Potato and Pesto Chicken Soup

I can’t believe how simple and delicious this soup is. You can make your own pesto (I have a really excellent pesto recipe on this blog!) or you can just buy a good quality one from the store. By the way it’s absolutely delicious with or without the chicken. You decide.

You will need:

  • 2 tbsp great extra virgin olive oil -I used Solla Stella from Texas Hill Country
  • 2 slices of bacon
  • 1 small onion -finely minced
  • 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large baking potato -peeled and cubed into dice that fits on a spoon size
  • 2 cloves garlic – minced finely
  • 4 oz cannellini beans- rinsed
  • 1 litre chicken broth
  • 1 chicken breast – sliced finely and tossed in 1 tbsp pesto.
  • 1/2 cup small pasta
  • 1 tsp chili flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tbsp pesto
  • fresh grated Parmesan to serve with another drizzle of good oil.

Step 1: I like to assemble everything so I don’t forget things. I chop and have things ready to go when I start.

Step 2: cook bacon in some olive oil until crispy. Drain and set aside. I drain oil and then start with fresh olive oil for the next step.

Step 3: add a bit more olive oil and butter to saute your onions. Cook for 4-5 minutes and then add potatoes.  Toss and cook another 3 minutes until all potatoes are coated .

Step 4: add lots of salt and pepper. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute before adding broth.

Step 5: add your box of chicken broth -if you have homemade even better! and add beans.

Step 6: saute a chicken breast sliced and tossed in a bit of pesto. Add to soup.

Step 7: cook approximately 20 minutes until potatoes are soft. Add pasta shells and  chili flakes – cook another 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and add pesto to taste. Adjust salt and pepper if you want more.

If you don’t want the chicken just add the bacon back in at the last minute, a drizzle of good oil and a sprinkle of grated Parmesan.

If you like add the cooked chicken along with everything else!


Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Sheila asked me if I had ever used sweet potatoes to make gnocchi yesterday. I had always thought of sweet potatoes as being too wet for making gnocchi but, then I thought if you bake them or cook them in the microwave it could work. I found a few other recipes on the web and most used ricotta with the sweet potato or they were a paleo version using flours other than wheat. I wanted to try to make them just replacing the potato and here is my result. I am quite happy with how they came out. I prepared them with a bit of lemon zest, cooked in some buttery mild olive oil (you could use butter if you like) and a bit of parsley but I think fried sage leaves would work well too.

Thanks Sheila for asking me the question…YES you can use sweet potatoes.

You will need:

  • 350gr. or 2 small sweet potatoes – once cooked = 1 cup of mashed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup finely grates Parmesano Reggiano
  • 10-15 scrapes of whole nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp fresh grated pepper
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour (a bit more for dusting)
  • a few tbsp of great Extra Virgin Olive Oil – I used Temecula Estate a mild and buttery Californian
  • some fresh sage leaves or parsley leaves
  • more grated Parmesano

Step 1: wash and poke a couple of small sweet potatoes with a fork and microwave for 2 minutes. Flip over and cook 2 more and if still not completely soft cook another 1 minute and check until done. I suggest you place the sweet potatoes on a plate so that you get catch any leaks.

Step 2: slice open and scrape out hot flesh with a spoon into a bowl.

Step 3: you can mash with a potato masher or run them through a ricer. I always use a ricer for the regular russet potatoes but, this method worked fine because the sweet potato is not as dry as the potato.

Step 4: you should have a nice mash that is not too wet. Add a bit of fresh nutmeg.

Step 5: add an egg, freshly grated Parmesano Reggiano, salt and pepper. At this stage your mix will be rather wet. Add 1/2 cup of flour and gently fold in for a few seconds then turn out onto a counter or board. I basically use a scraper to fold over and incorporated the flour. Gnocchi can be tough if you work the dough too much.

I add the last 1/4 cup of flour by gently kneading the dough. You want it to hold together when you boil them but, you don’t want to overwork the gluten and make them hard.

Step 6: I divide the dough into 4 pieces and form into logs. I cut with a floured knife into pieces around 1 inch in size. I have a cute little gnocchi board to create some ridges but, you can form them on the back of a fork or just cook as is. Some people just press the tops to form a little dent. Place them on a floured sheet. You can cook them right away or freeze them.

