Tomato & Pancetta Pie…An Update to an Old Favorite!

A couple of summer’s ago, I posted a blog on Tomato Pie, a recipe that had roots from my hometown of Benton, Tennessee.  The story is quite interesting so I encourage you to read how I came to learn about tomato pies from some old friends by following this link:

Since then, I have been making a lot of tomato pies,  even miniature are some I made for a “Girl’s Night In” recently for a friend about to go in the oven!image

Over the course of time, I have “tweaked” the recipe even more by adding in some Pancetta and replacing the onions with shallots.  I love Pancetta which is basically an Italian bacon without the smoking process and shallots have a little milder flavor than onions so its a nice compliment to the tomatoes.  I also mixed in my basil with my tomatoes just to avoid getting too big of a basil bite…just my preference but one that I really like.  Here is my newer and most favorite version!

Tomato & Pancetta Pie


  • 1 9-inch pie shell
  • 1/2 cup shallots, chopped
  • 1/2 cup of pancetta, chopped
  • 3-4 tomatoes,  roughly chopped, to yield approximately 3 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon (or more if desired) Dijon Mustard
  • 1/4 cup sliced basil (about 8 leaves)*
  • 2 cups grated cheese (combination of sharp cheddar and Monterey Jack, or Gruyere or Mozarella)
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon (or more to taste) of Crystal Hot Sauce (or Tabasco)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

*To slice basil, chiffonade them by stacking the leaves on top of each other, roll them up like a cigar, starting at one end slice the “cigar” crosswise in thin slices.


Preheat oven to 350°F.  Follow package directions and bake the pie crust…your goal is to achieve a light golden brown color (about 12 minutes).

Squeeze as much moisture as you can out of the chopped tomatoes and place in a colander to drain in the sink.  Salting helps bring out some of the moisture. image

After allowing to drain for about 5 minutes, spread on paper towels remove even more moisture.


While pie crust is baking and tomatoes are draining, saute the pancetta until crisp and golden brown.  Remove from pan reserving the excess fat; set aside.


Add the shallots to the pan and saute until translucent.  Add the pancetta back to the pan and mix well.  Remove from heat.


After removing the pie from the oven, brush Dijon Mustard on the bottom and sides of the crust.


Place your tomatoes in bowl and mix with the basil.  Place tomato/basil mixture in the pie crust, spreading evenly.



Next spread pancetta/shallot mixture over tomatoes.

In a medium bowl, mix together the grated cheese, mayonnaise, Hot Sauce or Tabasco, a sprinkling of salt and freshly ground black pepper. The mixture should be the consistency of a gooey snow ball.


Spread the cheese mixture over the tomatoes.


Place in oven and bake until browned and bubbly, around 30-40 minutes or until you reach an internal temperature of about 150 degrees.  This can also easily be made ahead, just make sure you bring it to room temperature before baking and it may need a few additional minutes of baking.  (If your pie browns too much on top, before it reaches the desired temperature in the middle, just place a loose piece of foil over it.)


Garnish with additional basil and allow to sit on counter for 5 minutes before slicing…Ready to serve!


Temperatures here in East Tennessee have been hovering in the 90’s for weeks and standing in a hot kitchen is just that…HOT!  So I have been testing recipes that gets me in and out of the kitchen in a jiffy but still gives my family a wonderful, tasty meal at dinner time.

Of course, everyone loves a good pasta dish but when you add in crisp bacon and freshly grated parmesan cheese…well, you have a superior dish to serve!  Spaghetti Carbonara (or actually any pasta Carbonara..ha, ha) is delicious simplicity at its best. What is so great is that it only has a few main ingredients that you usually have on hand in your own pantry and fridge. You probably won’t even have to go to the market for this one!

Spaghetti Carbonara


  • 8 ounces spaghetti, broken in half (or your favorite long pasta)
  • 2 large eggs (it’s best to set these out of fridge at least 20 minutes before preparing recipe)
  • 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 4 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leave

*Salt and Pepper to taste


  • In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook spaghetti according to the package instructions. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water
  • Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and cook bacon until crispy brown, reserving the excess fat in the pan
  • Add in minced garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for an additional minute on low heatimage
  • While bacon and pasta are cooking, whisk eggs and parmesan together in a small bowlimage
  • You must work quickly for this next step!  Temper your eggs by whisking in a small amount of your pasta water into egg mixture. (You don’t want scrambled eggs!)
  • Lift your pasta directly from pasta water to your pan with the bacon mixture; stir in the egg mixture to the pan.  Add in one tablespoon of reserved pasta water at a time until you reach your desired thickness.  (Since I lifted my pasta directly from the water, I only needed one tablespoon of the reserved water).image
  • Serve immediately and garnish with parsley to add some bright color.image

Add salt and pepper to taste. Top with some additional parmesan cheese, if desired and serve this beautiful dish with a side salad and dinner roll….Yummy

Bottom Line

This is the most decadent weeknight dish ever!  I will be making this again and again..It would even be nice as a small side dish with some shellfish or chicken.  Let me know how this recipe works with your family.  I am Chef Frankie…always in the kitchen, having fun, and cooking with Wild Abandonment!

