Francesca Montillo thinks Italian cooking is for everyone. The Calabrian native, who has lived in the Boston area for 28 years, launched her business, Lazy Italian Culinary Adventures, last year to help the most novice cooks enjoy a taste of her homeland.
She started teaching classes at adult education centers in Brookline, Cambridge, and Arlington, and now also offers private lessons in your home or hers. “I call them Lazy Italian cooking [classes]. By ‘lazy’ I mean recipes that can be carried out within 30-40 minutes. Not so much for the expert chef, but the everyday people who work long hours, commute long hours, families who just need to get food on the table before nightfall,” says the cook, who will also begin offering tours to Italy and Rome in 2017. After years of researching and planning trips for friends and family “pro bono,” she says she realized she could start a business.
For those who can’t jet off to Italy — and have yet to take one of her classes — Montillo has some tips for getting everyone fed in the busy back-to-school season.
“We are nearing the end of fresh tomatoes so I like to use them mostly in salads more than actually cooking them. I feel like cooking kind of takes away a lot of their flavor, so making tuna salads, egg salads, cucumber salads, even rice salads,” says the cook. She also likes to bulk up a traditional Caprese salad — with fresh tomato, mozzarella, and basil — with a pound of pasta to stretch it into a no-fuss family meal.
When it comes to meat, for quick weeknight dinners Montillo likes to go boneless for quicker cooking. She suggests chicken breast or tenders, turkey cutlets, and steak tips.
To avoid drying out these leaner cuts of meat, try a quick dip in a marinade. “Marinate in a little homemade dressing of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and lemon. You let a chicken breast marinate half an hour before cooking. In just a half an hour it tenderizes it and adds flavor to it,” she says, “You come home from work, you [marinate it] and you change, you settle your kids. By the time you are done with those little errands we all have to do when we get home — like look at the mail — you have a meal almost ready.”
What’s important, says Montillo, is sitting down to a home-cooked meal together, no matter how simple. “It doesn’t have to be an elaborate meal that took half the day to cook. I save those for special occasions. It’s just the idea of being together and enjoying those 45 minutes.” For more on Lazy Italian Culinary Adventures, go to www.thelazyitalian.com.