Step 7: place some in a pot of boiling, salted water. Place them in the water and gently stir once so they don’t stick to the bottom. Wait until they float and cook 1 more minute. This will probably take 2 – 3 minutes in total. I remove them with a spyder and place them directly from the water to a heated pan.

Step 8: with a bit of great extra virgin olive oil or a bit of butter. Saute the gnocchi for a minute on each side to get a touch of browning. I grated a bit of lemon zest and tossed in some chopped parsley, salt and pepper.

Serve hot with a few scrapes of Parmesano Reggiano.

Asparagus and Pepper Soba Noodle Salad

Sometimes you just need something fresh and nourishing. Soba noodles are available in the Asian section of your grocery store and are made from Buckwheat which also happen to be a gluten-free option if made from 100% buckwheat flour. This salad is made with loads of fresh vegetables, all tossed with some Soba noodles and a tasty dressing.

You will need:

  • 1/4 cup mild olive oil (a bit more for sauteing your veg) – I used Temecula Olive Le Caprice de Nature
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp flaked sea salt (if you don’t have it use regular sea salt)
  • 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger (I always freeze mine and grate it frozen. Keeps forever!)
  • 1 clove garlic – crushed
  • 1 tsp Sriracha chili sauce
  • 1 tsp finely minced red chili – mine is a medium spicy
  • 1 pkg of Soba Noodles – 250 gram pkg
  • 2-3 sliced scallions/spring onions
  • 10 spears of asparagus – sliced into stripped with a peeler then the rest chopped
  • 1/2 red pepper – sliced into thin strips
  • 1/2 apple – sliced into strips
  • fresh cilantro leaves
  • fresh sprouts or baby shoots or different greens

These noodles are easily found in your favorite Asian market or even in the Asian section of most grocery stores.

Step 1: I like to gather all my ingredients and chop, peel or measure all things so that when I am ready to cook everything goes quickly and more importantly you don’t accidentally forget something! Get your water boiling -add a good pinch of salt and cook your noodles according to the package. Drain and toss with a bit of your dressing or plain olive oil so they remain separated or these noodles will stick together like glue.

Step 2: take some washed Asparagus and peel long strips with a potato peeler. You will make strips along one side and then get to a point where the peeler no longer works properly. I flip it over at this stage and peel strips from the outer edge towards the center. I do this with each spear, then I take those centre pieces and chop them finely for another texture in my salad.

Step 3: chop some apple, red pepper and whatever other vegetables you love.

Step 4: in a saute pan add some of your favorite extra virgin olive oil, some salt and pepper and saute on high heat for a minute or two.

Step 5: in a small bowl create a dressing by adding  1/4 cup olive oil, sesame oil, soy, honey, salt, ginger, garlic, Sriracha and red chili for a bit of kick. Mix well.

Finally, toss all your briefly cooked vegetables, along with your noodles in the dressing. You can eat this salad warm or room temperature. I garnish with some cilantro leaves and some baby greens.

Fresh and rejuvenating!!!

Gennaro Contaldo’s Fried Stuffed Gnocchi

This is one of the nicest decadent treats I have had in a long time!! These are gorgeous little puffy pillows that have the perfect contrasting spicy Arrabbiata sauce and some Parmesan shavings on top. This recipe is Gennaro Contaldo’s recipe from You Tube for Stuffed Fried Gnocci, with Arrabbiata Sauce  If you have never seen Gennaro you simply much watch his You Tube videos, he is my favorite. I love his passion and love of good food. I think one of my favorite shows was on BBC Two Greedy Italians with Gennaro and Antonio Carluccio

This recipe is Gennaro’s recipe for the perfect Christmas starter. I think the recipe is just perfect. It takes a bit of time but, so so so worth it!! I promise you. You can also freeze the gnocchi (I tried it last night) and let them come to room temperature before frying them. I do not recommend boiling them because they are stuffed and get heavy. If you make them as he does they are puffy and gorgeous!!

COME ON!! It’s for Christmas, you don’t eat this everyday!! 

