Fettuccini Carbonara


As a child growing up in a very traditional Italian family, Fettuccini Carbonara was a dish my mother made for special occasions.  Now, with three daughters of my own, this dish is something my girls enjoy very often, as it is a family favorite.  Fettuccini Carbonara is a great weeknight meal, and perfect for a first course when you have guests for dinner.

Fettuccini Carbonara

Serves 4 as a main course, 6 as an appetizer

  • 6 slices pancetta, diced
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese (good quality)
  • 3 egg yolks slightly beaten
  • 1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
  • 18 ounces fresh fettuccini

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

In the meantime sauté the pancetta over medium high heat until crispy.

Remove the pancetta from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

Reduce the heat to medium low, and sauté the shallot until soft and translucent.

Add the butter and the cream and heat just under a simmer for about three minutes until the butter has melted and the cream is hot.

Turn the heat to medium and whisk in the parmesan cheese.

Working quickly, add the egg yolks and whisk constantly until completely incorporated (it is imperative to whisk continuously while adding the yolks or they will scramble and ruin your sauce).

Once the yolks are thoroughly incorporated into the sauce and the sauce has thickened, reduce the heat to low and add in the pancetta and the peas.

Salt the water which has come to a boil, add in the fettuccini and cook according to package directions.

Drain the pasta and toss it directly into the carbonara sauce, allowing the sauce to coat each strand of pasta.

Place in shallow bowls and top with chopped fresh parsley.

The Elegant Occasion Wine Pairing:  White: Alberino or Pinot Grigio

        Red: Chianti or  Barbera

Chocolate Toffee

Chocolate Toffee

My daughter turned ten this week, and to celebrate, she had a girls’ luncheon at her favorite restaurant with her sisters and her girlfriends.  Instead of buying favors, I made this delicious Chocolate Toffee (with and without nuts) and placed it in pretty little candy boxes.  The Toffee was so popular at my house I had to make a second batch, as the first one disappeared.  This would also be a terrific hostess or homemade Christmas gift, so next time you have a sweet tooth, give it a try.

Chocolate Toffee

  • 1 ¼ Cup sugar
  • ½ Cup water
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 Ounces bittersweet chocolate (cut into pieces)
  • ¼ Teaspoon espresso powder
  • ½ Cup crushed almonds or pecans (optional)
  • Parchment lined cookie sheet

In a small saucepan over medium heat, stir the sugar, water and butter together.

Once the sugar and butter have dissolved stop stirring.

Let the mixture bubble until it begins to caramelize (this takes about 15 minutes, so be patient).

Once the mixture has turned a deep rich golden color (or using a candy thermometer it has reached 300 degrees), take the pan off the heat and immediately stir in the vanilla and salt.

Working very quickly pour the caramel on the parchment lined cookie sheet and let it cool for 5 minutes.

While the caramel is cooling, place the chocolate into a small glass bowl and microwave in 30 second intervals (stirring at each interval) until the chocolate has melted. This should only take about a minute.

Stir in the espresso powder and pour the chocolate over the cooling caramel in an even layer

Scatter the nuts (optional) over the chocolate.

Let the toffee harden for two hours.

Break into pieces and serve.

The Elegant Occasion Note:  The Toffee will remain fresh for three days if stored in an airtight container.

August 29, 2013 - 3:31 pm

Jess - Hi Roberta – I would love to make this toffee as a favor also for my babies baptism 🙂 I was wondering how much does this recipe make? I need enough for 40 2 x 2 x 2 favor boxes. Thank You!

Beef Tenderloin Chili

Beef Tenderloin Chili
It is back to school week, and on one of the last few days of summer vacation with my daughters, the weather is windy and cloudy.  Curled up on the couch watching movies, we all decided that Chili for dinner with a side of cornbread sounded perfect.

I have several different chili recipes that I rotate.  Traditional chili with ground beef, chicken chili with white beans, etc.  But Beef Tenderloin Chili is a favorite because it really takes the dish to another level. The meat is so tender you can cut it with a fork, and it absorbs all of the flavors I have layered into the chili during the cooking process.  My secret ingredient is the addition of apple cider vinegar.  It makes the meat super tender and gives a slightly sweet background note to the acidity of the tomatoes and heat of the cayenne and red pepper flakes.  The other great thing about this chili, is that the cooking time is quick, as tenderloin is already a tender cut of meat, which makes this a great weeknight dinner.

Next time you are in the mood for good old fashioned comfort food try this recipe.

Beef Tenderloin Chili

Serves 6

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 pounds beef tenderloin cut into large chunks
  • All purpose flour for dredging
  • 2 green bell peppers, diced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons garlic salt (do not use garlic powder)
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 28-ounce can of plum tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 can red kidney beans (drained)
  • 1 can black beans

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven.

Carefully pat the beef with a paper towel to ensure that it is dry.

Working in batches, dredge the beef chunks in the flour, and then drop them into the hot oil.  Let the beef brown and caramelize on one side, and then turn them over to brown on the other side.  When the first batch is done, remove the meat with a slotted spoon and place them on a plate.  Repeat these step with the rest of the beef until all of the meat has been browned and then removed from the pan.

