Recipe to the rescue, but a tad bit too late

Here’s a true  story. The names have been changed.

My friend Bob met a lovely woman on a very popular dating site. Her name was Dominique. One of the things he particularly liked about her profile was that she said she loved to “tinker around the stove top” and “was very intimate with her oven.”

“Writing like this showed she not only had a sense of humor, but revealled she might have some cooking skills,” Bob said as he shared his storied account.

After speaking on the phone, they discovered they both loved Italian food and decided their first date would be to meet at an Italian restaurant.

They met, had immediate chemistry and got along swimmingly (that’s my word) after that first date. Bob and Dominique had three subsequent dates in which he took her to upscale and eclectic restaurants in Los Angeles.

While talking over the phone about their next date, Dominique said,” I would like to invite you out to dinner.”

“Really,” said Bob. “Ok you can pick the restaurant.”

“I have just spot – Casa Domi,” she said.

Bob said he paused a moment and searched his mind for Casa Domi. When he suddenly realized what she meant, she said, “You sir will be dining at my table and I am making one of your favorite entrees – spaghetti with meat sauce.”

Dining at Casa Domi

Bob was really excited about the offer to dine at her table. After all, her profile said “she loved to tinker around the stove top and was very intimate with her oven.” And besides that, he reasoned things must be moving along nicely  with his new lady because he got an invite to dinner – something that has rarely happened to him.

When Bob arrived, she greeted him at the door wearing an apron, the sign of a real cook he thought to himself. And the smell of garlic wafting through the air was almost intoxicating.

He sat in the family room adjacent to the kitchen sipping a generous pour of pinot noir  she gave in a beautiful etched, long stem wine glass.  He could see a pot simmering on the stove top and vegetables for a salad on the cutting board. Bob said he felt like a little boy anxiously waiting for his favorite dish.

The long awaited main course

Dominique called him to the table and they started with a garden salad and garlic bread.  After they had finished  the salad,  she said  it was time for the “ll platto principale” which she quipped meant “main course” in Italian.

The bowl of pasta and ground meat she placed in front of him left him almost paralyzed. Never had he seen such an unappealing bowl of contents swimming in a red, waterly liquid.

“It was an absolutely disappointing site Ronni,” said  Bob, which is my nickname. “And to make matters worse, it tasted sweet and reminded me of Campbell’s SpaghettiOs with  ground turkey pilled on top.

Bob said he struggled through the meal and ate most of it.

Recipe rescue needed

“My lady needed a serious recipe rescue Ronni,” said Bob adding that he just couldn’t bring himself to tell her how awful he thought it was.

My friend Bob is a great guy. He’s stilling seeing his new lady and he asked me for a simple spaghetti recipe he can make when he invites her over for dinner.

This is my go to recipe when I want to make spaghetti that is familiar, yet updated and slightly – if I dare say – elevated. The sauce is rustic and flavorful. The Kalmata olives give it a Mediterranean vibe. The sliced chicken garlic sausage is a healthier choice and takes this dish just beyond ordinary.  Using the quick cooking fettuccine noodles makes it quick to get on the table so you can get to the business of enjoying the company of your date.

While this recipe wasn’t the lifeline Dominique needed to save her kitchen credibility,  perhaps it could the lifeline to save yours. Oh and by the way –  if you are silently saying “thank you,” imagine me saying “you are welcome.”

Easy Date Night Pasta

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A fresh, light, Italian-inspired pasta recipe perfect for an intimate dinner.


1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/3 cup Kalmata olives, halved
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh oregano, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
Cracked pepper to taste
1 pound Hillshire chicken garlic sausage, sliced
1 -15 ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes )
1-8 ounce can tomato sauce (El Patio Salsa de Jalapeno featured here; for saucier dish use two cans and increase salt and oregano to taste)
Olive oil for sautéing
1/3 cup olive oil
Pasta (this recipe used about 8 ounces of al dente Artisanal egg fettuccine noodles)
Fresh chopped basil or flat leaf parsley
Grated Parmesan cheese


1.  Fill a large Dutch oven pot with 5 quarts of water. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and bring to a boil.

2.  Next, to a large non-stick skillet set on medium heat, add 3 tablespoons olive. When oil is heated, add chopped bell pepper and onions. Sauté 2-3 minutes until tender, stirring frequently.

3.   Add garlic, chopped oregano and halved Kalmata olives and sauté until garlic is fragrant, stirring frequently, about an additional 1-2 minutes.

4.  Add can of fire roasted diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, 1/3 cup olive oil, salt and pepper to the skillet. Stir well. Cover and simmer slowly for 15 minutes.

5.  To a separate non stick pan, add a little olive oil and lightly brown sausage slices on each side. Once browned, remove from pan and set aside on a plate lined with a paper towel.

6.  Add pasta to the water, which should be boiling vigorously at this point. Cook pasta according to al dente instructions.

