Italian Cuisine

Ravioli with Grape Tomatoes Topping

I love to place Grape Tomatoes Topping over Ravino Ravioli. It is more of a topping than a sauce. This recipe makes enough for two portions as a side dish.

Ravioli with Grape Tomatoes Topping © Karen Lee 2016

Ravioli with Grape Tomatoes Topping © Karen Lee 2016


  • 2 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon sliced garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch cayenne
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in circles, preferably Del Cabo brand
  • Ravioli
  • Boiling water
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 8 pieces of ravioli, preferably Ravino
  • Garnish
  • ½ cup or more freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons chiffonade of parsley


  1. Heat an 8-inch skillet for 1 minute over medium heat.
  2. Add two tablespoons olive oil and then the garlic. Turn the heat to low. Sauté about 2 minutes or until the garlic has just begun to take on a little color.
  3. Add ¼ teaspoon salt, oregano, black pepper and cayenne. Sauté 1 more minute, but do not allow the garlic to get too dark.
  4. Add the grape tomatoes and simmer about 10 minutes or until they have softened. In order to keep the round shape of the tomato slices, stir no more than 2 times.
  5. In a medium size saucepan, bring one quart of water to a rolling boil. Add ½ teaspoon of salt. Add the ravioli to the boiling salted water.
  6. After the ravioli has come to a boil, set the timer for 4 minutes. Stir once. Remove with a wire strainer or slotted spoon.
  7. Place ravioli on two dishes. Spoon Grape Tomato Topping over ravioli. Drizzle with the remaining ½ tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Garnish with parsley.



Broccolini is a green vegetable similar to broccoli but with a milder taste. It has smaller florets with thinner and more tender stalks. I use the whole vegetable except for the last half-inch of the stems.

Broccolini © Karen Lee 2016

Broccolini © Karen Lee 2016


  • 1 bunch broccolini
  • 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sliced garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • a pinch of crushed dried chili pepper
  • ¼ to 1/3 cup chicken stock


  1. Wash broccolini by submerging and lifting in a big bowl of water to which a dash of white vinegar has been added.
  2. Let drain in a bowl. Spinning dry is not necessary.
  3. After discarding about ½-inch of the stems, cut the broccolini into ½-inch pieces.
  4. Heat a 10-inch stainless steel or enamel skillet for one minute over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil and then the garlic. Turn heat to medium low and sauté the garlic until it just starts to take on some color. After the garlic has been in the pan for one minute add the salt and the chili pepper.
  5. Add the broccolini and toss; sauté about 1 minute, then add the stock a few tablespoons at a time. Simmer until evaporated then toss and add more stock as needed until the broccolini is tender, approximately 5 minutes. Dish. Drizzle with the remaining ½ tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt.

Chicken Piccata

In my last blog I gave you the tips for successful sautéing. Now here is a recipe for sautéing. Chicken Piccata is a regular on my class menus as it is simple and delicious.


  • 2 whole chicken breasts with skin and bone, weighing 14-16 ounces each (or 1 pound of chicken cutlets, organic or free range)
  • 2 -3 Tbsp. flour for dredging
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 ½ – 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 ½ Tbsp. butter
  • 3 Tbsp. chopped shallots
  • 1 Tbsp. sliced garlic
  • 1 lemon sliced thinly
  • 2 Tbsp. white wine or vermouth
  • 6 Tbsp. chicken stock
  • 1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped parsley

Rinse and dry chicken breasts. Bone chicken breasts or have the butcher do this. Save skin and bone for stock. Remove tendon in fillet portion of breast. Slice the cutlet lengthwise to make two thin cutlets. You will have four fillet pieces and eight thin cutlets for a total of twelve pieces. Place a piece of wax paper on the cutlet and pound each cutlet piece slightly to even them out. This can be done with a meat pounder, the side of a heavy cleaver, or a rubber mallet.

Mix the flour, 1/2 tsp. salt and pepper.

Lightly dredge the chicken in the flour seasoning mixture using as little flour as possible. Tap off excess flour. Rinse then place a 12-inch stainless steel skillet over high heat for 1 minute.
Turn the heat to medium.
Add 2 Tbsp. olive oil and ½ tablespoon of butter to the skillet. After adding the chicken, lightly salt and pepper the breasts. Turn the heat to medium high and sauté half the amount of chicken for about 2-3 minutes on each side. Lower the heat if necessary. The chicken should be nicely browned on both sides. Repeat with other half of chicken. Place chicken cutlets on a serving platter.

