For Lisa Christine Summerville, growing up in an Italian family meant that homemade meals were a way of life.
They still are.
The Plum Island resident loves to share her culinary creations with friends and family. A recent dinner party at her home featured an impressive spread including Italian wedding soup, pesto, garlic bread, eggplant parmigiana, white pizza with mushrooms and shrimp cocktail “the Italian way.”
“The Italian way” involves cooking jumbo shrimp in a broth of water, wine, celery, onion, shallots, salt and pepper and then cooling the mixture down in a bowl of ice.
“Once you have it this way, you can’t have it in a restaurant,” said Summerville, who also makes her own cocktail sauce for the appetizer.
In fact, she likes to make whatever she can from scratch, including her own pasta and pizza dough, a tradition that stretches back to childhood Saturday mornings with her Catholic family in Pennsylvania.
Her tomato sauce is a 21/2-day endeavor, “just to get it exactly how I want it.” She uses sausage and an entire bottle of wine.
“People from Italy tell me my sauce is the same or even better than their mother’s,” she said.
While Italian food is her specialty, Summerville says she can make anything and often replicates dishes she has at restaurants.
“I feel like I can taste food and then come home and make it the same or better,” she said. “Sometimes you just have an instinct about things.”
Though she is largely self-taught and has created some of her best dishes by experimenting, Summerville has also honed her skills by studying pasta making and French sauces at The Cambridge School of Culinary Arts and through a 2008 trip to Italy, where she learned from chef Franco Burrello.
Shortly after moving to Newburyport in 2001, Summerville started a food and wine club called Mes Amis, which raised money for the Newburyport Maritime Society and the Newburyport Art Association. It’s something she’s hoping to organize again in the future. She has also taught cooking classes, including one called “Truffle Love” for Stonewall Kitchen last fall.