“I cook with love,” Justa Pasta owner Roland Carfagno.

Our April 8 lecture with Roland proved to be the perfect reminder that above all, cooking should and can be fun, relaxing and about connecting with our loved ones. By keeping ingredients simple, high-quality and fresh, meal preparation can also be simple and easy.

The interactive lecture turned our Portland personal training studio, Hyatt Training, in to a mini-kitchen. Roland prepared four courses that we got to taste and try – along with great wine – throughout the evening. My favorite thing about the menu below is that aside from chopping some veggies in advance, Roland created this entire meal on a hot plate burner inside the studio. For 30 people.

Hyatt Training lecture: Seasonal cooking with Roland Carfagno

The menu

Appetizer: Blistered shishito peppers
Salad: organic greens, shaved red onion, fennel and goat cheese tossed in a fresh-made sherry vinaigrette
Main: Pasta primavera with fresh spinach penne, broccoli, cauliflower, red onions, garlic, fiddle head ferns, yellow squash
Dessert: Fresh fruit including a variety of different oranges, strawberries and blueberries

Top tips

*Tongs are a great kitchen tool and can be used for everything.
*Prepare salad dressing in a wooden bowl, then add the right amount of greens to get the proper coating of dressing on leaves.
*Toss salad toppings in dressing prior to adding them to the dressing-tossed greens.
*Sea salt provides “saltier” flavor when selecting a kind of salt.
*Always salt the water before you cook the pasta. This is to add flavor to the pasta.
*Add your oil to the pan AFTER it gets hot.
*Never rinse fresh pasta after you drain it.
*Roland’s 3 favorite cooking tools: Tongs, sharp knife and a wine glass
*The oil and salt you use makes a ton of difference. Often, they are the foundation of the seasoning so use kosher or sea salt and extra virgin olive oil.
*Sauté veggies in olive oil. Getting the right sauté is a matter of timing the ingredients so they are all cooked properly. He suggests adding garlic towards the end to eliminate some bitterness and “finishing” the veggies in a 500 degree over for 2-3 minutes at the very end of the process.
*Ideally chicken would marinate for 3-4 hours, but can be done in a hurry if time requires. After cleaning breast, give a light pound, then coat with extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic.
*Turn salad into a meal by adding protein to it. Tuna, chicken, salmon and garbonzo beans are all easy ways to make a salad into more of hearty meal.
*Some key staples to have in pantry: Canned tomatoes, good canned tuna (he likes Ortiz brand), organic garbonzo beans, sherry and basalmic vinegar (give very different flavors to salad dressing), extra virgin olive oil (enough to last 3 months, after that time it generally goes “bad”) and good salt (kosher or sea salt).

*Salad dressing: make it as fresh as possible. Always avoid store purchased salad dressing, it contains extra sugar and unnecessary additives. Roland’s guidelines: 3:1 ratio, oil:vinegar (vinegar could be sherry or balsamic), add salt, pepper and garlic to taste.