You will need:

Gnocchi Dough

  • 1.5 kg (4-5) Baking Potatoes – I used Russet you want dry not waxy potatoes.
  • 2 large egg yolks (save 1 of the egg whites)
  • 15-20 scrapes of whole nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 150 grams 00 flour
  • rice flour for dusting and rolling


  • 150 grams ricotta cheese
  • 50 grams finely grated Parmesano Reggiano cheese
  • 50 grams breadcrumbs
  • 100 smoked mozzarella – torn (I will show you how to make some if you can’t find it)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 10 scrapes of whole nutmeg

Arrabbiata Sauce – ( this is my modified from original recipe for a smaller batch)

  • 85 grams sun dried tomatoes dry (not in oil)
  • 2 tbsp dry oregano
  • 1 tbsp (yes that much!) chili flakes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 150 ml extra virgin olive oil – I used Pruneti Frantoio from Italy
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 150 ml water -added to blender – to thin out

Gennaro’s original recipe 

  • 300 grams sun dried tomatoes dry (not packed in oil)
  • 1 handful of chili flakes (yes he used that much!!)
  • 1 handful dry oregano
  • 200 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 400 ml of olive oil
  • fresh parsley
  • salt to taste

To finish

  • chopped parsley
  • fried sage leaves
  • more grated Parmesan Cheese
  • bit of salt

Step 1: roast 1.5 kg. (4-5 large) russet potatoes in a 400 degree F oven for at least 1 hour to get potatoes very soft (I rub a bit of olive oil on potatoes)

Step 2: once potatoes are cool enough to handle (don’t wait until they are cold they should still be hot for ricing) peel skins and rice in a potato ricer or food mill. This tool is really the secret to the best mashed potatoes too..It’s like a giant garlic press. You place cooked potatoes in it and squeeze out the little squished pieces that look like rice!

Step 3: add egg yolks (keep 1 egg white for brushing on dough – food glue!), nutmeg, salt and pepper (it takes lots) and flour. Mix lightly with a spatula. I like to fold it like I am incorporating whipped egg whites into something. Just a few turns and then you can mix lightly with your hands before turning out everything from the bowl onto counter. You want to just gather all the flour and create a dough. You do not want to overwork or the gnocchi will become tough. Taste to see if you need more salt and pepper.

Step 4: if you cannot find smoked mozzarella you can make your own! Add some food safe wood chips to a smoker box for the barbecue and light the wood on fire in your outdoor grill. Once the smoke starts going I place the ball of mozzarella on a plate/bowl next to the smoker box. Close the grill lid and let the wood smoke permeate the cheese. It will not melt the cheese if it is just a handful of chips you are burning. I remove the mozzarella after 5 minutes and it is smoky. Gennaro had a really nice charred one in his video!

Step 5: make filling in another bowl. Add ricotta, finely grated Parmesan, smoked mozzarella torn/squished into pieces with your hands, Add salt, pepper, nutmeg and egg yolks. Mix well. It should be on the drier side (like a paste) not runny. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if necessary.  You can place in a piping bag or Ziploc bag with one end cut to pipe filling onto potato dough.

Step 6: Divide potato dough into 4. Roll one section into a thick rope (approx 24 inches long and 2 1/2 inches wide) using plenty of rice flour to avoid sticking.

Step 7: press log with heal of your palm to flatten or use a rolling pin.

Step 8: brush with egg white.

Step 9: add a row of filling. My filling was dry enough that I could roll it out with my hands.

Step 10: roll the potato dough over the filling and gently seal and roll to encase with more rice flour.

Step 11: chop into 1 inch pieces or the size you like. Place finished gnocchi on a cookie sheet with lots of rice flour to avoid sticking.

Repeat for the other 3 rolls – this recipe is perfect for 4 rolls of dough and 4 equal rolls of filling.

Making the Sauce

Step 1: in a food processor add sun dried tomatoes and pulse to mince.

Step 2: add minced tomatoes to a saucepan along with chili flakes, oregano, salt, parsley and olive oil. Cook on low heat for 3-4 minutes to soften.

This is my addition Gennaro did not add water. 

Step 3: remove from heat and add to a blender. Add water and blend until becomes a thick chunky sauce. If you need to add a bit more water to get it to the consistency you like feel free. Taste and adjust salt. It will taste spicy but, it will mellow over time and the fried gnocchi go so well with the contrasting spicy sauce.

