Comfort Food

Pasta, Prosciutto and Peas

I’ve saved the best for last.  This is one of my most cherished recipes, and I make it over and over again for my kids and friends.  I had this for the first time at Tre Vigne in St. Helena when I was 24 years old and on my first trip to the Napa Valley.

Michael Chiarello, now a very famous chef, vintner, TV host and sustainable farmer with his own restaurant, Bottega in Yountville, was the chef.  I still love this restaurant and had lunch there on my birthday this year (December, 2015).

Back then this entrée cost only $8, and we had lunch on the beautiful Tra Vigne patio.  I was with my sister, Sandra Sheehan and my Auntie Deborah. It was a hot summer day and there is nowhere on earth more pleasant than the Napa Valley in the heart of the wine country in the summer. What bliss. I returned many times and I always ordered this dish until it was taken off the menu a few years ago, but I highly recommend the Maltagliati Verde (herb infused pasta with slow cooked lamb) which we had on my last visit.

After the kids were born, I couldn’t make it to Tra Vigne as often, so I taught myself how to make Michael’s recipe at home, and my kids love it too. It’s perfect in a pinch when you find yourself with 12 unexpected and very hungry kids for dinner (double the recipe below), add a salad and some crunchy bread.

As for Michael Chiarello, he can still be found at the stove and was gracious enough to join us (on the patio of course) one afternoon at his restaurant Bottega for lunch.  He will forever remain one of my favorite chefs and inspirations.

Thank you Michael Chiarello!


▪ 1 lb of pasta

▪ 2 tablespoons of olive oil

▪ ½ lb chopped prosciutto, pancetta or bacon (shown)

▪ 2 cloves of garlic, chopped

▪ 1 cup of peas, fresh or frozen

▪ ½ stick of unsalted butter

▪ ½ cup of heavy whipping cream

▪ Parmesan cheese, as needed


Boil the pasta, as per the package directions, and then begin making the sauce.

Heat a large sauce pan or dutch oven to medium heat.  Once hot, add the olive oil, then the chopped prosciutto and garlic. Brown lightly.  When the pasta is done, drain and add it to the ham and garlic mixture.  Then, add the butter and cream and reduce heat to low. Stir gently until the ingredients are well combined.  Add the cream, fresh grated parmesan cheese, stir well and reduce for 5 minutes.  Serve immediately in a warm bowls with freshly grated Parmesan.


Summer Entertaining – Roasted Vegetables & Salmon for the Teens

Sara & Siena @ my house summer 2014
Sara & Siena @ my house summer 2014

The kids and a few friends decided they wanted salmon for dinner, so we headed to Whole Foods where I spent $33 on just the salmon, but because it’s less expensive than pizza I didn’t care.  I love it when I can make something really healthy that they like.  I let them pick out some vegetables and because they were so varied I decided to roast them.  I added some brussels sprouts that I made in the microwave and some jasmine rice with butter, lime and cilantro and served it all on small plates.

The small plates allow the four girls to serve themselves and not be overwhelmed by foods they were unfamiliar with and/or did not like.  I like using small plates with kids and letting them serve themselves.  They can have as much as they like and there isn’t any wasted food.  Especially with teenage guests I dislike guessing what they might like.   This is also an excellent menu for teen athletes.

More on cooking for athletic kids later…

Sara’s Plate

Roasted Vegetable Platter

2 small sweet potatoes

1 pepper (this one was orange)

1 bunch asparagus

2 small zucchini

Good olive oil

Salt and pepper


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Wash and poke sweet potatoes with a fork and place on oven rack until fork tender.  Meanwhile wash and cut pepper and zucchini and set aside.   Trim asparagus.   Using hands toss vegetables until evenly coated with oil and arrange on a cookie sheet.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper (I omitted the pepper due to the kids) and cook for about 25 minutes.  Keep an eye on the asparagus as cooking time will vary depending on the size.  Smaller stalks cook faster.  Once the sweet potatoes are tender remove from the oven, allow to cool, peel and cut into coins.  They are really good with butter and brown sugar, but for the platter I just added them ungarnished.



Broiled Salmon

With really good salmon like this the less you do the better.   The only really important thing is to make sure you do not overcook it.


2 lb. salmon

1 lemon

1/4 stick of butter

Salt and pepper


Preheat oven to broil.  Cover the top portion of your broiling pan with tin foil for easy clean up.  Rinse salmon and place  (skin side down) in the center of the broiling pan.  Cut the lemon in half and squeeze over the salmon.  Cut butter into tiny cubes and arrange evenly over the top of the salmon.  The butter will help the top brown.  Salt and pepper to taste and cook for 10 minutes or until fish begins to flake.  For large pieces like this I allow the center to not be totally cooked when I pull it out because the fish will continue to cook on the pan once removed from the heat.


Creating the Menu

All of the flavors in this menu compliment one another.  The cilantro and lime in the rice, the sweetness of the roasted vegetables and the earthy salmon all come together and create a very delicious meal.  And the kids loved it and that is all that matters.   Happy summer.



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