Turn the heat to low. Pour off the oil if necessary, and then add in same skillet add ½ Tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil; sauté the garlic and shallots; add ½ tsp. salt and black pepper to taste, until they just begin to take on color. Add 2 tsp. olive oil, then add lemon slices and sauté another minute or two turning once until slightly brown. Add the white wine and simmer a few seconds then the chicken stock. Simmer until reduced by half. Then add the 1 Tbsp. lemon juice. Add remaining 1 Tbsp. of butter stir until butter is incorporated into the sauce. Re add the chicken breasts and coat in the sauce for about 30 seconds. Pour sauce over chicken breasts and garnish with chopped parsley and lemon slices.

Learn How to Cook Perfect Fish with Karen on October 18

Sign up for my Saturday October 18th class and learn how to cook fish perfectly. If you overcook fish it is dry. If you undercook fish it is rubbery. You want it cooked through but not overcooked.

In this class you will learn not only all the tips about picking out fresh fish and all the right questions to ask but also how to judge when the fish is perfectly done. The Black Sea Bass with Sweet and Sour Onions is a delectable example of how to do it.

This Saturday class, starting at 10 a.m.and finishing at 2 p.m. we will also be making Sole Meunière… and achieving a crust that you thought could only be produced in a restaurant!

Sea Bass with Sweet and Sour Onions

Sea Bass with Sweet and Sour Onions


  • 1¼ pounds Sea Bass fillets, skin off (you will need one or two whole sea bass, head and tail intact, with a total weight of 2 1/2 pounds as you lose 50 or 60 percent when the fish is filleted)
  • 1 tablespoon flour, spread on a plate mixed with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/16 teaspoon black pepper
  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, approximately
  • 3 cups onion sliced very thin
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley


  1. Rinse and dry fillets.
  2. Combine on a plate the flour, salt and pepper
  3. Dredge the fish on presentation side in the flour mixture. Tap off excess flour.
  4. Choose a stainless steel sauté pan large enough to accommodate all the fish in a single layer. Heat the pan for one minute over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sauté the onions over medium low heat until the onions have wilted. Turn up the heat to medium. Add another 1 tablespoon olive oil and continue cooking. Stir from time to time. Sauté until the onions become a rich golden brown. Push all the onions to the edge of the pan.
  5. Add 1 to 2 more tablespoons of olive oil to the sauté pan then place the fish fillets in pan, presentation side down. Raise the heat to medium high. Sauté fillets for 3 minutes and then turn them over. Pour the wine, vinegar, and sugar into pan over the onions. Turn the heat down. Continue cooking for approximately 2 minutes. Check to see if fish is done. Transfer the fish to a heated serving platter. Reduce drippings in pan if necessary. Arrange onions in-between fish. Pour any pan juices over fish. Then sprinkle with parsley. Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil (also known as finishing oil).
  6. © Karen Lee 2014


If you forgot to ask fishmonger to remove the skin, slit the bass in three places (crescent shape slits) on the skin side in order to prevent the fish from curling up too much when it is turned.

Pasta with Roasted Plum Tomatoes © Karen Lee 2013


In my last blog I gave you a recipe for Roasted Plum Tomatoes.

Today I am offering you a suggestion of how to use them in a quick pasta dish.

Here is my recipe for Pasta with Roasted Plum Tomatoes.  This recipe is enough for one or two people as a side dish and can easily be increased.

Cut ½ cup of the roasted tomatoes into large dice. Seeds, skins and all.

Sauté 2 cloves of sliced garlic in 1 ½ tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over low heat for a few minutes or until the garlic just begins to take on color.

Add ¼ teaspoon salt, a pinch of cayenne pepper and ¼ teaspoon dried oregano.  Sauté one more minute.

Add the roasted tomatoes and simmer 2 minutes.

Turn off heat.

Boil 2 to 3 ounces of dried pasta.  Reserve a few tablespoons pasta water before draining.  Add pasta along with one or more tablespoons pasta water to sauce.  Toss.

Sprinkle with ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese.  Toss then drizzle with 1 teaspoon of extra virgin oil.

If you prefer add some torn basil leaves to the pasta at the end and omit the oregano.

Food Mill


“You say chunky, I say smooth.”  Some people love a smooth tomato sauce others like it chunky. In my April 20th cooking class we made a smooth tomato sauce by using a food mill.

First we sautéed onions and garlic then added seasonings followed by tomato paste, working it in with the back of a wooden spoon, which brings out the flavor of the paste.  Then we added the fresh and canned tomatoes.  Simmered the sauce for about 30 minutes then put the whole contents of the skillet through a food mill, leaving the skins and the seeds of the tomatoes behind.

