Linguine al nero di sepia con gamberetti e cape sante 

Recently, we bought this squid ink linguine from a local home-made pasta shop in Salem, Jean-Louis Pasta Shop (click here). The store was stop one on a culinary stroll through Salem. In all, we went to 8 local businesses to entertain our senses with foods and aromas of all kinds. We were expertly guided by Karen from Salem Food Tours (click here for their web-site) as she shared a little history, spoke enthusiastically about the “foodie” scene, and introduced the group to hidden gems right under our noses.

One of the benefits of living with an Italian is the unlimited number of pasta dishes that can be cooked up with relative ease. Once pasta is thrown in salted water, the right combination of fresh ingredients can make a tasty sauce in minutes. Growing up, Marco learned many of these pasta sauces from his mother.

The squid ink linguine with shrimp and scallops is one that comes from these wonderful memories. The simplicity of this linguine dish doesn’t detract from the amazing flavors! It’s just olive oil, garlic, shrimp, scallops, white wine and some salt, red pepper, and parsley. This, combined with the amazing squid ink flavor in the pasta, and we have a meal that could be served in any fine restaurant. In addition, it is ready to eat in about 10 minutes!

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 280 grams of pasta (linguine or fettuccine are the best so that the sauce can stick to the pasta well and click here to read more about the importance of pasta shape)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic (or a little more to your taste), sliced
  • 6 jumbo shrimp, chopped
  • 4 large scallops, chopped
  • 1/2 cup of white wine
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • salt to taste
  • parsley


  1. in a large pot, boil the generously salted water (see here for post on this)
  2. in a pan, heat the olive oil and garlic slices medium heat
  3. add the seafood and sauté for a couple of minutes
  4. add the white wine, salt, and red pepper flakes and cook on medium-high heat until the wine evaporates (about 5 minutes)
  5. at the end, add some parsley
  6. when the pasta is cooked al dente, strain and add to the sauté pan, combining all the ingredients

Buon appetito!

Crostini with fresh tomatoes 

One of the wonderful things about our recent progressive dinner is the fact that we live close enough to walk from house to house! The stroll from one stop to the next prompted new connections with friends. It promoted a sense of leisure to the evening. And, it also burned a few calories, making way for the next course on our Spanish themed supper excursion.

We chose our downtown condo deliberately to advance the kind of lifestyle that allows us to walk around Salem, shop locally, live near our favorite restaurants, hop over to the PEM (Peabody Essex Museum), walk to local parks, the harbor, and especially to visit local friends. It’s a lot like our condo in the historic downtown of Cremona, and, in fact, we bought in the heart of Salem months after the purchase of our place in Cremona because we knew the European small city life is what we wanted here in the U.S.!

Here is another tapas from our recent progressive dinner (click here). It is a simple bruschetta that the Spanish call pan con tomate. When made in Spain whether or not on a plain, it is done by squishing the seeds of half of a vine-ripened tomato on the crostini (click here to see the crostini prep). We used our tomatoes that we canned fresh this past summer (click here for a quick 3-minute video of that).

If you don’t want to click around the links above, here’s the quick version of how to make these yummy simple appetizers:

  1. in the oven on 400 ° with cookie sheets or in a stove top pan, brown the bread slices
  2. while the toast is warm, lightly rub a half-sliced garlic clove on the toast
  3. drizzle with a nice EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
  4. sprinkle sea salt
  5. spoon on the fresh tomatoes (or squish a half vine-ripe tomato)

Buon appetito!

Progressive dinner

Last weekend, we celebrated with friends by having a progressive dinner. This has nothing to do with national politics but everything to do with moving forward! My parents tell me that I learned about progressive dinners in my youth, attending the Baptist Youth Fellowship (BYF) of our church. And so I shared this concept with a group of our friends.

It’s simple. We started at one home for some sangria and charcuterie. The theme was Spanish food. Then, we moved on to our home for some tapas. Then, on to another friend’s house for paella. We ended the night at another home for tres leches. A nice wine was paired with each course. We are fortunate to live near each other so that we walked from house to house, a chance to pause between courses, work off some of the calories, and, more importantly, catch up with friends as we strolled.

Marco and I made chicken with garlic and sherry, chorizo in red wine, crostini with tomatoes, and sautéed peppers. The only one that wasn’t in our tapas cookbook was the peppers, and yet, it garnered the most buzz!

The peppers are a dish we learned from Adelina, Marco’s mother. Here’s how to do it.

  1. simply cut a mix of yellow, red, and orange peppers into bite sized pieces (I’ll leave quantities up to you!)
  2. throw the peppers in a sauté pan that has olive oil, heated to medium-high heat
  3. stir to coat the peppers with the olive oil
  4. add some capers
  5. let the peppers sit so that they brown and almost become blackened
  6. stir occasionally being sure the peppers cook until soft, 10-12 minutes
  7. add salt to taste
  8. add a little balsamic vinegar and continue to cook, reducing the heat if the peppers are cooked till they are soft

Buon appetito!

Rhythms and Routines

I wrote in an earlier post about the rhythms of life in Italy (click here). One of my favorites that we follow in our bella vita is the Sunday lunch. It is a slow morning of preparation and cooking, followed by a leisurely meal, sometimes with friends, then, an afternoon walk or nap. In Italy, you can tell the time by the silence in the streets when all are home enjoying the Sunday pranzo.

We also adopted another common Italian custom. We are fortunate to have a job nearby. Marco and I both work two towns over. It means that rather than our former 3-hour daily commute we have about 30 minutes of commute each day! This contributes more time to our home life with family and friends and less time frustrated by gridlock and raging roadsters.

We even have a routine in our weekly meals! Monday is almost always cotoletta night. This is our breaded and baked chicken cutlet that we have with a green salad and baguette. Tuesday is pizza night when Matteo makes the dough and we vary the toppings each week. Wednesday and Thursday are flexible with one of the nights probably involving a simple pasta. Fridays are often fish or seafood. The swordfish meal pictured here is our recent Friday night dinner.

Rhythms and routines serve us well. They give some comfort. We look forward to our “cotoletta Monday”, a meal that tastes good, is easy to make and brings a little boost to what is otherwise a challenging day of the week. Routines also bring relief. It is easier to plan, shop, and cook meals when we rely on our rhythms. And, they can also help us to stay focused on plans and goals for health.

For example, look at the meal in the photos. On Sunday, when we planned our shopping list (of course, neither of us wanting to do this), we knew Friday could be fish. We hadn’t had swordfish in a while. Easy! Then, we love sweet potato with swordfish. And, a green vegetable added to round out the meal. Ending with some grapefruit and we had a reasonable-sized protein, a fruit, a vegetable, and a potato with the added benefit of the vitamins and minerals that come packed  in a sweet potato.

Buon Appetito!