Fry the gnocchi in hot oil at 350 degrees F if you have a deep fryer this works well.  I  shallow pan fried (oil goes halfway up the gnocchi. I cooked them in good olive oil (cause it is a delicious unrefined oil and yes you can fry with it ) If you have a deep fryer this method is easier because you don’t have to fiddle and turn but, both work fine.

Quickly fry some sage leaves in a bit olive oil.

Serve on a pretty plate or cutting board. Sprinkle with a bit of salt, add some shaved Parmesan and decorate with some fried sage leaves. Dip or top the gnocchi with the sauce and prepare to be amazed!

Big Pete went out of his mind!! told me I could make those anytime I liked!!

Thank you Gennaro!!I love it.

I ate some and froze the rest. If you are cooking from frozen. Take out gnocchi and let come to room temperature making sure they are separated to avoid sticking together before frying.

Do not boil these they get heavy and are not gorgeous and fluffy.

Butternut Squash and Ricotta Ravioli with Pinenuts and Sage

This is delicious combination of Ricotta cheese and butternut squash served simply with good olive oil, some pine nuts and fresh sage leaves. If you do not have a ravioli form these can easy be made with a cookie cutter or even a glass to cut the ravioli. I have also added a bit of semolina to the dough to add some texture but you can make a smooth dough by using all flour and omitting the semolina or cornmeal. These can be frozen perfectly for a rainy day when you want something quick.

You will need:

  • 1 small butternut squash – roasted for 40 minutes – then pureed or squished- puree =1 3/4 cup
  • 1/3-1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup ricotta (drained for 1 hour or pressed in a paper towel)
  • 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 3-4 fresh sage leaves (chopped fine)

Pasta Dough

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup semolina or fine cornmeal
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 large eggs (room temperature)
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp water

Once ravioli cooked add to pan:

  • more best quality extra virgin olive oil finishing in pan (you could also add a bit of butter if you like)
  • few leaves of fresh sage
  • salt and pepper
  • fresh grated Parmesano Reggiano
  • a sprinkle of pine nuts (as much as you like or just a tbsp per serving)

Step 1: Take a small butternut squash and slice into a few large pieces. Add 1 tbsp olive oil and cover with foil. Roast at 375 degrees F for 45 minutes – 1 hour depending on the size of the squash. You want the squash to be very soft once cooked. I don’t remove seeds or skin until the squash is cooked. I scoop out seeds (which you can roast and salt) and then scoop out the very soft flesh. I discard the skin.

Step 2: in a small bowl add the squash and puree easily with a fork. You do not want the squash too wet so roasting is better than boiling it. If you find the squash very wet you can press in a paper towel or clean tea towel. You are looking for an end product that is like a thick paste.

Step 3: add salt (mine is grey salt but, any kind you like is fine)

Step 4: add a few scrapes of fresh nutmeg.

Step 5: add the ricotta cheese and grated Parmesan cheese. If your ricotta is very wet you can drain it for 1 hour in a sieve or press in a cloth/ or paper towel to remove most of the water.  The squash has water in it and you do not want the filling too wet. You can also add more cheese!

Step 6: add about a tbsp of chopped sage leaves. Put in fridge while you make the pasta.

Step 7: add the pasta ingredients into a food processor. You can add the semolina or omit it entirely. If you omit it add the 1/4 cup equivalent in flour to the recipe. The “all flour” dough is a much smoother, fine dough.

Step 8: process until it starts to form a ball (maybe 15 seconds)

Step 9: take ball out of processor and with a bit of flour form a nice smooth ball. Knead it for a minute or two to get a nice smooth ball.

Step 10: wrap the dough and let rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Step 11: remove from fridge and cut ball in half and then each piece into 4 = 8 even pieces.

Step 12: flour each piece and start to run through the largest setting on a pasta roller (of course you can roll this by hand with a bit more effort!)

I run the dough through a few settings. You do not want it too thin or the filling will break open when cooking the ravioli.