Apple sauce is another great use for the food mill.  Don’t peel the apples, just leave out the seeds and the stem.  After the apples are cooked and you mill them,  the skins will be left  behind and your sauce will be vibrant with color and more flavor and vitamins from being cooked with the skins.

Penne Arrabiata ©Karen Lee 2013

 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 cloves garlic, sliced

¼ cup diced onions

2 tablespoons diced shallots

½ cup diced leeks (white and light green parts)

1/16 teaspoon cayenne (more if you like spicy)

½ teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon salt

1 or 2 jalapeno peppers (seeds and membrane removed), and diced (use rubber gloves)

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 pound fresh tomatoes, diced

28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes with liquid (remove basil from can if any); use hands to squeeze and crush into large chunks

1 pound Penne

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons olive oil to drizzle on pasta before serving

1 teaspoon chili oil (optional)

Heat oil, add garlic, sauté for 2 minutes over low to medium heat.  Add onion, shallots, leeks; sauté for an additional 4 minutes or until the onions just  begin to take on color.  Add cayenne, sugar, oregano and salt; sauté another 2 minutes to bring out the flavor.  Add jalapenos; sauté 1 minute.  Add the tomato paste; let sizzle in pan for two minutes.  Add the diced fresh tomatoes and the canned tomatoes with their juice; simmer for 30-40 minutes or until the sauce separates.

Cook pasta for half the time the package directs and then taste.  Make it al dente.  Drain then add to sauce to coat.  Turn off heat and toss using two wooden spoons.  Place on a serving platter and add the parmesan cheese.  Toss again then drizzle with finishing oil and optional chili oil.  Garnish with whole sprigs of parsley or basil leaves.







Our Valentine’s class was so much fun

This year we made:

  • Hummus with Crudities
  • Scampi
  • Penne with Arrabbiata Sauce and Sautéed Prosciutto
  • Pan Roasted Filet Mignon with Fresh and Dried Herbs
  • Orange Chocolate Chunk Cake with Crème Chantilly

The orange chocolate chunk cake is Anna Pump’s recipe. She is a cook book author and the owner of Loaves and Fishes in Sagaponack. A wonderful store that sells takeout food.

Behind every good meal there is a good shopper

That’s me Karen Lee, I’m the shopper. I went to nine stores in New York City for this meal.

Pisacane for the Shrimp, ask for Paul, 212-758-1525 fresh Florida Shrimp, large, U-15’s (15 shrimp to the count.)

Gourmet Garage for the fresh Tomatoes, Tasti Lee, they come 2 or 3 in a box. I take them out of the box and put them on a flat surface with room to breath in a single layer. Let them ripen at room temperature for one to 3 days. They become redder and sweeter and make the most delicious red sauce. The fresh organic, rosemary and thyme.

Buon Italia in the Chelsea Market for the parmesan cheese and the Setaro pasta.

Setaro Pasta is the best dried pasta I have ever had. It is made in Naples, high in the mountains where water is considered the best in Italy.

Food Emporium for the sour cream. Daisy is the brand I like. No hormones and the taste is great.

Zabars for the  heavy cream. By Nature is the brand. It is organic. They also sell Hudson which is wonderful too.

Fairway, second floor, for organic vegetables, Bionaturae canned tomatoes and tomato paste in a jar. Organic, from Italy.

Whole Foods, for the organic butter, their brand, 365. Vital Brand organic eggs.

Spelt Bread made by Bread Alone.

Chipolini Onions.

Salumeria Rose for the Prosciutto de Parma. 24 month old is my favorite.

Citeralla for the Fillet Mignon. Always choose the most marbled meat. Tip – wipe it down with a damp paper towel. Put it on a plate with a loose cover of wax paper and let it air dry in the frig over night. I do this with all meat. The meat loses moisture and becomes more tender.

Enjoy some photos from our special night.

Joe and John with Karen
Joe and John with Karen

Pasta with Sauteed Peppers

Last week I promised a post on the bamboo chopsticks and their many uses, however, I just returned from the Union Square Market this morning and I saw gorgeous local peppers which are at the height of their season right now.  I wanted to share this recipe with you.


5 peppers, combination of red and yellow peppers and a few hot peppers

When picking out red peppers, choose the ones that are crimson red.  They will be sweeter.  As for hot peppers, the smaller the tip of the pepper, the hotter the pepper.  So choose hot peppers that are not too small.

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

8 cloves of sliced garlic, green stem removed, if any

½ teaspoon salt

½  pound  of penne

1 tablespoon butter, opt.

20 large fresh basil leaves

1-2 tablepoons of chopped fresh parsley

2/3 cup or less of freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Three of my favorite places to buy parmesan cheese are:

Di Palo’s at 200 Grand Street

Buon Italia at the Chelsea Market (16th St. and 9th Ave.)

