A homemaker, she lives in Wantagh with her husband, Rocco, and three children.
How would you describe your cooking style? I use my imagination a lot. I just look in my freezer, refrigerator and cabinets and say, "This says good with this" and whip it together. Since I usually cook without recipes, people never get to taste the exact same thing twice. And when I do use recipes, instead of running out to the store, I just substitute other things I have on hand and make it work.
What dishes of yours work best? My stuffed artichokes is my No. 1. And pasta dishes. I make a really good artichoke, black olives and tomato pasta. My linguine in clam sauce is my older son's favorite. And my daughter loves my ravioli.
How did you first get started cooking? I used to cook a lot when I was a little girl. My mom was a single mom and worked two jobs. I always used to make the salad for dinner. I liked being in the kitchen, putting things together and making my own dressings.
What are some food-related fantasies? I never went to culinary school, but it's always in the back of my mind. And I've always wanted to open up my own little restaurant, Pat's Pastas, where people could come with their own bottles of wine. I'd make whatever I felt like putting together that day. I've also always wanted to go knock on people's doors, go into their homes and say, "Let me look in your pantry and help you whip up things." And a friend wants me to deliver to moms who work and have no time to cook.
Penne with artichoke hearts, black olives and grape tomatoes
Olive oil as needed
6 cloves garlic, peeled, chopped
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
Salt and pepper to taste
1 14½ ounce can chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
3 8-ounce bags frozen artichoke hearts
1 drained 6-ounce can ripe black olives, sliced
1½ pounds penne
Garlic powder, to taste
Grated Parmesan cheese, to taste
1. Heat enough olive oil to cover bottom of medium skillet over medium heat. Add half the garlic and lightly brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Add tomatoes. Lower heat to a simmer and cook, covered, about 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
2. Add broth, cover and cook over low heat about 10 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, in another medium skillet over medium heat, heat olive oil to cover and add remaining garlic and cook until lightly browned. Add frozen artichoke hearts and cook about 10 minutes. As artichokes soften in skillet, cut in half.
4. Mix in black olives and cook another 5 minutes.
5. Transfer contents of first skillet to skillet with artichokes and olives, mixing everything well. Cook, covered, another 10 minutes over medium heat.
6. In the meantime, cook pasta according to package directions.
7. Drain pasta, reserving about ½ cup cooking liquid. Pour pasta and reserved liquid into large serving bowl; add salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste. Transfer contents of skillet to bowl, mixing well. Allow flavors to meld about a minute or two, top with Parmesan. Makes about 5 servings.