matthewjagnone2Meet Matt,

It’s my honor to have you visiting. I enjoy cooking and eating Italian food. My cooking philosophy is this. The best cooking is Simplicity. Use the minimum ingredients that achieve the maximum flavor. If there was a message in the ravioli, that’s it. Overall, I believe most recipes have too many ingredients. When  you have great ingredients, you can cook very simply and the food will be extraordinary because it tastes like what it is.

I also believe most recipes require too many pots/pans which then requires clean up. I avoid recipes that require constant tending, stirring, and watching. My meat sauce will cook for 5 hours on a simmer while I’m out, in fact the secret ingredient in any meat sauce is time. I often drop pasta into the water, set the timer a couple minutes ahead and walk out of the kitchen. Returning only once to stir.

Below, I have included photos of my homemade cooking, my mindset behind buying ingredients, my tomato sauce recipe, and answers to your questions. 😋 I hope you enjoy!


2016 homemade cooking:



When shopping for ingredients, I like to pick out the best ingredients within the market. Without a shopping list. Do not be surprised when you see an Italian grandmother feeling her tomatoes before purchasing, or picking around the local greens to get the best arugula. These Italian grandmothers are the real cooks of Italy. You’ll find them at local farmer’s markets sourcing the best ingredients. When picking ingredients I try to remember three things.

  1. Fresh
  2. Beautiful
  3. Seasonal

One to three great ingredients are better than ten average ingredients. When cooking, highlight your best ingredient with minimal cooking. Make it the star of your dish.

Here are a list of my favorite ingredients:

  • Garlic
  • Red onion
  • Parsley, Italian flat leaf
  • Basil
  • Lemon
  • Baby Arugula
  • Tuscan dinosaur kale
  • Vine ripe cherry tomatoes
  • Melon/Cantaloupe (summer)
  • Oranges (winter)
  • Figs, dried or fresh
  • Tuna in olive oil, wild caught
  • Extra virgin olive oil, from 100% Ligurian olives
  • Green olives, castelvetrano, with pits
  • Prosciutto, order it sliced thin enough to read the newspaper though
  • Milk, whole %, grass feed, non-homogenized
  • Ricotta cheese, fresh
  • Morrezella cheese, find a market that makes fresh bocconcini
  • Parmesan cheese with the rind
  • Eggs, pasture raised


The Details

Cheese: I have no preference for Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese and I often change it up. Most of my dishes sample from southern Italy where Parmigiano-Reggiano would be more prevalent. Parmigiano-Reggiano is a hard cow’s milk cheese from the Emilia-Romagna region in Italy. For the best flavor, grate it with a 🧀 Microplane Classic Zester/Grater as needed. Pecorino Romano is similar expect often made of sheep’s milk, saltier, and looks lighter in color.

Herbs: I do not chop my basil. Instead, I tear it by hand over dishes to not lose any of the flavor. Think about treating your basil as a delicate herb. Additionally, I often use Italian flat leaf parsley, this is always in my fridge. Chop it as small as you need, and don’t be afraid of a little stem in there, I don’t mind a little extra fiber and nutrition. With very-fine-chopped flat leaf parsley it is possible to dust little green flecks on top of dishes or in sauces.

Salad dressing: 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil to 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to your liking. Mix it in with your baby arugula and that is all you need.

Chopping and cutting: I often get asked how small or large to chop ingredients. The mindset should be: how will this ingredient compliment the pasta. If your pasta has small crevices, chop your sauce ingredients small so the pieces fit together. For example, if you are cooking with green peas, try using a rigatoni or shell pasta where the peas will fit inside the pasta tubes/shapes making the perfect bite. I love how orecchiette pasta can hold small cut onions, garlic, parsley, and a pool of the sauce. Bigger ingredients work well with longer pastas; the easiest example is picking up a meatball then twirling pasta around it for the perfect bite. The same goes for a large piece of shrimp. If you have an ingredient that is fresh, beautiful, and seasonal and you are highlighting it in the dish, leave it bigger so the pieces are not missed. A good example of a vegetable I always leave larger than average are broccoli florets. Sometimes bigger is better, for picky eaters can easier remove parts they do not want to eat. And on the opposite end, you can even cut/blend them as small as possible to disguise them in sauces…a great way to get your children to eat more vegetables. Do note that most vegetables cook down with heat. Here is the knife I use: 🔪 Zwilling J.A. Henckels Pro 8″ Ultimate Serrated Chef’s Knife. Overall, you want to use the ingredients to compliment the pasta.


2015 homemade cooking:


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Traditional Tomato Sauce (10 mins)

This sauce has received numerous compliments over the years. I have decided to include my tomato sauce recipe on the about page because it shows my style of cooking very well: simple and fast. I never buy a jar of pre-made sauce. Tomato sauce is quick to make and tastes so much better homemade. This sauce only takes 10 minutes to make. Use your largest frying pan for more surface area.


  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • half a small red onion, minced finely so it cooks faster

Fry on high heat for 2 min.

  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • ½ tsp hot red pepper flakes

Fry on high heat for 1 min. These ingredients are more sensitive to burning, so they are added after.

  • Add 1 28oz canned peeled cherry tomatoes; Try 🍅 Cento Cherry Tomatoes
  • Add 1 medium/small extra-ripe vine-ripened-tomato, minced small
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup fresh basil leaves

It’s important to add the tomatoes while the pan is still on high heat, this will fry a small portion of the tomatoes and flavor the oil. Once the tomatoes are in, lower the temperate to medium. A good tip is to add the tomatoes if anything is burning, this will reduce the temperature of the pan from oil frying at 300+ degrees to tomatoes boiling at 212 degrees.

Next, crush half of the cherry tomatoes with the back of a spoon. Cook the sauce for 7 minutes. The combination of a fresh tomato with the canned tomatoes will remove any tin taste. Sometimes I even partially blend the canned tomatoes and fresh tomatoes together to avoid chopping, then add directly to the pan.

I prefer this sauce “flash fried.” The temperature needs to be hot enough where excess water will evaporate to reduce the tomato sauce. Simmering the tomatoes for 20 mins will ruin the freshness of a tomato, as well as cook nutrients out of the fresh tomato. I prefer a fresh tomato taste, not a stewed tomato.

I finish all my sauces with uncooked extra virgin olive oil, never butter.

  • Add 3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil to finish.

My suggestion would be to add it to fresh homemade pasta or some rigatoni. 🍝 Recipe HERE 🍅 Sample videos below.


2014 homemade cooking:

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Three things to end:

My favorite food is pizza.

My brother and I were raised on eating pasta 2 nights a week in our Italian family. Growing up, it was certainly true: If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.

On giving advice: Be careful of the words you use, you may have to eat them too. 

Thank you for visiting. It’s my honor to have you reading.⠀⠀