Maria Sansone has a manageable goal just now – bicycle to the Marblehead Farmer’s Market and draw inspiration from the wealth of ingredients. It’s the ideal spot to pick up a selection of fresh produce for Springtime Veggie Pasta, one of the simple, flavorful recipes (see below) in her first cookbook, Oh $#!% What’s for Dinner: No-Fuss Weeknight Recipes You’ll Swear By.
“I told my husband, Josh, that’s my plan for the summer—to ride my bike to the farmer’s market and fill my basket,” says Sansone, an Emmy-award-winning TV personality and Marblehead resident. “I’ve got to have attainable goals,” she adds with a laugh.
While that recipe, and many others in the book, like Roasted Caprese Salad, are perfect for local produce, Sansone is looking forward to trying some new dishes. The mom of two and host of The Hub Today and Mom2Mom on NBC-10 Boston, as well as a companion Edward R. Murrow Award-winning podcast, has spent the past few years singlehandedly testing and perfecting recipes in the cookbook—a compilation of entrees she has come to rely on for the nightly scramble to feed her family.
“It’s been three years of homework every day,” Sansone recalls. “I never felt like I could go shopping and create something completely brand new,” she says, because her goal was to keep on experimenting with family favorites like Embarrassingly Easy Chili and Skillet Steak Stroganoff until they were the best they could be.
With her thoughts and tips throughout, the cookbook has the chatty personality that Sansone’s fans have come to love across countless TV appearances – like having a bestie sitting next to you in the kitchen, offering a glass of wine and telling you it’s okay to cut a few corners. You’ve got this!
The book has been a labor of love, started by chance when Sansone, who was living in Santa Monica, Calif. at the time, turned on Facebook Live while preparing dinner – with a preschooler sitting on the counter and a baby on her hip. She quickly developed a following – especially for meals that could be whipped up fast, as she learned by communicating with viewers in real time. “Viewers wanted simple – the easier, the better,” she recalls. “If I wanted to make something complicated with them, they said ‘No, no, no, no! Do the easy stuff.’”
The cookbook, complete with its salty title, grew directly from those live cooking shows. Literally everyone, from Sansone’s preschool teacher in Erie, Penn., who came to a book signing, to the TV personality’s 80-year-old cousin, admitted to her that they have at least thought “Oh $#!% What’s for dinner?” if not said those words out loud. It took some convincing of the publisher – and negotiations with Amazon – but even if people type in the actual expletive on the bookstore behemoth, they will find the title. What’s even easier? Just stop in at Shubie’s in Marblehead, which currently stocks the book.
That lighthearted approach is what Sansone hopes will help wannabe cooks overcome kitchen stress. “This is what people needed in that moment,” she says. “I have found that with a lot of my friends, dinnertime is really stressful, and the thought of cooking is stressful. And so one of my motivations with this book was to change that, and let people feel armed with the tools to feel more confident in the kitchen so that they can have fun.”
Recipe: Springtime Veggie Pasta
S E R V E S 4–6
Springtime in a bowl! This melt-in-your-mouth, fresh, and delicious dish is loaded with seasonal vegetables tossed in pasta with lemony butter sauce and topped with creamy goat cheese. Use these veggies or whatever you have on hand, because you can’t go wrong with this quick and light take on the classic pasta a la primavera.
1 zucchini, sliced
1 yellow squash, sliced
2 cups cherry tomatoes
1 bunch asparagus, chopped
1 bunch broccolini, chopped
1 large bell pepper, cut into 1-inch strips
1 large red onion, cut into 1-inch strips
⅓ cup olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons,divided
⅓ cup balsamic vinegar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons butter
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
12 ounces pasta of your choice
1 cup crumbled goat cheese
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. In a large mixing bowl or large Ziploc bag, toss all the vegetables in ⅓ cup olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Arrange vegetables in a single layer on a sheet pan and roast for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender and tomatoes are bursting.
3. Meanwhile, heat butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add juice from half of the lemon, then reduce heat down to low.
4. Cook pasta according to package instructions for al dente; reserve pasta water. When done, use a slotted spoon to mix the pasta, along with some pasta water, into the skillet. Fold in roasted vegetables and their juices and toss with pasta. Sprinkle with goat cheese and gently mix. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
5. Top with a bit of lemon zest and garnish with remaining lemon, sliced.