When I was growing up in the South, potato salad was at every church potluck or family gathering but I was never a fan.  In a child’s mind, something crunchy like raw onions and celery mixed in with your favorite smooth ingredients just didn’t mesh with me.  The only version of potato salad I would even remotely eat was my mom’s because she left the potatoes a little bigger and included two of my personal favorites, mustard and boiled eggs.  She did put raw onions in her version but not celery and I was able to pick around just those.  Obviously, one would assume I would grow out of my “no crunch” in my potato salad but I never did, so I took her recipe and adapted it to one that I now love!  So in honor of Mother’s Day…thanks for the inspiration, Mom!


This version omits the raw onions but does include chives which gives that “oniony” flavor along with a splash of green color.  My husband’s mother always included sweet pickle relish in her version so that was a must for him if I wasn’t going to put in onions and celery so I compromised.  Since I am not a sweet pickle fan, I added dill pickle relish as well to give it a tangy kick with just a tiny bit of crunch.  Both relishes have bits of red pepper in them which again adds a touch of color to the white potatoes.  Top it with a sprinkling of paprika, and not only do you have a tasty dish but an eye pleasing potato salad. Dig in!

Southern Mustard Potato Salad


  • Russet potatoes, 8 small or 6 large, peeled and cut into 1″ pieces
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons of dried parsley
  • 6 boiled eggs, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chives, chopped
  • 1 cup of Mayonnaise (more if you prefer it creamier)
  • 2-3 tablespoons of mustard (depending on how tangy you like it)
  • 2 tablespoons each of sweet and dill pickle relish
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Salt and Pepper to taste (I prefer Kosher Salt)
  • Paprika (as much as needed to sprinkle on top)


Place potatoes in a large pot, cover with chicken broth then add enough water to completely cover.  Add in parsley and bring to a boil.  Bring to simmering boil and allow to cook for 10-12 minutes until tender.  Drain and allow to cool.  (I like to add the chicken broth because it adds another level of flavor to the potatoes.)  Season with salt, pepper, and onion powder.


In a large bowl, add your chives, potatoes, and eggs.


Add in the mayonnaise, mustard, and pickle relish..stirring well


Place potato salad mixture in one of your favorite serving dishes.


Sprinkle liberally with paprika and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

That looks delicious!

Serve this with your favorite burger, hot dog, or BBQ….Dig in!

Southern Mustard Potato Salad served alongside Jeff’s smoked ribs, grilled asparagus, and vinaigrette slaw…Yum!

Bottom Line:  I could eat this by itself with nothing else…it is that good!  It is so easily adaptable to your own tastes…add more or less mayonnaise and mustard.  Make it your own.  It will be hard to find another true Southern Mustard Potato Salad to beat this one!  Let me know how it works at your next BBQI am Chef Frankie…always in the kitchen, having fun, and cooking with Wild Abandonment!

One of my favorite cooking vessels in the kitchen is my Bamboo Steamer. It is a healthier way to cook and I use it most often in the spring and summer when vegetables are at their freshest and the taste buds want more lighter fare.  This past weekend, I used it for a delicate little Dim Sum recipe that I like to make…Steamed Shrimp Dumplings with Ponzu Dipping Sauce.
Dim Sum is a broad Asian cuisine term used to describe small bite-sized portions of food served on small plates and dumplings are most commonly thought of when thinking of Dim Sum.  I have several different dumpling recipes but this one served with a zesty Ponzu sauce is on the healthier side and pairs perfectly with a nice glass of Chardonnay at the end of a beautiful spring day.


Steamed Dumplings with Ponzu Sauce
For the Filling:
  • 1/2 pd of raw shrimp, peeled, deveined, and chopped
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp pureed garlic (or finely minced)
  • 1/4 finely chopped bean sprouts (you could also substitute water chestnuts for these)
  • 1 chopped scallion
  • 12-16 wonton wrappers
  • Bok Choy, Cabbage or Swiss Chard Leaves
  • olive oil

For the Ponzu Dipping Sauce (If you have a huge sauce lover, double the recipe!)

