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On the Town: Heirloom Eats

Tuesday, March 7, 2017


With both a teen and a tot to feed, Gillian and Spencer Zettler lean on family recipes that have proven simple yet delicious for generations. Photograph by Peter Frank Edwards

March 1, 2017

Heirloom Eats
Charleston Wine + Food kicks off tonight! To celebrate, we’re sharing one of executive director Gillian Zettler’s personal favorite recipes


written by Jenny Ouellette & Marion Sullivan

As the executive director of Charleston Wine + Food, Gillian Zettler is no stranger to food prepared by some of the best chefs around the globe. And as a mother of two, she also doesn’t mind taking some of the job home with her. “Cooking is an integral part of our household,” Zettler says. “It’s so important to me to raise children who have an appreciation for a wide array of food.”

The Vermont native’s own love of good eats started during her childhood. “There weren’t any chains or fast-food restaurants around. Vermont was unabashedly local before ‘local’ was cool,” she says, noting that she relishes Charleston’s abundance of farmers markets, as well as its long growing season. And though Zettler is first to admit she’s no stranger to take-out pizza, she most often draws on her grandmothers’ passed-down recipes to feed her family.

“One of my favorites is a tortellini sausage Alfredo,” she says. “It’s one of the first things I made for my husband when we started dating. It’s got peas, hot Italian sausage, and a fabulous Alfredo sauce with a hint of nutmeg. I recommend getting a great local baguette to sop up any remaining sauce.”

Here’s how to make the dish in your own kitchen:

Tortellini & Sausage

(Makes approx. 4 large servings)

2 Tbs. olive oil
1 small white onion, chopped
1/4 lb. sweet Italian sausage, casing removed
1/4 lb. hot Italian sausage, casing removed
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup fresh or frozen English peas
1 lb. meat-filled frozen tortellini
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Sea salt and black pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about five minutes. Crumble the sausages into the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat loses its red color. Stir in the garlic and basil, and cook for an additional two minutes, or until the garlic is tender. Add the peas and cook for another two minutes.

Add the tortellini to the pot of boiling water and cook, following the manufacturer’s instructions, until al dente. Drain thoroughly.

Add the cream to the sausage mixture and reduce over medium-high heat until thickened, three to five minutes. Gradually stir in the Parmesan. Add the tortellini and toss to coat. Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste. Serve immediately.


For two more recipes from Zettler—a winter arugula salad and her sweet Scrumptious Squares—click here.