Family dinners were always special when I was growing up. My mother, Fran Parisi, was (and is) a fantastic home cook. Even though she had a full-time job, she always made traditional Italian-American recipes completely from scratchas you'd expect from the daughter of a restaurateur who emigrated from Sicily to Brooklyn. So when I introduced her to my favorite jarred marinara sauce, I was braced to hear, "Your grandfather would roll over in his grave." But instead, she said, "I'm amazed at the quality of jarred sauces nowadays." I won't serve just anything from a jar (a matter of prideI blame my mother!), but I'm pleased with the shortcuts in the recipes here. And they're Fran-approved, too.
Grace's Time-Saving Tips
Grace halves and cores Italian frying peppers and cooks the spinach for the stuffing.
Instead of ground meat, Grace uses sausage to give the stuffing fast flavor.
After browning the stuffed peppers, Grace simmers them in canned tomato sauce, then serves.
Video: More Tips From Grace Parisi
Grace Parisi: Peppers Tip
Grace Parisi: Pepper-Stuffing Tip
Grace Parisi: Spinach Tip
"I may never use ground meat in my peppers again," said Fran Parisi, Grace's mother, when she tried this super-flavorful sausage-stuffed version.
"We always ate fresh tomatoes with basil, but I never thought to add pasta to them," says Fran about Grace's spaghettini with its tasty no-cook tomato sauce. "This pasta reminds me of a salad I had many times in Sicily, loaded with tomatoes, anchovies and almonds."
"I never knew what Peppadew peppers were, but I love their sweet-spicy flavor in this chicken," says Fran.
"The salad reminds me of one my mother made," says Fran. "Her dressing had no mayo, of courseit was strictly oil and vinegar."
Fra diavolo means "brother devil"a hint that this shrimp dish is spicy. Fran prepares it the traditional way, with homemade tomato sauce; Grace takes a shortcut and uses her favorite jarred sauce, Rao's. Fran always poaches the shrimp in the sauce, but Grace gives the shrimp extra flavor by first marinating it quickly in olive oil with crushed red pepper.