Step 13: roll out 2 sheets and place one on the bottom of a generously floured ravioli form (I just got this one and I love it!) I used to make them by placing one sheet on the bottom and placing spoonfuls in the same kind of order then placing the next sheet on top and pressing in between and either cut with a knife to make squares or use a small glass to form round ravioli.

This press has a need form to make the ravioli.

Step 14: add a teaspoon of filling to each hole. I add a bit of water around each  by dipping my finger in a glass of water.

Step 15: place top sheet on ravioli and take a rolling pin to seal and cut each. I love the open bottom to this mold so you get nice fat ravioli. Remove excess dough around edges. Flip mold and knock on counter for ravioli to release from mold.

Step 16: toss in lots of flour and place on a plate or sheet to be frozen individually. Do not let them touch while freezing.

Step 17: once frozen put them in a Ziploc bag. They can be removed and boiled frozen right from the bag when you want to cook them.

Step 1: to cook: boil a few ravioli in salted water at a rolling boil. Wait until they float to the top and cook 1 minute. In a saute pan add a few tbsp of extra virgin olive oil. I used a lovely Tuscan variety called Viola Sincero which is a Moraiolo oil that is a nice medium oil with a nice peppery finish.

Step 2: add some buttery pine nuts and toast for a minute or two until just starting to brown. I keep the pine nuts in the freezer since nuts go rancid easily if left out. Add some fresh sage leaves. They will fry and get nicely crisp. Cook 1 minute.

Step 3: add your cooked ravioli to the pan and cook another minute.

Serve with a generous shaving of Parmesan or Pecorino and don’t forget the salt and pepper!


Fettucine with Orange Lemon Gremolata

This is a simple pasta dish prepared with a few fresh ingredients. It is a chopped herb compliment and I have made mine similar to a pesto however, it has orange and lemon zest and juices along with garlic and glorious olive oil. Chop a few things, mix and cook some pasta. You just toss over hot pasta and you are instantly enjoying a beautiful day in Sicily or the Amalfi coast! I have used a beautiful Sicilian oil made from Nocellara, Biancolilla and Cerasuola olives. It is fruity and bold with a nice little peppery finish.

You will need:

  • enough Fettucine pasta for your crowd of people – I have used an egg pasta
  • a big handful of flat Italian parsley
  • a big handful of fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cloves of garlic – minced very finely
  • 1/2 lemon zested and juiced
  • 1/2 orange zested and juiced
  • 1/2-3/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil – I used a beautiful Titone from Sicily (fruit and bold!)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • more beautiful oil for serving.


  • a few microgreens for garnish
  • fresh grated Parmesano Reggiano

Step 1: put the water on to boil and gather your ingredients.

Step 2: grate a bit of lemon and orange zest.

Step 3: chop your fresh herbs and finely mince your garlic. Add to bowl.

Step 4: squeeze your juices.

Step 5: add your beautiful extra virgin oil. You can add less oil (which is typical) but, since I have more than I will use in one meal I like to add lots of oil for preserving it for a day or two. Add salt and pepper and taste it. If you want to readjust the seasonings or citrus, feel free.

Step 6: drain your pasta (but keep 1/4 cup of the starchy water) and immediately pour the drained pasta back into the hot pot. Spoon a few big scoops of your gremolata over the hot pasta and stir to incorporate well. Add a few tbsp of your pasta water and mix. The water helps to make a nice glossy light sauce. Don’t add so much water that it is wet you just want a bit to bring it all together. Taste it and you can add more gremolata if you like. Make sure there is enough salt and pepper.

Add another drizzle of oil, perhaps a few microgreens or a shaving of fresh Parmesan cheese. It is lemony and sweet with a balance from the oil and the garlic.!!! Simple and delish!

Sun Dried Tomato, Garlic and Olive Oil Pasta

“Butta la pasta!” is an expression in Italian which means throw in the pasta. This was what the farmer would yell from the field on his way in. I like to say this for the simplest, fastest pasta sauces like this one. In the time it takes to make the sauce the pasta is cooked!!

This is a variation on a typical pasta with a simple pomodoro (tomato) sauce. I have taken a combination of sun dried tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, garlic, chili flakes, fresh basil and great extra virgin olive oil to create a fast dinner. You can add a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar and a sprinkle of Parmesano Reggiano to finish this classic. You can also use a penne or spaghetti pasta if you prefer but, try this. The sun dried tomatoes add another layer of flavour and the olive oil creates a simple glorious sauce.



