Sunday Supper: Fireside Paella

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A few years ago, I hosted a paella party and photo shoot for Atlanta Magazine’s Home it was actually the first feature in the reintroduced version of the magazine.It was a fabulous evening where I pulled together my colorful and delicious fireside paella recipe. I prepared it over an open flame, and it was such a wonder to see it come together in front of the guests eyes.

Paella is a wonderful way to entertain guests while providing them with a delicious meal. Make this on a warm, spring Sunday afternoon and enjoy it with friends and family. Time to make the Paella.

Annette’s Fireside Paella

You will need:

– 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
– 1/3 cup olive oil
– 1 tablespoons paprika
– Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
– 1 cup crushed tomatoes
– 1 red bell pepper, cut into quarters, stemmed, seeded, and ribs removed
– 1 green bell pepper, cut into quarters, stemmed, seeded, and ribs removed
– 2 tablespoons saffron + 2 cups warm water
– 6 cups homemade or store-bought chicken stock
– 1 pounds chorizo cut into 3 inch pieces
– 2 cups pounds haricots verts trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
– ½ onion chopped
– 4 cloves finely chopped garlic
– 1 pound pounds calamari, cleaned and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch rings
– 16 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
– 1 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed
– 1 dozen mussels, scrubbed
– 4 cups *Bomba rice
– 1/2 package frozen lima beans
– 2 cups fresh or frozen peas
– 2 freshly squeezed lemons

To prepare:
Place chicken in a large bowl and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle chicken with paprika and 1/2 teaspoon salt; turn chicken to coat. Cover chicken and let marinate, refrigerated, at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

Cut peppers crosswise into 1/4-inch strips; set aside. Using a mortar and pestle, grind together saffron. Add saffron mixture to a medium bowl and add 2 cups water. Whisk until well combined; set aside.

If using a charcoal grill, make a fire in your grill. When the charcoals are completely covered in gray ash, hold your hand about 5 inches above the grill grid; count how many seconds you can comfortably leave it there. When you can hold it there for 1 to 2 seconds, you have high heat and are ready to cook. Alternatively, you can cook the paella on a stove over high heat.

Place a 20-inch paella pan with 3-inch sides over desired heat source. Coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil and heat, until pan is very hot, about 5 minutes. Add chicken thighs and cook, turning, until golden brown on all sides, about 8 minutes. Add sausage and cook, turning, until browned, about 3 minutes then pull from the pan and set aside.

Put onions, garlic, into the pan sauté until transparent and caramelized. Add rice and saffron water to onion garlic mixture, stir to coat, cook about 1 minute. Add 3 cups of stock and bring to a boil.  Add tomatoes, and haricots verts. Cook, stirring, about 2 minutes. Add chicken and sausages and add calamari, and shrimp, and cook, stirring, about 2 minutes more; add clams and mussels. Cook until rice is tender, about 15 minutes, adding more stock as necessary.

Add lima beans and peas and cook, until tender, about 3 minutes more. Season with salt and lemon juice; serve immediately.

* Bomba Rice is a specialty Spanish Rice

xx Annette

Photos by Nicole Letts 

Sara Dorio

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Italy renovation:: where are we now?

As you know, Frank and I have been renovating La Fortezza our, 12th century fortress in the countryside for over a year. With the studio and main house complete, we have turned our attention to the guest quarters and commercial kitchen and lounge. The guest quarters are almost complete, and when they are finished, we will have 3 bedrooms in the guest quarters, all with their own bathrooms, a small kitchenette, and a lounge area for guests to enjoy snacks, coffee and wine.

The most exciting area is the commercial kitchen where we will teach cooking classes, and hold our Preserving Italy Workshop with Domenica Marchetti in the fall. We will also be hosting Canadian foodstylist, Marisa Curatolo in our kitchen. The decor will be practical and dynamic. The lighting is gorgeous as it has the exact same orientation as the studio upstairs. The giant Lacanche stove will settle into its new home, and we will prepare all of our workshop meals from the kitchen. To say I am super excited would be an understatement. Where are we now?

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The guest quarters are almost complete; windows are in, floors are set, and paint is done. We now will be placing the lighting, and the last steps will be the state of the art resin showers (as we have to wait for temperatures to rise for a proper set).

When I return in May, I will hit the ground running to finish furnishing the guest quarters with all the decor I have been collecting of the past year. Beds, lighting, cool rugs, and custom chairs from Marrakech. I can’t wait to see it all come together. Yes, I swear, it will all come together in May…

You can follow along on the progress report on my instagram. Once these projects are finished, then we will move on to the last project: the out building which will have 3 more bedrooms and bathrooms. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and believe me, it’s been a long time coming.

xx Annette

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Dispatch from the Parma Antique Fair

I have always wanted to attend the Parma Antique Fair because I have bought many things from the fair thanks to my pickers in Italy. Since we have been working on La Fortezza, I have woken up on Saturdays to tons of pics and choices sent to me by my designer Forrest and his partner Roberto from the Parma Fair. They both have an amazing eye. I am blessed to have them in my world, and the objects they have found for me over the past 2 years are astounding. This year I wanted to go along and see what all the fuss was about.

Well…I can tell you that the fair was dizzying. I have been to lots of fairs and antiques shows, like Round Top in Texas and Isle sur la Sorgue, but nothing compares to the beauty and the perfection in selection at Parma; it is like nothing I have every seen. There is row after row of Italian treasures. I was gob-smacked. No words could describe the sheer quantity and quality on sale. Mind you, we attended at the end of the show, but there were still gobs of beautiful objects everywhere. We waited until the end of show on purpose, too. Since I was shopping for basics, I felt that I could miss the crowds and leisurely take advantage of end of show pricing.

