Sunday, April 14, 2019

Welcome our guest author Leslie Karst + book #giveaway

The daughter of a law professor and a potter, Leslie Karst learned early, during family dinner conversations, the value of both careful analysis and the arts—ideal ingredients for a mystery story. Putting this early education to good use, she now writes the Sally Solari Mysteries (Dying for a Taste, A Measure of Murder, Death al Fresco, Murder from Scratch), a culinary series set in Santa Cruz, California. An ex-lawyer like her sleuth, Leslie also has degrees in English literature and the culinary arts. Visit Leslie at or at

Leslie is offering a book giveaway below. Remember to leave a comment.

Take it away, Leslie!
Pasta Only Your Nonna Can Teach You to Make

Some years ago, my wife and I were fortunate enough to be invited to dinner by a friend of ours from Rome, Daria, who promised to make her Nonna Egle’s famous pasta with peas, onions, porcini, and garlic. Never one to turn down a home-cooked meal, I was thrilled at the prospect of not only eating the dinner, but also getting to observe Daria as she prepared it.

I loved the dish so very much that I decided to feature it in my brand new Sally Solari mystery, Murder from Scratch. As a result, Nonna Egle’s pasta has now been recreated as a dish that Sally’s dad’s cousin, Nonna Sophia, used to prepare, and which Sally learns to make from Sophia’s granddaughter.

(The following is excerpted—with some changes—from one of the recipes included in Murder from Scratch. But unlike in the book, you get photos of the process, here!)

Nonna Egle’s (aka Sophia’s) Pasta with Peas, Onion, Porcini, and Garlic
(serves 4-6)

This dish is best with homemade egg pasta (as Daria served it to us; the recipe is included in my new book), but you can certainly use a store-bought variety instead. If so, try to find dried fettuccine or pappardelle, preferably made with eggs. (And avoid the “fresh” pasta sold in the supermarket, as it tends to be too thick and overworked, and can turn gooey when cooked.)

It’s important to sauté the peas and onions separately from the mushrooms and garlic, so that the flavors remain distinct. Once they’re cooked, however, they can be combined into one pan to await mixing with the pasta.

If you can’t find dried porcini mushrooms (also called “boletes” or “cèpes”), you can substitute fresh crimini—small brown, button mushrooms—or portobellos.


6 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced (about ¾ pound)
¾ pound peas (fresh or frozen, thawed)
2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms (or ½ pound fresh)
6 cloves garlic, minced (2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ pound Parmesan or pecorino cheese, finely grated (about 1 ½ cups)
1 pound dried egg fettuccine or pappardelle (or use pasta recipe below)
1 tablespoon salt (for pasta water)


If using dried porcini, pour enough boiling water over them to cover them, and let soak for an hour. Slice the mushrooms into thin strips, reserving the liquid in a separate bowl.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over moderate heat till shimmering, then add the onions. Sauté till they soften, then add the peas.

Continue to sauté until the onions start to brown and the peas are cooked through. Season with ¼ teaspoon each, salt and pepper. Set aside.

In a separate pan, heat 2 more tablespoons of oil till shimmering, then add the mushrooms (squeeze out most of the liquid first, so they don’t spatter). Sauté till they cook through, then add the garlic.

Continue to cook till the mushrooms start to brown. Season with ¼ teaspoon each, salt and pepper, and add a ½ cup of the mushroom liquid (if you’re using fresh mushrooms, you can add chicken or vegetable stock instead).

Then add the chopped parsley, stir to incorporate, and set aside.

Bring a large (at least 4 quart) pot of water to a boil. While the water is heating, combine the peas/onions and porcini/garlic in one pan,

and reheat over a medium heat.

Add the salt and pasta to the water and cook, uncovered, over medium heat until al dente (still slightly firm in the center), stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. If using homemade pasta, it will cook very fast—in about 3 minutes. If using dried pasta, it will take about 10-12 minutes to cook.

Reserving ½ cup of the cooking water, drain the pasta and dump it back into the cooking pot (without rinsing). Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to pasta and toss to coat all the noodles. Pour in the ½ cup of cooking water, then add the reheated vegetables, and toss. Finally, add 1 cup of the cheese and toss once again.

Serve garnished with the rest of the cheese. [See photo of plated pasta at top of post.]

Buon appetito!

