato paste
  9. 2 tbs chili powder
  10. 2 tsp cumin
  11. 1/4 cup green chiles
  12. fresh oregano
  13. 2 bay leaves
  14. sofrito* (if you have some on hand)


  1. beer
  2. corn
  3. 1-2 jalapenos,  seeded and sliced
  4. green onions, sour cream, cheese (for serving)


  1. Saute garlic & onions in 2 tsp olive oil, until softened. If you have some sofrito, stir in 2 heaping tablespoons.
  2. Add beef and brown for 6-7 minutes. Add a little beer, if you prefer.
  3. Drain the beef and then blend in the chili powder and oregano
  4. Add the beef mixture to your crock-pot with the remaining ingredients. Cook for a minimum of 4 hours, but the longer the better.
Italian · Mediterranean

Bolognese Sauce

You need a lot of time to make a proper Bolognese sauce, as it is best left to simmer for around 3-4 hours. As a result, this is a perfect Sunday sauce – leaving it to simmer all day and fill the house with good aroma:) What sets a Bolognese apart from other meat sauces is the sofritto (onion, celery and carrot) and the addition of milk or cream. You can use wine here two ways – deglaze the vegetables before you add the meat, or deglaze the meat before you add tomato. I have done it both ways, but this recipe will be incorporating the wine with the meat. This portion should make a double batch for a family of 5-6. We use half, and then freeze the other for a day we don’t feel like cooking. Always serve with a great loaf of bread and pasta.

You will need:

  • 3-4 Tbs olive oil
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup small onion, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • Salt, 3-4 tsp (divided)
  • Black pepper, 1 tsp
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Fresh basil (7-8 leaves)
  • 1 pounds ground beef (85 or 90% lean)
  • 1 lb ground sweet Italian sausage
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 quart or large can (28 oz) peeled tomatoes (I prefer Cento San Marzano)
  • 1 quart or large can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup milk or cream
  • 1 pound wide pasta – Pappardelle or Tagliatelle
  • ¼ cup grated Pecorino Romano Cheese


  1. In a large stock pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Saute onion and garlic for 5 minutes until softened. Add celery and carrot, sprinkle 1 tsp of salt and saute for an additional 4-5 minutes.
  2. Add meat and break up with a wooden spoon, stir and mix the sofritto (onion, celery, carrots) until browned. Season with another tsp of salt. Add red wine and cooked until it is reduced and the liquid is mostly evaporated (around 7 -8 minutes).
  3. Add tomatoes, breaking them up and incorporating them into the mixture. Add remaining salt, pepper, and bay leaf. Fill one of the tomato cans with water (getting all of the tomato juice mixed in) and add to the pot. Fill the other tomato can with water and set aside, in case you need to add more liquid to the pot later on.
  4. Reduce and simmer the sauce for 3 and 1/2 hours. The goal is that the water should be almost evaporated and the sauce should be thick* (use extra water if needed as it simmers) or if it is too liquid, add some tomato paste to thicken it up. After 3 and 1/2 hours, add the fresh basil on top and stir into the sauce.
  5. In another pot, heat salted water and cook your pasta until al dente. Before you strain it, reserve one cup of pasta water and set aside.
  6. After four hours, your sauce should be thick enough that when you move the wooden spoon across the bottom of the pot, you should see it the bottom. Taste the sauce and add more salt, if needed.
  7. To finish, add 1/2 cup of milk or cream, and cook for several more minutes.
  8. Using a clean large sauce pan, heat it over medium-high heat. Add half of the portion of Bolognese sauce and cooked pasta and incorporate. Add 1/2 cup pasta reserve water and work it through – add more if needed. Incorporate the Pecorino Romano cheese and serve.