You will need:


  • for 2 people
  • 250 grams or half a box/bag of dried pasta – I used a Casarecce which is a tube shaped like an S
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (bit more to serve) – I used a robust Mandranova Nocellara
  • 1-2 ripe tomatoes – I want to have a fruit with lots of water (chopped = around 1 cup)
  • 1/2 tsp hot chili flakes (peperoncino)
  • 6 sun dried tomatoes soaked in oil – chopped finely
  • 3-4 cloves garlic – sliced or rough chop
  • 1 tsp dry oregano
  • 1 tsp Italian or Tuscan dry seasoning mix
  • generous sprinkling of salt and pepper
  • 2-3 tbsp sliced basil for serving
  • 4 tbsp of freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese (grate it yourself for best taste)
  • 1 tbsp aged balsamic vinegar (optional*)


Gather your ingredients.


Step 1: in a large pot of boiling, heavily salted water cook your pasta according to directions on package. You want your pasta to be cooked to al dente (still a bit hard to the tooth)

Step 2: chop your fresh tomatoes – you want them to have a lot of water content because this will create your simple sauce.

Step 3: chop your sun dried tomatoes and garlic. Have everything ready to go because your sauce will be done in the time it takes to cook the pasta.

Step 4: in a large pan on medium heat add good quality extra virgin olive oil and tomatoes. I want the tomatoes to sweat out their liquid which will mix with the olive oil to help create a gorgeous sauce. You may think this is allot of oil however, it is a glorious healthy fat that will create the most beautiful simple coating for your pasta. Add a generous sprinkle of sea salt and pepper. Cook for 2 minutes. Tomatoes love salt don’t omit this. You can always start with some and add more at the end once you taste it if you feel unsure of your amounts. I never like to add measurements for salt and pepper because you need to add and taste to get accurate amounts.

Step 5: add your chili flakes, your sun dried tomatoes, garlic and seasonings. Stir and cook on medium low for another 4-5 minutes. The oil gets beautifully infused with the other components and slowly thickens slightly. Taste it and adjust seasonings as you like. It is not allot of sauce however, it is just enough to coat the pasta and Italians do not typically over sauce their pasta like North Americans do. Try it!

Step 6: add your pasta to the sauce and always keep some pasta water. The starchy liquid always helps to thicken the sauce and helps to create a glossy coating. I have used maybe a 1/4 cup of the pasta water in my preparations here. Toss and cook another 2 minutes. This is why you never over cook the pasta because it will continue to cook in the sauce.

Toss in your chopped basil and half of your grated cheese, taste it. Add more salt and pepper if necessary. Mix and serve.

 On the plate I add the additional cheese and a drizzle more of fresh olive oil for another layer of taste and if you like a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar. It is simple, sweet, a bit spicy from the chili flakes and perfectly balanced and delicious.

I love a great plate of pasta and tomatoes, basil, cheese, garlic and good olive oil is once of the best.

Mamma Mia!!

Marino’s Magnificent Pesto

Pesto, Pesto, do your very besto!! 

In the 1958 movie Houseboat starring Sofia Loren and Cary Grant she sings “Presto, Presto” but, I always replace it with Pesto.

I have made pesto lots of times however, when I was recently in Imperia, Italy. Marino a Master known for his pesto (and that is saying something in Liguria where pesto is from!) taught me and my class of Olive Oil lovers his secret formula for making the BEST you have ever had!!

Try it once and you will be ruined for life!

 I dream about this pesto.

You will need:

  • a mortar and pestle
  • 1 large clove of garlic (yes! you heard me only 1 large one. I promise it is all you will need)
  • 1 heaped tsp of Maldon flaked sea salt
  • 4 bunches (21 gram containers) of tender young basil leaves – just use the tender small ones
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup fresh pine nuts
  • 1 cup (a bit more if you like) finely grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesano Reggiano – only fresh
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup best quality extra virgin olive oil – I used Mandranova Nocellara from Sicily

This is Marino. He is a chemist and the Vice President at ONAOO which is National Assoication of Olive Oil Tasters in Imperia. One evening we were all at a beautiful dinner and Marino shared his secrets to making truly the best pesto I have ever had in my life!

