Mary Ann Stoppini took a culinary challenge and made a dish all her own.

When the North Pocono woman’s late husband, Francesco, began dialysis a few years ago, he wasn’t allowed to have tomatoes or anything tomato-based. For an Italian like him, this was a tough blow, but she began experimenting with vegetable-based pastas. Stoppini estimated that she created about 20 kinds of pastas using different vegetables.

“I think for me it’s the fun of mixing together different vegetables and seeing how they taste,” she said on a recent day at her Elmhurst Twp. home. “It’s also relaxing for me to just get to be creative. That’s what I love about cooking.”

One of her favorites is Pasta with Asparagus and Prosciutto Cream Sauce, which earned Stoppini a $50 gift card to Riccardo’s Market, 1219 Wheeler Ave., Dunmore. While cooks can use any type of pasta for this dish, Stoppini noted that short pastas work best (she prefers penne). Cooks also can add some carrots to the pasta for a little more color, she said, and all different vegetables and meats will work in it. Sometimes, she adds artichokes, black olives and cherry tomatoes.

“You really can do whatever you want with it,” she said. “I just try it out and see what works and what doesn’t. It’s very forgiving, though.”

Stoppini and her husband lived in Italy for a time, and it shaped her culinary style. Stoppini rarely serves pasta without another course. And while she made soup from scratch for her husband to have every day for lunch, Stoppini also makes risotto with different mix-ins as well. Dessert usually means something fruit-based, such as baked apples or a dish she makes with red wine and pears. She also makes a great tomato sauce.

A member of Keystone Chapter UNICO, Stoppini also fills her time with sharing her love of Italian culture. She and her daughter host private European tours, too. If you see Italy with Stoppini, you won’t visit the traditional tourist spots but rather Italy’s best-kept secrets.

“We’re only stopping at the places that we would eat at or like to visit,” she said. “It’s a beautiful country and a beautiful culture.”


Pasta with Asparagus and Prosciutto Cream Sauce

Serves 4


  • 2 bundles asparagus
  • 8 slices prosciutto, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 8 ounces heavy cream
  • 1 pound pasta (Stoppini uses penne)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Parmesan cheese, to taste


  1. Bend asparagus until it breaks and remove the ends. Cut off tips and set aside. Cut remaining asparagus into quarter-inch pieces and set aside.
  2. Fill a large pot with salted water. Add asparagus tips and boil. Remove tips from water with slotted spoon.
  3. Fry prosciutto in pan with butter. Heat through on medium-high heat and add cream. Heat through for 3 or 4 minutes (do not boil).
  4. Add pasta and asparagus to water and cook. Remove pasta and asparagus and place in bowl. Add parmesan. Add cream sauce mixture over pasta and stir well.