About Murder from Scratch:

Sally’s life is already plenty complicated, what with running the popular and bustling Gauguin and dealing with irate cooks, scheduling headaches, and other staffing issues. So when her dad convinces her to take in a blind relative, Evelyn, whose mother has just died of a drug overdose, she’s none too happy. Sally’s cousin, however, turns out to be not only highly competent, but also lots of fun. And she’s a terrific cook, to boot—taught at an early age by her chef mom, Jackie.

When moved objects around her house cause Evelyn to suspect that Jackie’s death was not the accident or suicide the police believe it to have been, she and Sally decide to investigate on their own. And Sally soon learns that Evelyn’s blindness makes her more attuned to her other senses, allowing her to discover clues that Sally would easily have missed. The cousins’ sleuthing takes them into the world of pop-up and Southeast Asian restaurants, macho commercial kitchens, and the cut-throat competitiveness that can flame up between chefs—especially when stolen recipes are at stake. 


Leslie is offering a copy of Murder from Scratch to one commenter. Do you have favorite family memories in the kitchen?  Leave a comment and include your email so Leslie can contact you if you win.

as well as:


  1. Oh my goodness, this recipe looks amazing! Thanks for visiting Mystery Lovers' Kitchen and sharing it with us, Leslie. I'm looking forward to reading MURDER FROM SCRATCH ~

  2. My mother was not a cook by choice. She did what she had to, but she had other things she concentrated on. However she taught me how to make pies and I’ve been very grateful for that. I like your series. suefoster109 at gmail dot com

    1. Pie-learning is a wonderful thing to pass down from generation to generation, Sue!

  3. I remember watching my grandmother making oatmeal and it was the BEST I had ever eaten!

  4. This looks wonderful . . . now if I could just get the Spousal Unit to eat mushrooms . . .


    1. Perhaps substitute with zucchini, or sun-dried tomatoes? Or maybe eggplant. Or simply eat it all yourself!

  5. I have fun memories of my grandma making pies. She sometimes only needed a corner of the table to make a pie. I remember liking the raw pie dough lol Tari H, barbie17(at)gmail(d0t)com

    1. My grandmother made amazing pies! I only learned much later that it was because she use lard, lol.

  6. I loved spending my Sunday’s helping my grandma cook lunch! My favorite was chicken and dumplings!

    1. lovesreading at

    2. My grandma made chicken and dumplings, too! They were the best!

  7. Your book sounds intriguing and the recipe appetizing. When my grandmother lived with us for 7 years her baking and cooking was exceptional. No one could compare. saubleb(at()gmail(dot)com

    1. Grandmothers are the best, no? But will our grandchildren say the same of us?

  8. I remember my mom teaching me how to make pulla. It is a Finnish sweet bread.


  9. Murder from Scratch sounds really good, and that pasta, I am definitely trying that. My mom and grandma were very different cooks (and rather critical of each other!) but both made everything from scratch and I remember cooking with them. My mom watched some of the early cooking shows and collected lots and lots of recipes, a habit she passed on to me. Thanks for the giveaway.

    1. And you have the perfect name for this series, Sally, since my protagonist is Sally Solari! I used to watch Julia Child on TV with my mom when I was little.

  10. The recipe sounds great & simple, but I would eliminate the mushrooms because I myself don't like the, Love the cover of this book & it sounds great. Thanks for this great chance.

    1. You could substitute zucchini or dried tomatoes for the mushrooms, Linda. Thanks for commenting!

  11. Taylor R. WilliamsApril 14, 2019 at 11:38 AM

    I remember helping my mom in the kitchen from a very young age - still love to cook - not sure which sounds better, the book or the recipe - thanks for the chance to win - trwilliams69(at)msn(dot)com

  12. I am interested in the intriguing book. The meal is so enticing and lovely. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

  13. I learned how to cook by helping my Mom in the kitchen.

    jtcgc at yahoo dot com

  14. This comment has been removed by the author.

  15. I have great memories of my mom teaching me how to make basically everything from scratch and all the family in the kitchen sharing the meal preparation and having fun. 1cow0993(at)gmail(dot)com

    1. Wonderful memories, indeed! Nothing like a family meal.

  16. My favorite kitchen memories are of my grandmother teaching me to bake cookies. I still have her measuring spoons hanging up in my kitchen and they bring back such fond memories.

    1. What a lovely memento! I have my grandmother's cast iron chicken-fryer, a HUGE cast iron skillet. I treasure it.

  17. My favorite memory is my grandmother baking me an egg custard pie.
    Theresa N

  18. My parents were quite some cooks. They had Julia child's Mastering the Art...and cooked some delicious things from it.

    libbydodd at comcast dot net