First, let me tell you he is very particular about every component and the order in which you must add these parts to make the perfect pesto. This is his mortar and pestle which he has had for over 50 years. The stone mortar is over 1000 years old and the pestle is make from boxwood. What you can’t really see in the photo is the small bunches of tender, small basil leaves have a DOP designation around each bunch to certify they are grown in the area. This is the kind of designation that certifies extra virgin olive oils and wine. Seriously!

He makes his mix in the mortar in a specific order which I will show you. Once he has completed the pesto up to the last stage he removes every trace of the mix into a bowl and then only will he add the olive oil. He explained that he doesn’t want the oil to soak into the stone and he doesn’t want the oil on his pestle which is wood and could penetrate and ultimately go rancid after time.

This is my mortar and pestle. Not as pretty as his but, it will have to do.

Now, I understand that this is the wrong time of year to be making pesto but, like I said I was dreaming about how good it was and I was lucky enough to find these living basil plants in my grocery store (not DOP!) and they were pretty close to the size of bunches he had when he was making his pesto so I thought why not. These packages are 21grams each and I used 4 to make this recipe.

Step 1: add the 1 large clove of garlic to the mortar along with the flaked sea salt. Crush and make circular motions to get the garlic to almost dissolve and form a paste.

Step 2: carefully remove only the leaves from the plants and start to crush and blend in circular motions to completely pulverize the basil. This will probably take 3-4 minutes eahc time. You want it as smooth as possible before you add the next package.

Step 3: add each bunch and mix until very fine and smooth. In the end you will think you don’t have much pesto at all. It will be maybe 1/2 cup total. Take your time on this stage, you must make it smooth and creamy.

Step 4: add your pine nuts. You can add up to 1/3 of a cup if you like. I used a big heaping 1/4 cup. Crush and move pestle in circular motions until you have a smooth paste. At this stage it will turn a light green and the room will be gloriously scented with pesto!

Step 5: add your beautiful cheese and mix again until smooth and perfectly combined.

Step 6: scrape every bit out of the mortar and into a small bowl. It will not seem like much. It is approximately 1 cup of paste.

Step 7: add your oil a bit at a time until you get it to the consistency you like. I added just over 1/4 cup of Mandranova Nocellara. Now taste it and be prepared to be amazed!

Go on! taste it….perfect!

Toss it on your favorite pasta. Serve with a bit more grated cheese and a drizzle of oil. I think I wiped every bowl clean so I didn’t waste a drop! You can also just lather it on a piece of bread and you should, to taste that super concentrated flavour. I think I hear angels singing!

If you have any left you can freeze it in cubes then save in a Ziploc bag for another day.

Pad Thai


Pad Thai is a great meal which you can make vegetarian, with chicken, shrimp or pork. It is packed full yummy things like rice noodles, tofu and eggs served with lime wedges and toasted peanuts or cashews. You can make it in a traditional wok however, if you don’t have one just use a large pan and do it in a few stages. Once all the prep work is done the cooking is done quickly.


You will need:


  • 100 grams of pork, chicken or shrimp – sliced into thin strips/pieces (or make it vegetarian)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic- crushed or chopped fine
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp tamarind concentrate or chutney
  • 1/2 tsp sambal olek
  • rice noodles
  • boiling water to cover noodles and soak
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • 150 gram extra firm tofu – cut into strips (I used 1/2 a pkg of tofu)
  • 2 scallions/spring onions- sliced fine
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup chopped salted peanuts
  • coconut oil or peanut oil for cooking
  • cilantro. lime wedges and sweet Thai chili sauce for serving




Step 1: chop and prepare all your ingredients in the order you like. Chop tofu, slice pork, chicken or shrimp if using. Chop scallions and peanuts.





Step 2: Pour boiling water over rice stick noodles and leave according to directions. Mine re-hydrated within a few minutes. Once soaked I like to drain and lightly dress the noodles with a bit of oil to keep them from sticking while you prep the rest of the dish.