  • 3 Tbsp of Ponzu Sauce
  • 1 tsp Soy Sauce
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 heaping tablespoon chopped scallion
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes

Mix first 9 ingredients together.image

Pulse lightly in a food processor to chop shrimp and blend the ingredients.

Make one dumpling at a time placing a little of the filling in the middle and folding up like a little purse.  Moisten the ends with water to keep them sealed.

Prepare your steamer by placing in a wok or a deep pan that is filled with enough water to almost touch the bottom of the steamer.  Place your choice of leaves in the bottom of the steamer and brush lightly with olive oil.  (This will help keep the dumplings from sticking.)


Place dumplings on the leaves, making sure they aren’t touching and place lid on steamer.  You can have 2 levels that will steam perfectly. Bring water to a boil then steam for about 10 minutes.


Make the ponzu sauce by whisking together all the ingredients.  I like to make this a couple of hours ahead so the flavors will meld.


Gently place them on a small plate and serve with Ponzu Sauce.


 Bottom Line:  These delectable little morsels of yumminess are delicious and so easy to make.  I usually double the recipe because they freeze so well. Just follow the instructions all the way through and place on a cookie sheet “unsteamed”.  Freeze for a couple of hours and then remove from freezer and place in a freezer safe plastic dish with cover.  When you are ready to eat, just remove the amount of dumplings you want to steam and prepare the rest of the recipe.  They go perfectly with any stir fry dish!  I can’t wait to share other dumpling recipes and other recipes I use my steamer for in the future.  Until then…I am Chef Frankie, always in the kitchen, having fun, and cooking with Wild Abandonment!
Maybe it’s a girl thing but whenever I am out with friends for lunch and there is a roasted or grilled vegetable sandwich on the menu, I’m in!  Unfortunately, the man of the house has to have meat with his meals so usually this is something I just get to enjoy in restaurants.  That is until I found my partner in crime, Jenny Greer.  I have been her part-time nanny and personal chef for 4 years now and I recently discovered that she has the same obsession with these delectable sandwiches as I do!
Whenever her husband, Ryan, goes out of town…we both know what is on the menu..our favorite sandwich!  Loaded with seasonal vegetables and herbs along with savory goat cheese, it is an explosion of flavor and it’s not just for the restaurant anymore.  This is a great recipe for any kitchen!
Roasted Veggies Sandwiches with Herbed Goat Cheese
(Makes 4-6 Sandwiches)
  • Nonstick vegetable spray
  • 1 eggplant, sliced in rounds
  • 1 zucchini, sliced in rounds
  • 2 bell peppers (I use orange and yellow) seeded, quartered, then halved
  • 6 oz sliced portabella mushrooms
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 tsp chopped fresh oregano
  • 4 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup soft fresh goat cheese (room temperature)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 3 cups baby spinach
  • 1 cup alfalfa sprouts
  • 4 – 6 Ciabatta Rolls (or whatever roll you prefer)





 Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray large baking sheet with nonstick spray.
Arrange zucchini, bell pepper, mushrooms, and eggplant on prepared baking sheets.



Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Roast 15 minutes.
Turn vegetables over. Roast until tender and brown in spots, about 10 -15 minutes longer
Whisk 2 teaspoons oregano, 2 teaspoons thyme, vinegar, and remaining 1 tablespoon oil in large bowl to blend. Add roasted vegetables and toss to coat.


Mix cheese, 2 teaspoons oregano, 2 teaspoons thyme, and lemon juice in medium bowl.


Place all bread slices on work surface.
Spread each with cheese mixture.


Top 4 bread slices with roasted vegetables, then spinach leaves, then sprouts.


Cover with remaining bread slices, cheese side down. Cut each sandwich in half.
imageServe immediately OR wrap in foil and heat in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes so cheese in nice and gooey


 Bottom Line: I love this sandwich…hubby not so much so next time I will throw some bacon or maybe even some prosciutto on his!  I actually made this recipe this morning on WBIR/Mornings with Fox 43 and it was a hit!  Here is a link to the show:
Until next time, I am Chef Frankie….Always in the kitchen, having fun, and cooking with Wild Abandonment!

Jeff and I have recently been talking about doing a little downsizing.  My idea of downsizing may be different than most…I want to downsize my square footage but UPSIZE my kitchen and that is where BlueStar Cooking has come in to help me in planning my Dream Kitchen!  It might look Ok a little like this….


