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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How to Style a Coffee Table like a Pro


When I enter a home to style it for a photo-shoot, I always bring accessories for a coffee table. I have a big collection of coffee table books in my studio and tons of bits and bobs in my prop stash for this specific purpose. However, you don’t have to be a stylist to achieve a similar look. In fact, your coffee table can look just as amazing as any magazine with the right tools.

To get you thinking in the right direction, here’s a video I did with Ballard Designs that shows you how to style a coffee table. It breaks down different steps, so you can practice and style until you have the perfect set-up.

Here are a few highlights from the video:

  1. Start with what you have. There’s no need to go out and buy a ton of props. Instead, shop your own home or your own prop closet.
  2. Anchor the corners with large objects. Repeat after me: trays are my BFF. Trays are my BFF. A tray will provide a place to corral smaller objects while creating visual interest and helping you organize.
  3. Repeat shapes and colors. If you add pink flowers, add another pop of pink in a book on a different spot. If you incorporate blue, add a ginger jar, too. Repeating colors helps the eye move seamlessly around the table.
  4. Have fun! Don’t be afraid to change-up your coffee table style season to season. If you find a special object while out antiquing, or “treasure hunting” as I like to call it, add it to your coffee table vignette.

If you’d like even more help styling your home for photographs or for fun, come along on my Strictly Styling Workshop this summer in Italy! I’d love to have you.

Do you have any tried and true coffee table tips? Share them in the comments!

xx Annette

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Workshops: Summer 2018 Updates

I cannot believe that we’re just a few months away from embarking on our second summer of workshops at La Fortezza. If you follow along on Instagram, you’ve probably noticed that we’re in the thick of renovating our guest quarters. They will hopefully be done soon, just in time for our guests.

If you’re considering coming to Italy this summer, we’d love to have you. There isn’t anything like summer in Italy. While I might be partial, I can assure you that you’ll agree with me. Our location is just a short drive from just about anything you could possibly want: beaches, historic towns, mountains, quaint spots – it’s all at your fingertips.

We have just a few spots left in several of our workshops. While some of our events have already sold out, we do have a few spaces left (and a few surprises, too!) in the following workshops:

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My June 6 – 11, 2018 Strictly Styling Workshop will be the traditional styling workshop we’ve offered over the years and will feature two AWESOME guest instructors and stylists that you are going to love: Joanna Hawley & Eliza Honey.

Joanna Hawley is a Seattle-based blogger, stylist, and digital influencer. After graduating from Carnegie Mellon with a degree in Industrial Design, she worked as a product designer and trend scout for Nordstrom and Anthropologie before turning her keen eye to the online space. Her talent for curation has earned her a Pinterest following that totals 3.8 million, and her frank, funny, and fashion-forward approach to content creation has made her site a go-to resource for modern yet casual lifestyle inspiration. When she’s not documenting her renovation misadventures, she’s mostly likely sailing the Puget Sound with her wiener dog companions.

An ex-editor at goop (yes, that goop!) and at Elle Decoration UK, Eliza Honey has made the fulfilling switch to floristry at the legendary Harper & Tom’s in London.  Her focus is on arrangements and installations with a wild, naturalistic and joyful feel.

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We also have a few spots left in our Figurative Photography workshop with renowned photographer, Harriet Leibowitz. We will provide the experience, the models, the location, the instruction and the motivation to make memorable and magnificent images.  With our experienced male and female figurative models, you will have the opportunity to create beautiful and unique work involving the human body.

We’ve been working to create the most amazing experiences imaginable. Our location at La Fortezza in Tuscany offers breathtaking vistas and intimate interiors. Every detail has been created with photo shoots in mind. There will be technical instruction to maximize our creative vision. We will dine on chef created organic food from the garden, drink wine from the vineyards and indulge in all that Italy offers.

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Finally, join me along with premiere Southern wedding and event professionals, Master Florist/Event Designer, Kim Cheney, and Luxury Fine Art Wedding Photographer, Donna Von Bruening at our Tuscan Wedding Workshop. Our exclusive instructors to share their knowledge and insight on storytelling, creating and documenting the perfect celebration or wedding.

This intimate workshop is for creative minds seeking inspiration, world travelers looking for a new experience abroad and wedding and event professionals looking to broaden their palette and build their portfolio. You will enjoy hands-on experience mixed with lively lectures and one-on-one instruction throughout the week. Expand your visual language and hone your artistic voice to tell stories that arouse emotion whether you are setting a table for your own special guests or seeking to enhance your professional portfolio.  For inspiration and fun, you will scour super-secret Italian flea markets for special props, enjoy Italian dinners al fresco while mingling with creative and industry professionals. It’s truly a creative retreat – a picturesque place to recharge and refresh.

We truly have a workshop for everyone this summer. Come along and experience Italy in a creative, life-changing way. We’d love to have you!

xx Annette

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All About Olives Workshop Recap


What can I say? Our All About Olives Workshop went off without a hitch. Perfect group, perfect weather, and perfect instructors, Emily Followill and Alisa Barry.


