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Where do I even begin in writing this post? It’s crazy to believe that almost a year ago, I quit my full-time Wellness Director job, moved to St. Louis and began crafting my first cookbook, Fresh Italian Cooking. I remember those months last summer so clearly. I was beyond terrified at the prospect of moving to a town I knew nothing about and wondering what was next for my career. Even being married and having the full-support of my husband, it was a scary prospect to leave a career without having the next one lined up. If there’s such thing as sweat equity, then I believe in tear equity. I cried a lot during that time, out of joy, frustration and fear. In hindsight, I’m beyond grateful for this life-changing move as it gave me the final push that I needed to create the business I wanted to for years: helping others develop a positive relationship with food and develop simple, nutrient-dense recipes that tasted good. It’s funny the way life has a way of sorting itself out, a kind reminder that everything is impermanent and once again, the only way out is through. My passion for nutrition was sparked at a very young age and I feel very fortunate to be in a place where I can help others on their healthy eating path.
This cookbook experience was everything I dreamed about and more. While I love filling the pages of this website with my weekly vegetarian creations, there is something very moving and tangible about holding your own cookbook. Fresh Italian Cooking is inspired by my family’s love story with food; wholesome, Italian recipes that have been passed down for generations. I strongly believe that our obsession with nutrient counting and diet categories have made us less-healthy- not more. Italian, Mediterranean food has stayed the same for decades: a focus on whole-grains, lots of vegetables, healthy plant-based fats and proteins. It’s hard to have a positive relationship with food when you are so focused on what you can’t have, I want to focus on the abundance of food that not only tastes good, but is also good for you. Thankfully, there is so much research that backs up this pattern of eating, for longevity, and lowered risk of some cancers, diabetes and heart disease.
Fresh Italian Cooking contains 100+ plant-based recipes that are perfect for every occasion. Inside, you’ll find entire chapters dedicated to simple weeknight meals, salads, healthy indulgences, baked dishes and of course, homemade pasta! I’m so excited to share these recipes with you and your family. My goal is to show that plant-based Italian food is satisfying, wholesome and mouth-watering.
While the official book release is not until July 19th, 2016, I wanted to offer a sneak peak into some of my favorite recipes AND offer a thank-you bonus for those who pre-order the book before it’s released. Therefore, I’ve put together a packet of 10 never-before-seen recipes (that won’t be published on the blog or in the cookbook) as a thank you present. Once you pick up your copy, send your receipt Email Me here to grab your copy of the digital recipe book.
Balsamic Basil Pasta Salad
This Balsamic Pasta Salad might be my favorite recipe in the book. I created this one last summer and it’s been so hard to sit on this one and not share it with you. My recipe testers couldn’t get enough of this recipe and I bet it will be a favorite in your house as well. Pasta, roasted vegetables and a basil-balsamic dressing, what’s not to love?
Recipe Tester Feedback: “We loved this dish! My husband hate two huge portions. Love that it’s an extremely versatile dish. We had it warm as our main dinner but it would be great as a side, cold, or with any veggies you had on hand.”
Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato Bow-Ties
When I set out to create this cookbook, I wanted to include as many vegan recipes as possible. While the entire book is vegetarian, I wanted to show that you don’t need butter, cheese or cream to create classic Italian favorites. These creamy bowties are vegan, but you wouldn’t know it! Studded with sun-dried tomatoes and lots of fresh basil, it’s my summer version of mac and cheese.
Recipe tester feedback: “One of my favorite pasta dishes, the sauce is incredible! It was unbelievable! Your recipes make me feel like a chef!”
It’s eggplant with a twist- literally! Instead of fried cutlets, strips of eggplant are grilled until meaty and tender, then rolled up with an herb-ricotta mixture and baked in marinara sauce. It’s lasagna without the noodles!
Gnocchi with Fresh Corn and Zucchini
Wait, did I say the Balsamic Pasta Salad was my favorite dish? Do I have to pick just one? Well, if the above is my favorite then this gnocchi is BL’s. I can’t count how many times I’ve made it since first developing it last summer, but it’s always a crowd pleaser. I nervously made it for his recent co-workers and was so happy when they raved about it and asked for the recipe. I’m always a little gun-shy when sharing my recipes (will you like it as much as I do!?) and breath a sigh of relief when they are loved by others. This summer gnocchi is a keeper.
As a vegetarian, I tend to immediately pass over anything on the menu that contains the words “roasted vegetables.” Even though I love them in my own house, resteraunts tend to include the lowly roasted vegetable sandwich on their menu as a de facto meatless option. It’s often a flavorless, soggy choice. This Grilled Ratatouille Panzanella Salad is my attempt to remake the roasted vegetable sandwich into a vibrant, summer salad. One bite, and you’ll never look at roasted vegetables in the same way again.
I love cooking with eggplant but despise the excess oil that’s often needed to transform eggplant from bitter to meaty and rich. Well, not here! My pasta alla norma uses roasted, not fried, eggplant to keep the rich, delicate flavor of the dish with a fraction of the oil. Of course, I serve it with penne here, but this sauce is so good, I often eat a bowl of it on it’s own.
Recipe tester feedback: “So delicious! I love eggplant and really like this roasting technique instead of sauteing. The sauce was perfect, my boyfriend love it! He ate the leftovers for lunch the next day and said it was even better than the night before which is hard to believe because it was so tasty!”
One of the best restaurant meals of my life was in a tiny cafe on the outskirts of Florence. It was our first day in the city, and BL and I were both exhausted from our long trip in. Luggage in tow, we stumbled inside a 10-seat restaurant and ordered from the daily chalkboard specials, unsure exactly what we were ordering. We were rewarded with the best bowl of pasta that either of us have had- a simple, rustic dish of spaghetti and fresh tomato sauce, unassuming yet mind-blowing. That meal is a constant reminder that when produce is fresh, you don’t need much else.
Recipe tester feedback: “Loved it and my husband loves it also. We kept saying it was like adult spaghetti, simple, fresh and delicious.”
Crispy tofu in a delicious sauce of vegan butter, broth, parsley, capers and fresh lemon juice. The pairing of bright lemon and briny capers is almost magical. Another huge hit with my recipe testers and a favorite recipe of mine.
Recipe tester feedback: “I am surprised how much I liked this one, I didn’t think I was a tofu fan but the sauce is so good and loved the crispy tofu. We really liked it!”
Lastly, a huge thank you to you for showing up to this space, making my recipes and following along on this journey. I am incredibly grateful to anyone who has visited my site, left a comment, said hello or followed me on social. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. This book is dedicated to you.
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