I visualize a smaller home on at least 10 acres with not only an indoor kitchen but an outdoor one as well with a fireplace.  I know, that probably sounds like more upkeep, but when you love to get creative with food like Jeff and I both do, it makes perfect sense.

This range from BlueStar’s new Platinum Series would be a perfect addition to my indoor dream kitchen…(I might even consider adding one of these into my existing kitchen…Wow!)


It even comes in 750 colors!  Oh, the visions of delight that are going through my head in just the idea of picking the exact color combination!

Imagine all the tasty bites I could create on that baby!


If it is good enough for Michael Symon, it is good enough for me!  Check out his kitchen in this video….

What I love about BlueStar is the ability to go on to their site and customize their products right down to the knobs!  It was a lot of fun playing around on this page, to say the least.  Try it for yourself!

I hope my dream kitchen does become reality someday!  If you could build your dream kitchen, what is on your wish list?  I can’t wait to hear your ideas!

For more information on BlueStar, visit


Sometimes, I think back to my time when I was just starting out and had my very first kitchen…in an apartment of course, and not gourmet by any means!  There weren’t as many wonderful kitchen tools and gadgets to choose from like there are today so I started thinking about what kitchen items I couldn’t live without and would suggest for someone trying to build their own “kitchen essentials” list.

So here are my 5 Kitchen Essentials…..I wonder if some of them are yours, too?

5.  The Spiralizer


Now, this is a fairly new addition in my kitchen but one I now use often!  It is perfect to create beautiful works of art on the plate by using everyday vegetables such as zucchini, squash, cucumbers, potatoes, and much more!  It is compact, inexpensive and it has no limitations to make a variety of light recipes such as my Thai Shrimp with Zucchini Noodles…yummy!

Thai Shrimp with Zucchini Noodles

4. A Flat Whisk

Sure, regular whisks do the job but there is something about my favorite silicone coated flat whisk that always makes my gravy and sauces come out just a little smoother.  It also gets into those corners of the pan where the good stuff tends to gather (which always makes those sauces just a little bit better).  Try it next time you are making a roux for your gumbo!


3.  Le Creuset Dutch Oven

If you have been following my blog, you often see this big red pan in the pictures.  It is my Le Creuset Dutch Oven and it is my favorite of all my Le Creuset cookwear (I love the whole line!).  Of course, it is lovely to look at while on the stove (and comes in a variety of colors) but its interior enamel helps distribute the heat evenly when cooking and makes browning, simmering, and cleaning a snap!  It also goes straight from stove top to oven up to 500 degrees (not sure I have ever cooked anything at that temperature!).  I use it for braising short ribs, baking a pot roast, and making soups and stews like this recipe:


2. Wusthoff Tomato Knife

You may not have ever heard of a tomato knife and neither had I until a couple of years ago.  My favorite vegetable is the tomato and my husband, Jeff, and I have long argued over whether or not use use a serrated knife to cut a tomato.  I said yes…he said no.  He was proven wrong one Christmas when I opened one of my gifts from him and it was a tomato knife….with a serrated edge, of course!  Yes, I use this knife to slice tomatoes but as you may know, I process my own Italian Sauce every summer and this knife has a little tip that help pierce the tomato after blanching to help remove the skin before chopping.  It’s also great to slice bread, meats, and cheese….and, since it’s so small it’s portable.  Can you say PICNIC!

My Italian Sauce ready to process


1. Lodge Cast Iron Skillet


I saved the best for last!  I use my cast iron skillet for everything from searing meat to making an incredible southern cornbread.  I probably have 10 different shapes and sizes…I love it that much!  My very first Cast Iron Skillet was given to me by “Grandmother” when I got married back in 1985.  She was my husband’s grandmother but she became  mine, too, and has always been an inspiration to me in the kitchen!

Valentine’s Day is coming up soon so here is one of my favorite recipes using the cast iron skillet:


That is my list of the “Kitchen Essentials”….what are some of yours and would you add anything on my list to your kitchen?  I can’t wait to hear from you!

Coming tomorrow….My Dream Kitchen compliments of BlueStar Cooking!

For more information on BlueStar Cooking visit

Chicken Noodle Soup….there is a reason there is a series of books called Chicken Soup for the Soul because that is what this soup is all about…reaching into your soul and providing comfort.  It is known for curing colds and providing warmth and often many have a memory behind their favorite chicken soup.  My recipe goes back to a 1995 issue of Southern Living Magazine and the most amazing picture of a tureen of chicken noodle soup that made my mouth water.  Since my mother has given me the annual Southern Living Cookbook every year since I was still married, I do still have the picture that caught my eye!