This is Emily’s second time teaching with us in Italy, and it will not be the last time. She’s an amazing teacher and mentor, and most of all, she’s a just a wonderful person to be around. She had many lessons for our attendees and was most importantly loads of fun.


We enjoyed hiking through the olive grove and seeing the olive harvest in full swing. Our picnic in the olive grove after a long morning trekking was picture perfect. It included the ever popular brown butter chocolate chip cookies, Teri’s super secret recipe. Let’s just say they are the best cookie I have every tasted, and our attendees agreed. A beautiful vegetable torta baked by Alisa was a special treat while we enjoyed the sunshine on our faces. We also stuffed ourselves with homemade focaccia sandwiches, so thanks to Teri, we could barely get up to go to our cooking lesson that afternoon with Alisa. I think we would have all loved a nice nap under the olive trees.

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Saturday we all went to see the olives pressed. We had tastes of the fresh press and of course, stocked up on fresh olive oil to take home.



In a tiny village, we enjoyed a tour of a small family winery and then an amazing lunch in the family owned restaurant where 2 sisters run the show. We had crepes filled with nettles and pasta with sausage and greens, housemade wine, and delicate desserts with strong espresso to wash it down. It was the most incredible little lunch stop for our group.


The workshop was a smashing success. I made new friends and reconnected with old friends as we had several attendees who had returned. It really makes me happy that people want to join us again and again. I love welcoming everyone, and I love leisurely suppers where everyone shares stories and dreams and goals. My goal next season is to have everyone join us and experience our tiny piece of heaven here in the Italian countryside. Until then, ci vediamo spero a presto xx


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Announcement: Fall 2018 Workshops in the Italian Countryside

It is with great pleasure I announce the Fall 2018 workshop roster. Join us next year for our most exciting workshop series to date. Come along!

It is with great pleasure I announce the Fall 2018 workshop roster.


In September:

Domenica-Marchetti-533x800 We have some amazing workshops to offer next fall. Join us for Preserving Workshop with author of the book, Preserving Italy. Acclaimed Italian cookbook author, Domenica Marchetti, will be the instructor for our first ever workshop on canning and preserving in the Italian tradition. Italians are masters at the art of preserving the bounty of the seasons – summer’s tomatoes and zucchini; September’s peppers and figs; winter’s citrus. Domenica has meticulously documented the recipes and techniques of Italian food artisans in her book, Preserving Italy: Canning, Curing, Infusing, and Bottling Italian Flavors and Traditions. During this one-of-a-kind workshop, we will spend five days in the glorious Tuscan countryside harvesting fruit and vegetables from La Fortezza’s own organic garden and transforming them into jams, pickles, and other preserved foods. We will also hit the road and visit Parma for more culinary inspiration and ingredients (think Parmigiano-Reggiano and balsamic vinegar. And we’ll meet a local food artisan who makes chestnut honey.


We will also have Abstract Painting lead by Steve McKenzie. A nationally known abstract painter, this workshop will teach you techniques to intuitively paint abstraction, discover your inner creative voice and transfer that energy to the canvas. This creative retreat includes a multitude of excursions to local museums to study art and discuss how classic renaissance art can inform your abstractions. Steve will be teaching in the visual splendor of The Fortress’s expansive studio located on the grounds in an old stone barn, and the surrounding Tuscan landscape. Steve will guide your painting experience to reflect the juxtaposition of the beauty you observe with an abstract interpretation. In addition, the class will discuss the principles of painting and how to use them in your work. Time will also be spent merging your artwork and your social media. You will expand your artistic horizons in one of the most inspiring places in the world, Italy.

In October:


In October, join us for The Ultimate Food Photography and Food Styling Experience. We will be hosting one of my mentors, amazing food stylist, culinary guru and professional cookbook photographer and food writer, Angie Mosier. Her work has been seen in Food & Wine, Town and Country, The New York Times, Southern Living, Atlanta Magazine, Atlanta Homes and Lifestyles, and Garden and Gun. Her essays on Southern cakes, pies and traditional meals can be read in The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture.  She has collaborated with cookbook and craft authors such as John T. Edge, Matt Lee and Ted Lee, Virginia Willis, Natalie Chanin, and the Southern Foodways Alliance.  Angie is honored to have worked as co-author and photographer on Chef Eric Ripert’s most recent book, Avec Eric, as well as photography for John T. Edge’s, The Truck Food Cookbook, Kevin Gillespie’s book, Fire in My Belly, and John Currence’s book, Pickles, Pigs and Whiskey.

We are still working on details, but if you would like to work with a food styling legend, this is this is the workshop for you. Dates will be announced next month. Feel free to email me to get on the list I have a feeling this will sell out fast 

One more thing: in September, check out Canadian Stylist and Culinary Expert Marisa Curatolo. She will be here at La Fortezza conducting her first ever Italian Culinary Retreat. She will be your guide alongside local experts. Cook with the finest produce, frequent antique markets, and savor the Italian country lifestyle.

Please feel free to email any questions I look forward to hosting everyone next fall. xx

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