7.  Once pasta is done, drain thoroughly and add pasta along with browned sausage slices to simmering tomato mixture. Use a large wooden spoon or thongs to gently toss and incorporate noodles and sausage into the sauce. Turn off heat and cover.

8.  Serve with fresh chopped basil or flat leaf parsley and Parmesan cheese. Makes about 4 servings.

Simple ingredients make this dish easy and delicious.

Simple ingredients make this dish easy and delicious.

This sauté of onions, bell pepper, garlic, chopped oregano, oregano  and halved Kalmata olives is intoxicating. 

All ingredients incorporated and pasta is ready to be plated.

Easy Date Night Pasta plated with fresh chopped flat leaf parsley and grated Parmesan cheese.




Island life and an unexpected island entrée

Veronica island dress

Me enjoying the island life

Ahh…the island life.

I lived it for seven glorious days. I used the hashtag #islandlife on my Facebook page to chronicle my recent stay on the island of Saint. Lucia.

Where is Saint Lucia you ask?  Saint Lucia is one of the many tropical islands in the Caribbean Sea most proximal to the islands of Saint Vincent, Barbados and Martinique. It’s about 238.23 square miles of – as the Saint Lucia website says – “natural landscape of gorgeous palm-fringed beaches, miles of unspoiled rain forest and the majestic mountains, natural waterfalls, breath-taking views, friendly locals and authentic culture.”

Whew!  Yes, it’s all true.

The views on the island were spectacular and the beaches are blue and oh so dreamy. The locals are warm and welcoming. With a population of just over 163,000 people living on a land mass half the size of the City of Los Angeles, there  is so much lush, pristine beauty on the island such as the amazing rain forest which  my taxi driver drove I and my friends through on our way to our villa in Castries. And memories of that sunset view still leaves me breathless.

Sunset over the island

A beautiful Saint Lucia sunset over the ocean

Ahh . . the island life. We were entertained and we dined sufficiently. The jerk chicken I had for lunch was deliciously paired with a flavorful vegetable rice.

PicMonkey Collage

A night of entertainment on the island and a jerk chicken delight

But with the average cost of our meals running about 57.5 Eastern Caribbean dollars (ECs) or $21.15 USD, on top of a  %15 Valued Added Tax we quickly realized that our exchange rate of 265.50 ECs per $100  American dollars meant one thing – we were going to have to cook a few meals during our stay.

And why not? Our villa at the Windjammer Landing Resort had a beautiful, fully equipped modern kitchen. I’m a bit of chef so the idea of cooking in Saint Lucia really appealed to me.


The kitchen in our villa had everything I needed to cook like a chef


I loved this cooking cream

A very scenic taxi ride into town provided us an opportunity to see and spend some time in the farmer’s market and later shop in the local Super J Market for dinner ingredients. Red Snapper, shrimp, rice, beans, Parmesan cheese, tomato sauce, pasta, garlic, onions, spices (nutmeg, seafood seasoning, cayenne pepper) fresh spinach, and cooking cream were among the ingredients I purchased.

With those ingredients I prepared three meals. A lovely pan grilled snapper with a spicy tomato sauce which I served with rice and black beans seasoned with GOYA Sazon; Shrimp Alfredo, and Linguine with tomato cream sauce with sautéed spinach. When I shared my cooking exploits with the resort staff, they were inspired because I took the most simple of ingredients found in their local market and transformed them into something they said was quite “fancy.” Imagine that.

I cooked in Saint Lucia – yeah I did. Now I want to share my Tomato and Spinach Linguine ala Saint Lucia creation with you. It may not be what you expect from my island visit, but this recipe is unexpectedly inspired by simple ingredients you can probably find anywhere, even a tropical island. Yah mon!

Tomato and Spinach Linguine ala Saint Lucia

St Lucia Linguine

The sauteed spinach made this dish so satisfying

1 pound Fettuccine
2 cups cooking cream or half and half
2- 8 ounce cans tomato sauce
¼ teaspoon nutmeg or a generous pinch
3 cloves chopped garlic
½ cup chopped yellow onion
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoon olive oil
¼ teaspoon black pepper and cayenne pepper
2 large bunches fresh, chopped spinach (cut in 1/2 inch ribbons or chiffonade)

Cook Fettuccine according to package al dente directions.

While cooking pasta,  heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a non-stick skillet. Add 1 clove of chopped garlic and ¼ cup of chopped onion to skillet. Over medium heat sauté until translucent. Add cooking cream, tomato sauce, Parmesan cheese, nutmeg, salt  (start with 1 teaspoon and season to taste), black pepper and cayenne pepper. Stir well, lower heat and simmer 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

Next, in a separate pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a non-stick skillet.  Add two cloves of chopped garlic and ¼ cup of chopped onion to skillet. Over medium heat sauté until translucent. Add chopped spinach and sauté until wilted, stirring constantly. Make sure not to overcook.

When pasta is done, drain and add pasta and sautéed spinach to cream tomato sauce. Mix well. Serve with addition Parmesan cheese.