Comfort Food and Easy Entertaining

As a private chef, caterer and cooking instructor I am often asked "What do you enjoy cooking when you're at home on a weeknight or entertaining guests at your table?" I started this blog to answer that question. Here I will share with all of you the recipes that I find delicious and comforting. Many of the recipes are my own versions of classic dishes, some are contemporary twists on old ideas, and some are discoveries I made while perusing my grandmother’s vast collection of cookbooks dating back to the early 1900’s. Please enjoy these videos. I have also included links to some of the published articles I have written recently. Please feel free to comment here or email me directly with any questions, comments or general thoughts. My email address and information on my catering, private chef and private cooking classes can be found on my website:

Lasagna Bolognese

Lasagna Bolognese:
1 package lasagna noodles (or homemade noodles - see additional video)
Italian Sausage Bolognese (see video)
Bechamel Sauce (see video)
Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
Mozzarella Cheese, grated

To assemble the Lasagna:
Cook 15-20 lasagna noodles in salted, boiling water, until tender. Remove from heat and shock in an ice bath. Remove noodles and layer between sheets of paper towels to dry.

In a 13x9 inch baking pan, start by adding the bolognese to the bottom of the pan, then noodles, followed by bechamel, ragu, parmigiano-reggiano and mozzarella. Repeat process until all noodles have been used. Top noodles with bechamel and additional parmigiano-reggiano. Bake in oven for 30-45 minutes until sauces are bubbling and the lasagna is browned on the top and the edges. Let lasagna rest for about 10-15 minutes before cutting and serving.

Classic Bechamel Sauce

Bechamel Sauce:

5 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons flour
3 cups milk
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

In a medium saucepan, heat butter until melted. Add flour and stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Over medium heat, cook mixture until light golden brown, about 6 to 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat milk in separate pan until just about to boil. Whisk milk into butter mixture 1 cup at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth. Bring mixture to a boil. Cook 10 minutes and remove from heat. Sauce should coat the back of a spoon and hold its edge when you run a finger through the middle. Season with salt and nutmeg and set aside.

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Fresh Ricotta

1. 2 quarts whole milk
2. 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3. Salt

Line a colander with moistened cheesecloth and set it over a large bowl. In a large saucepan, bring the milk to a gentle boil. Add 3 tablespoons of the lemon juice and cook over low heat, stirring gently, until curds form and rise to the surface, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover and let stand for 5 minutes; the curds will firm up slightly.

Strain through a fine mesh seive.

Homemade Pasta

Basic Pasta Dough
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 2 large eggs plus 2 egg yolks, beaten lightly
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 3 Tbsp water

In a food processor blend the flour, the eggs, the oil, and 1 1/2 tablespoons water until the mixture just begins to form a ball, adding more water drop by drop if the dough is too dry. (The dough should be firm and not sticky.) Blend the dough for 15 seconds more to knead it. The dough may be prepared up to this point and kept covered and chilled for up to 4 hours. Let the dough stand, covered with a damp towel, at room temperature for 1 hour.

To roll pasta dough: Set the smooth rollers of a pasta machine at the highest number. (The rollers will be wide apart.) Divide each pound of dough into 6 pieces, flatten 1 piece into a rough rectangle, and cover the remaining pieces with a damp towel. Dust the rectangle with flour and feed it through the rollers. Fold the rectangle in half and feed it through the rollers 8 or 9 more times, folding it in half each time and dusting it with flour if necessary to prevent it from sticking. Turn the dial down one notch and feed the dough through the rollers without folding. Continue to feed the dough through the rollers without folding, turning the dial one notch lower each time, until the lowest or second-lowest notch is reached. The pasta dough should be a smooth, long sheet about 4 or 5 inches wide and about 1/16-inch thick. Roll the remaining pasta dough in the same manner.

Italian Sausage Bolognese Sauce

Italian Sausage Bolognese Sauce:

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons butter
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
2 stalks celery
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 lbs hot italian sausage, ground
1/2 cup whole milk or cream
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand, with the juices
1 cup dry red wine
2 cups stock (I used turkey stock I made after Thanksgiving)
Salt and pepper

In a 6 to 8-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add onion, carrot and garlic and sweat over medium heat until vegetables are translucent. Add sausage and stir into vegetables. Brown over high heat, stirring to keep meat from sticking together, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Add milk and simmer until reduced to nothing, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes and simmer 15 minutes. Add the wine and stock, bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer over low heat for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper to taste and remove from heat.

Crab and Artichoke Dip

Crab and Artichoke Dip Recipe:

1 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup finely minced onion
2 8.0 oz packages cream cheese
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp Horseradish (or Horseradish sauce)
1 1/2 tsp Old Bay seasoning
5 dashes Tobasco sauce
2 14 oz. can artichoke hearts (quartered in water, not packed in oil)
1/2 lb crab meat, cartilate removed (add more if you've got it)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

1. In a sauce pot saute the onions in the butter until they are soft but not brown.
2. Add the cream cheese and stir it over low heat until it is soft. Add the Worcestershire, horseradish, Old Bay, and Tabasco. Stir until well blended.
3. Fold in the artichokes and crab meat.
4. Put the mixture in a shallow baking dish, one that is only about 1-1/2 inches deep. This is similar to the size of a 10-inch pie plate.
5. Sprinkle the Parmesan evenly over the top.
6. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes. This cheese should be brown on top and the sides should be bubbling.

Serve warm with toasted baguette or toast points