Step 3: In a small dish add the meat – in my case I used pork tenderloin because it cooks quickly and is very tender. Add 1 tsp of sugar and 2 cloves of finely chopped garlic, stir and set aside.

It is a small amount of meat however if you prefer more then you can double the amount but, remember to double the amount of your sauce as well. I typically go very light on the sauce however,  you can double it if you like it more saucy. I will show you in Step 5.


Step 4: in a small dish or measuring cup whisk your eggs.


Step 5: in another small dish prepare sauce. Add 2 tbsp soy sauce, 2 tbsp fish sauce, 2 tbsp tamarind concentrate or tamarind chutney and 1/2 tsp sambal olek (double or even triple this sauce if you prefer your Pad Thai to be more saucy)




Step 6: in a very hot non stick pan or wok add 2 tbsp coconut oil and meat, shrimp or chicken. Quickly saute and once cooked remove from pan. This should take 2-3 minutes.



Step 7: add a bit more coconut oil and saute the tofu for a few minutes until lightly browned. Remove and set aside.



Step 8: add a bit more oil and eggs along with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Cook almost like a crepe, flip over and once cooked remove from heat and roll up and slice into ribbons. Set aside.



Step 9: If you need a larger pan then heat to very hot and a bit of oil, your meat, tofu, egg ribbons, rice noodles, bean sprouts and sauce. Mix with tongs or two wooden spoons to quickly coat everything and reheat.



Serve with chopped cilantro/coriander, lime wedges, chopped peanuts and sweet Thai chili sauce.

Eat right away.








Pasta e Fagioli – Pasta and Beans


Pasta e Fagioli or Pasta and Beans is a simple dish of pasta and beans and can be made dozens of ways. It can be made thick or thin and with or without a bit of leftover beef or pancetta. It is a satisfying dish served with a drizzle of good olive oil, some grated Parmesan cheese and some fresh bread.


You will need:


  • *optional – 1 piece of cooked steak or leftover roast is great here or a few sliced of chopped pancetta
  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp fresh rosemary
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 4 fresh tomatoes or 1 small can diced
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 2 x 14 oz. cans of cannellini beans – I can is rinsed and pulsed and the other is rinsed and whole
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 1/2 cups ditale or tubetti pasta
  • optional : a rind from Parmesan cheese, 5-6 chopped artichokes canned or jarred


  • serving suggestions: pour on some good extra virgin olive oil, grate some Parmesan cheese, drizzle some aged balsamic vinegar, add some fresh chopped basil or parsley




This is a great place to use a piece of leftover steak/roast or slice of ham/pancetta. If you are planning on using a piece of meat you can cook it separately and once cooked add it to the soup. I have prepared this steak by sprinkling meat with a bit of Italian seasoning, salt and pepper and sauteing it in a pan with olive oil. Once seared I slowly cooked it in some red wine for an hour until it was tender. If you are using some pancetta or ham you can add it to the vegetables and saute.



Step 1:  in a food processor add your sofrito. Onion, carrot, celery, garlic. Mince until fine.



Step 2: add fresh rosemary and fresh basil. Mice again.



Step 3: in a pot add sofrito, good quality extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Cook 5 minutes on medium heat. If you are using some prosciutto or pancetta (un-smoked bacon) saute it at this stage with the vegetables. You can also omit the meat entirely.



Step 4: add tomatoes and oregano to the food processor (you can use canned if you prefer) and blend until it creates a tomato puree. Remove to a small bowl.



Step 5: add 1 can of cannellini beans to processor and puree. This will be used as your thickener and the second can is left whole in the soup.



chop or shred your meat if using.



Step 6: add meat, tomatoes, and pureed beans. Mix well.



Step 7: add bay leaf and chicken/vegetable broth and if you have any leftover Parmesan cheese rinds

(I keep them in a bag in the freezer) or some artichokes. Let simmer on medium-low for 30-40 minutes.



Step 8: add your ditali or tubetti pasta and cook another 15 minutes.



thinner soup with beef



thicker version made with a bit of pancetta


You can make this soup thick or thinner by adding more or less broth. You can serve with a drizzle of good olive oil or aged balsamic vinegar. Add some fresh chopped basil or a grating of fresh Parmesan.