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup by Southern Living (1995)

Over the years, I have made this recipe many times and tweaked it along the way, so I thought I would share my updated version with you.  It will come out perfect every time and go a long way in warming a lot of winter souls this season!



  • 1 3.5 to 4 lb. chicken cut up with bone and skin or 2 very large chicken breasts (if you are in a hurry)
  • 2 stalks celery, quartered
  • 1 large onion, peeled and quartered
  • 2 carrots, peeled and quartered
  • 1 turnip, peeled and quartered
  • 2 gloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon
  • 5 cups water
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • 6 oz. small egg noodles, parboiled
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 teaspoon of olive oil
  • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried tarragon
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon on onion powder


  • Combine first 11 ingredients in a large Dutch oven, and bring mixture to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat; cook 45  minutes or until chicken is tender.image
  • Remove chicken from broth, reserving broth; set chicken aside to cool slightly. Shred chickenimage
  • Pour broth through a wire-mesh strainer into a large bowl; discard cooked vegetables. Remove and discard fat from broth; return broth to Dutch oven.  Simmer for at least an hour to truly bring out the flavors.image
  • Parboil noodles (don’t fully cook) until they still have a bite to them…this keeps them from absorbing too much of the broth.
  • Saute onion and celery in olive oil until vegetables are tender. (I found this step adds so much more flavor than just dumping the raw vegetables in as the recipe states.)image
  • Add sauted celery and onion along with sliced carrot to chicken broth; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat; simmer 30 minutes.image
  • Stir in chopped chicken, noodles, and remaining seasonings.image
  • Simmer for an additional 15-20 minutes (or until noodles are cooked through) image
  • This version makes about 12 good size bowls of soup

I don’t exactly have the photograpy staff that Southern Living does but this is one good looking bowl of soup!

Chef Frankie’s Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

Bottom Line:  My version does take a little longer but great things take time and you will love the smell of this soup simmering all day in your kitchen.  If you like your soup more brothy, feel free to add equal parts of water and chicken broth and it will maintain its superb flavor!  I can’t wait for this to become one of your family’s favorite recipes!  I am Chef Frankie…always in the kitchen, having fun, and cooking with wild abandonment!




One of my favorite food nationalities is Mexican cuisine but traditionally it is landmine of calories and fat!  Fortunately, one of my favorite chicken enchilada recipes is a pleasant change from  the norm.  Packed with fresh flavors and ingredients, my Veggies Stuffed Chicken Enchiladas fit the bill when it comes to healthy and tasty!



1 Tbsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced zucchini, chopped
1 cup thinly sliced squash, chopped
1/2 Cup chopped onions
2 Cups shredded cooked chicken
1 package low sodium taco seasoning mix (mild)
1 tsp cumin
2 10 oz cans rotel
8 large or 16 small whole wheat
2 cups low fat Mexican blend cheese, shredded
1 15 oz can prepared enchilada sauce
Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Spray the bottom of a heatproof dish with cooking spray.
Pour just enough enchilada sauce in the dish to lightly coat the bottom (about 1/4 cup).image
In a large pan or wok, sauté the garlic and onion in olive oil until soft.
Add in the zucchini and squash; cook on medium heat for ten minutes, stirring frequently.image
To complete the enchilada filling, add the chicken, taco seasoning mix, cumin, green chilies, and diced tomatoes. Let simmer at least 5 minutes (I prefer to let it simmer for about an hour to improve the flavor)image
Now fill the tortillas. Use three tablespoons of filling per tortilla.image
Top the filling mixture with some shredded cheese and roll up the tortilla.image
Place the enchilada fold side down in the prepared dish.
Pour some of the enchilada sauce over the enchiladas over the top of the enchiladas and top with Remaining cheese.image
Bake in the oven for fifteen minutes and serve immediately. Makes 8 large enchiladas.

You can make 2 smaller pans with 4 enchiladas each and freeze one for another day. Just tightly wrap the extra dish (do not cook) and freeze for future use. Take the dish straight from the freezer, replace the freezer wrap with foil, bake it in a 350 degree oven for ten minutes covered and an additional ten minutes uncovered.

Per serving: 1 large tortilla 266 calories

Bottom Line: I love this recipe and the filling can be used as to fill in lettuce ups for an even healthier version! Give it a try in your kitchen!

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