When Courtney Hunter sees her friends toss out leftovers, she shudders. “This is the best part!” she cries. Courtney takes leftovers to a new high. Her friends call her cooking specialty “Yankee chic.”
Today, in her efficient Jamestown, Rhode Island, kitchen, Courtney is working with the pot roast she made for dinner the night before. “Andy and I already had a great meal from this, but this one is going to be much better,” she says as she separates the meat from the vegetables.
The leftover meal will become “pot roast ravioli,” inspired by her college year abroad in Florence, Italy. Her first night there she crossed the street to a small restaurant, where she met Claudio, the owner. That night, he fed her, but soon he was to become her mentor and dear friend, and in his tiny 9×9-foot kitchen, he taught her to cook.
She was on a student budget, and he helped her get by on very little. He taught her to make pasta and to make ravioli stuffed with leftovers. “He used to put all kinds of things in there,” she remembers. “I made this recipe up, but it was inspired by Claudio.”
It’s doubtful Claudio could have taught her to be the bargain hunter that she became. “I got this for a dollar!” she boasts, holding up a large can of San Marzano tomatoes. “This would usually cost three dollars.” Her cast-iron pot was acquired for a quarter at a yard sale. She can quote chapter and verse on the price of beef or, well, the price of anything. Her husband Andy calls her a sale-shopping genius.
It’s not all about price, though. With Courtney, there’s a need for elegance. Dinner means white napkins and family silver. She and Andy, a landscaper and artist, have transformed their house, a little Cape on a side street, into a visual treat, with a formal garden on the side lawn. Inside, the small rooms sparkle with imaginative décor, most of it junk-shop finds. This is her art form, her passion — making do, elegantly.
“I mean, it’s just so much more fun that way,” she observes as she places the ravioli, smothered in mushrooms and sauce, onto china plates. “It just wouldn’t be the same if we just went out and bought everything.”
Additional recipes from Courtney for pot roast, tomato sauce, and more!
Do you know a great New England home cook? Click here to nominate.