Add the onion, garlic and bell pepper and jalapeno pepper to the pan and stir them together.

Let the vegetables cook until translucent and slightly tender (about 7 minutes).

Add the beef back into the pan with the vegetables and add the apple cider vinegar. Stir the meat and vegetables together making sure that you are loosening up all the brown bits on the bottom of the pan.

Add the cumin, chili powder, garlic salt, cayenne and the red pepper flakes. Toss to coat the vegetables and meat.

Now add the plum tomatoes.  Squeeze the plum tomatoes through your hands to break them up a bit as you pour them in.

Drop in the beans and the bay leaf and bring everything to a simmer.

Cover and cook for one hour over medium low heat (stirring occasionally).

If you would like your chili to be thicker simply mix 2 tablespoons of masa flour (found in the baking aisle at your grocery store) with ¼ cup of water until a smooth paste forms, and pour into the chili.

Turn the heat up to medium and stir until the chili begins to bubble and thicken.

When ready to serve, spoon the chili into bowls and serve with sour cream, chives and shredded cheddar cheese.

The Elegant Occasion Note:  This chili will definitely be spicy.  If you prefer your chili less spicy, simply omit the jalapeno and the red pepper.


Salmon Nicoise Salad

Salmon Nicoise Salad

One of my favorite dishes for lunch is a Nicoise Salad.  While fresh tuna is usually what you find on the menu in restaurants, I enjoy this salad equally as well with Salmon. This salad is truly a meal with the addition of roasted potatoes, green beans, eggs and olives.  I make this salad for lunch, for dinners and it is a staple when I entertain, as I can assemble the salad plates in advance and cook the salmon in minutes.  Here is my recipe for Salmon Nicoise Salad.  Bon Appétit!

Salmon Nicoise Salad

Serves 4

  • 4 Salmon Filets (8 ounces each)
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Teaspoon butter
  • 8 Anchovies(optional)
  • 3 large Yukon gold potatoes, that have been cut into large chunks and roasted with salt, pepper and olive oil until tender and golden (you should have enough for four to five pieces of potato on each plate. The potatoes should be warm or room temperature when they are placed on the salad
  • ½ pound French green beans (or you can use asparagus) ends trimmed and steamed
  • 4 eggs (hard boiled, peeled and cut into quarters)
  • ½ pound calamata olives
  • 8 cups salad greens ( I like baby lettuce, frisee and watercress mixed together, but use what you prefer)

For the Dressing

  • 1 Teaspoon Dijon Mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons white wine or champagne vinegar
  • ½ Cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Pinch thyme
  • ½ Teaspoons garlic salt (do not use garlic powder)
  • ¼ Teaspoon black pepper


To Cook the Salmon

Heat a skillet over medium heat and add the oil and the butter.

When the butter has melted, place the salmon filets in the pan flesh side down.

Allow the salmon to cook for 3 minutes and then turn it so that the filets are skin side down.

Allow the salmon to cook for one minute more (for medium rare).

Remove the salmon to a dish and cover loosely with foil.

To Prepare the Dressing

Place the Dijon, vinegar, thyme, garlic salt and black pepper in a blender.  Pulse until combined and then slowly add the olive oil in a stream until it has emulsified.

To Assemble the Salad

Place two cups of the salad greens on each plate.

Scatter the potatoes, green beans, olives and hard boiled eggs around the plate and over the greens.

Lay a piece of salmon on top of the greens, and place 2 anchovies to the side of the salmon.

Pour the salad dressing over each plate and serve immediately.

Tuna Tartare

On a trip to Chicago in April, we had lunch at The Signature Room at the top of the Hancock Building.  The views were fabulousbut that was not the only thing we fell in love with that day.  The Tuna Tartare was probably the best we have ever had.  I came home and decided to try to recreate it, and I was pretty successful.  This dish is sure to impress your guests as it is not something often served by a home cook, and yet it is so easy to prepare it will probably become your “go to” appetizer.

Tuna Tartare

Serves 8-10 people

  • 1 Pound sushi grade tuna
  • 2 Avocados peeled and diced
  • Juice of one lime
  • 3/4 Cup cilantro, chopped
  • ¼ Cup chives, chopped
  • 1 Teaspoon ground ginger, chopped
  • ¼ Teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 Teaspoons small capers
  • 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 Teaspoon garlic salt
  • 2 Teaspoons black sesame seeds that have been toasted

In a medium-size non-reactive bowl, mix the lime juice, cilantro, chives, ginger, cayenne, mayo, capers, soy, honey and garlic salt. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Toast the sesame seeds in the oven for 5-7 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let them cool.

Dice the tuna in ¼ inch pieces (your fish monger will do this for you) and gently toss them into the sauce along with the sesame seeds and the avacado.

Divide the tuna tartare between four six-ounce ramekins (or two large ramekins) packing them tightly.  Cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour or up to 4 hours.

When ready to serve, invert the ramekin(s) onto a serving plate and garnish with sesame wafer crackers.

The Elegant Occasion Wine Pairing:  Sancerre