With Forrest by my side, we flew up and down the aisles with laser beam focus. I picked up a large dining room table and classic Italian wood chairs for the commercial kitchen as we plan to eat some meals in the commercial kitchen, mostly in the fall and winter if it’s too cold outside. The table will also serve as a beautiful surface for cooking, foodstyling lessons, and photography. The student lounge, located next to the commercial kitchen, now has some wonderful leather club chairs – all worn in, soft and comfy. The club chairs were in the most elegant booth manned by a most elegant vendor. She gave us a great deal, and we bought the last matching set. The guest quarters has a really cool rustic table for the entry, plus I found some wonderful wire chairs and a table for folks to hang out on while enjoying an espresso of a glass of wine with a few nibbles in the guest kitchenette.

We loaded all our finds into the old Range Rover. It’s incredibly roomy, but even I was surprised how much fit into the back, and we headed back home just in time for Aperitivo. It was a super successful trip – efficient and inspiring, just the way I like it. If you’re thinking about attending the Parma Antiques Fair, I highly recommend it. I would definitely schedule at least 2 to 3 days since there is so much to see. Plus Parma is such a wonderful place to visit.

Make sure you check in with the blog over the next months as we will be outfitting the rooms with all of our finds starting in May. I can’t wait to share the end results with you as we get ready for our summer of workshops and retreats.

xx Annette


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The Marrakech Express

Last weekend my friend Oma and I decided to take a quick trip to Marrakech. Since it is a quick flight from Italy, it is a rather easy weekend excursion.

We stayed at a charming Riad, and once we figured out how to get back to the place, we were golden. It is quite hard to find your way around the center of town, even if you’ve been there a bunch of times like I have. One incredible discovery was a map app that literally saved us a couple times called

The app, once downloaded works offline. If you’ve every been terribly lost in another country, this is a MUST.

The food in Marrakech is delicious and fresh. Some of my favorite places include Le Jardin, Nomad, and Terrasse des esepices  , but make sure you make reservations, this is very easy to do online. Note: Don’t miss Norya ayroN at the top of the stairs at Le Jardin for one of a kind Moraccan style kaftans and tunics.


We had a great time shopping for rugs and furnishings for our guest quarters. One of my big finds this trip was the most glorious rug vendor Bazar Du Sud, introduced to me by our guide Monica. I highly recommend that you hire a shopping guide. If you are interested in hiring my guide, just contact me through my site and I will connect you to Monica. I had a few places in mind for my shopping excursion, however our guide Monica had some new places on the schedule as well. I love shopping at Mastupha Blaoui, and if you have not been, GO! I found all sorts of great pieces for the guest quarters.

Warning: Leave plenty of time in your schedule as this place is enormous and chocked to the brim with amazing rugs, furnishings and home accessories. One amazing place we went, although it was not Moroccan and is owned by a Belgian woman, is called Magasin General. It is in an industrial part of town and is styled perfectly with treasures from all over Europe with a focus on Belgium. The owner is charming and full of helpful information; not to be missed. It is swoon worthy for sure.

All in all, our Morccan adventure was successful, and I managed to snag a few treasures for La Fortezza. I hope you will come visit sometime and stay with us in our newly appointed rooms.

Check out my instagram feed for more photos of our weekend trip to Marrakesh…Ciao for now

xx Annette

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Serving Stylish Pasta


Pasta is one of the easiest dishes to serve for a crowd. And, let’s be honest: everyone loves pasta! While it’s one of the easiest things to prepare, it’s easily one of the most difficult things to serve (or shoot!) stylishly.

I almost shudder when I think of having to style something like macaroni and cheese for a photo shoot. The cheese sets-up quickly, and it’s just hard to make it look appetizing. Pasta has great texture in photographs, but without the appropriate styling, it’s simply not pleasant to look at.

Even though you might not be styling for a photo shoot, there are a few tricks to serving stylish pasta at a dinner party. In fact, the number one thing you can do to improve a pasta course is the dish in which its served. The vessel you choose to serve pasta in is the most important element in making pasta look delicious.

Here are a few stylist tricks to use to serve stylish pasta is on your menu:

Ditch the glass casserole dish. In fact I don’t even own one. Instead, think about something earthy to present your pasta, like mac and cheese, in. An iron skillet is perfect! I own lots of iron skillets in all sizes. Not only are they great looking, great to bake in, but they make awesome presentation vessels. The photo above was a pretty cover shot for Southern Living that I styled a couple years ago. I still think it’s so yummy looking. It’s one of my favorites.

Use glasses in unexpected ways. Pesto pasta is pretty, so seeing all the bits of basil in the clear glass is great, plus it’s easy to serve. I love these brandy snifters. They are the perfect size for one serving. Think of all your tableware in different ways. Glasses can be used for more than just drinks!


Look for interesting shapes in your serving dishes. Here the scallop edged bowl really makes a difference. It’s a nod to the sea, and it looks a bit like a sea shell. You will never go wrong with a seafood presentation if you introduce the sea in some form. Even the serving spoon looks like something you would find along the beach.


I hope that this has helped you look at how you serve your pasta dishes. Like I said above, the key is to always think about the vessel options you have. Plus it gives you an excuse to pull out your very best, most fun props!

xx Annette

Photo credit: Jennifer Davick, Lauren Rubinstein, Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyen

Seafood Pasta Dish from my cookbook Picture Perfect Parties


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