Cooking a Bowl of Italian Heaven: A Fast Vegetarian Recipe

Impressing Veronica Christina in the kitchen

Impressing Veronica Christina in the kitchen

I don’t cook as much as I used to. It’s a shame, since I spent years perfecting healthy vegetarian recipes for my family and posting recipes for nutrition clients on my website. It’s less interesting to cook for one, although I make myself soups all winter. In the summer, I have a vegetable garden (more flowers than vegetables now), so I stir fry vegetables and make salad every day. When family or friends come to visit, in this case my son Anthony and his love Veronica, I get more ambitious and creative. We harvest, chop, stir, mix, and enjoy the fruits of our labor.

This simple recipe provides a balanced meal of legumes and vegetables with whole grains if you want to use them. We ate it with quinoa, but you can also choose whole grain pasta or brown rice or turn it into a delicious and beautiful fresh soup by adding a little water. The measurements are loose—use the ingredients you have and it will turn out well. Here’s what I did:

DSC05409Saute until just beginning to brown:
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large chopped sweet onion
6 cloves chopped garlic (I love garlic.)

1 can or 2 cooked cups of salt-free cannolini beans with the liquid. (If canned, Eden beans have no BPA, so you can use the liquid to make a rich sauce.)
a dash of cayenne pepper (if you’re a hot head)
DSC05403¼ or more tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
½ tsp. salt—or to taste

Cook bean and onion mix until beans are soft and begin to fall apart.

2 cups of thinly sliced small zucchini. Cook 5 minutes or until zucchini is heated through. Be careful not to overcook the zucchini.

Ready to eat

Ready to eat

(You could also use green beans, greens, or other vegetables you like, but zucchini’s texture is perfect for this dish.)

3 cups of fresh raw Italian tomatoes, peeled and chopped. (Canned tomatoes make a poor substitute because you want a fresh tomato taste. Drained frozen tomatoes work well if you don’t have raw tomatoes.)
½ cup chopped fresh basil—can’t ever have too much basil and garlic

An Italian feast with Anthony and Christina

An Italian feast with Anthony and Christina

Bring to a simmer, and it’s ready. Tomatoes and basil are barely cooked, just heated through.

Serve over:
Quinoa, brown rice, or whole grain pasta with a big summer salad and a glass of red wine

Sprinkle with grated Romano or Parmesan cheese—good quality is worth the cost.


You’ll enjoy another Italian recipe in Better Than Your Grandma’s Marinara and please check out my many vegetarian recipes. It’s summer. Let’s cook fresh vegetables!

  1. Yum! Can’t wait to try it, Elaine.

  2. Yay! I can’t wait to try this myself. You know, Anthony and I loved it so much, we had seconds shortly after you went to bed 🙂

    • It was fun cooking with you, taking photos, and turning a delicious meal into a story. Maybe I should write about the amazing shooting stars in the Perseid meteor shower that we had for dessert. Sending you love and fun in the desert.

  3. Hi Elaine. I tried this a week or so ago when I saw your garden-fresh zucchini and you sent me the recipe. We used the tomatoes and basil from our garden too. We loved it, and I ate the leftovers for lunch and dinner the next day! This is already a favorite. Thanks. I can’t wait for more delicious recipes like this!

    • Thanks, Jean. It’s so easy, healthy, and good–and I thought my blog needed a lighter touch with the family for a week. Italian cooking with fresh in-season vegetables is easy and uncomplicated. I’m glad you tried it and it worked out. Should make that Italian husband happy and remind him of his mom’s or grandmother’s cooking.

  4. Ooh I cannot wait to make this. It is all my favorite things.

    • I imagine, Kathleen, that you’ll find a way to improve the recipe. Let me know what you concoct since I can tell from photos you post on FB that you’re a fabulous cook.

  5. Thanks, Elaine. Going to prepare this over the weekend. Brings back good memories of Tuscany!
    Buon appetito!

    • Yes, Tuscany.So simple and it’s vegan if you omit Romano. Vic had a dairy allergy, so it was a great recipe for him with various Parmesan substitutes. His favorite was a walnut/nutritional yeast mix. Buon apetito with good food and good company.

  6. Elaine,

    This was a fun entry to read. I enjoyed the photos as much as the recipe. I’m not cooking as much these days, but I’ll pass this on to my hubby. He loves to cook. And I am all about healthy.

    Your garden sounds lovely. Did Willow get a treat while you all were cooking or eating? 😉

    • It’s so nice of you to read and respond even though you’re not a cook, Kathleen. We had fun taking the photos. Your husband will love this easy recipe and you’ll love eating it. My garden produces, even though it’s weedy right now and needs my attention. Willow doesn’t get treats when I cook or eat, because I’m not fond of dogs who beg for food, but she gets treats when she comes when I call–nearly 100% of the time.

  7. Excuse me while I wipe up the drool.

    • Just cook it up and drool a little into the sauce. I hope you’re eating tomatoes these days. It’s the season until late September, and sunny weather is making them sweet and red.

  8. This brings back the memory of hiking with you in your woods, getting lost, and finally finding our way back to your kitchen and your garden soup. That was amazing soup. This sounds scrumptious too. Cheers!

    • The smells of the kitchen always lead us back home. Thanks for reading and responding, Robin. I hope you try the recipe while local tomatoes are available–or try your expert variation on the theme.

Leave a Reply