Salumeria Rose at 73 rd st and Amsterdam Ave.

And soon they are opening on the east side 903 Madison Ave.

It must say Reggiano Parmigiano on the rind with pin sized holes embedded in the rind around the wording.

Here is what to look for on the rind when purchasing parmesan cheese.

My favorite brand of dried pasta is Setaro.  It is made in Naples, high in the mountains where the water is considered the best in all of Italy.  They sell it at Buon Italia at the Chelsea Market.  If it is not easy for you to get to the Chelsea Market they will ship it to you.  Please don’t overcook – stir and taste after the first few minutes and keep tasting.

Rinse peppers, dry, cut in half, remove seeds and all membrane.  Use rubber gloves if desired for the hot peppers.  Slice peppers into ½-inch broad pieces, or triangle cut.

In a 12-inch sauté skillet or Rondeau, sauté the garlic slowly in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil until it is lightly brown.  Remove the garlic and place it in the serving dish you will be using for the finished dish.

Add the peppers, turn the heat to medium and sauté the peppers for about 10 minutes or until they are cooked through and slightly brown.  Add 1 teaspoon of salt.

Bring a large kettle or pasta pot filled with water to a rolling boil.  Add 1 tablespoon of salt and then the pasta.  Cover and over high heat bring the pasta back to a boil as quickly as possible.  When the water returns to a boil,  uncover and cook the pasta stirring occasionally for 8 or more minutes.  Taste.  The pasta should be  slightly underdone (al dente).  Drain.

Add the pasta to the peppers, along with the garlic and the basil and the parsley and the optional butter (or you can use a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil).  Low heat, toss.  Add the cheese.  Turn off the heat and place in the serving dish.  Serve immediately, but also good room temperature.

Lentil Minestrone Soup

Tips: Do not let the soup boil at any time. Just a lazy simmer. Measure the dried spices level. I prefer to make my own stock but if you wish to buy stock choose one without salt, msg, or chemicals. I like to use a combination of vegetable and chicken stock. Gently heat the stock in a separate saucepan before adding it to the soup.

If possible use organic lentils and vegetables. My first choice lentils are Shiloh Farms black beluga lentils, second choice is  French green lentils, but you could use any kind of lentils. Spread the lentils out on a white plate and look them over for stones and shaft. Then wash them like rice, i.e., you put lentils in a bowl, cover them with cold water; let any dirt particles float to the top and then pour them off along with the water. Soaking lentils over night is not necessary.

For the pasta my first choice is the tortellini made by a company in Bologna, named Bertagni. Their pasta is sold in N.Y.C. at Fairway and Zabars. Or you could use a short dried pasta of your choice. You can store the soup in the frig for 5 days. Great to come home to.

Lentil Minestrone Soup

Serving Size: 4-6


  • ½ cup lentils, washed and drained
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus a little extra to finish
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced (green stem removed, if any)
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1 cup diced leek (white and light green parts)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 tsp. cumin
  • 1/3 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne
  • 1/2 cup carrots, diced
  • 1 cup celery, diced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup diced ripe tomatoes (or substitute canned tomatoes)
  • 8-9 cups combination of vegetable and chicken stock
  • ½ bunch Swiss chard, washed and cut finely
  • 1 cup fresh tortellini, boiled and drained
  • Rosemary oil (see recipe on blog) to add at the end or a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup (or more) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Chopped parsley for garnish


  1. Bring 1½ cups of water to a boil. Add the lentils and bring back to a boil. Add the bay leaves; cover, turn heat to low and simmer 35 to 40 minutes; taste to see is they are soft. Turn off heat.
  2. Place a wide pot 10 to 12 inches preferable stainless steel or enamel over high heat for one minute. Turn the heat to medium-low and add 3 tablespoons of oil and then the garlic. Sauté for 2 minutes, then add the onions and leeks and continue to sauté for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the salt, cumin, turmeric, and cayenne; continue to sauté for another 3 minutes. Add the carrots and celery and sauté another minute. Add the tomato paste and move it around with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes then add the tomatoes. Turn the heat to high and add 8 cups of stock, bring to just below boiling and then turn the heat to low and simmer 10 minutes with cover askew; then add the cooked lentils and simmer another 10 to 15 minutes, cover askew.
  3. In a separate 12-inch sauté pan, sauté greens in olive oil for 3-4 minutes adding a little stock as you go. Taste for salt just before serving, add the greens and the pasta to the soup; check the thickness and add more stock if necessary and bring back to a simmer. Serve with extra virgin olive oil drizzled into each bowl, or rosemary oil and grated Parmesan and chopped parsley.