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Meet my Aunt Karen. She’s almost a mythical creature in my mind, yet she’s delightfully, disarmingly real. Aunt Karen is a people doctor who should have been a vet. This is not to say that she wasn’t an excellent physician—she was. But since the early days of my childhood, I have watched her care for a menagerie of injured or malnourished animals, ranging from brain-damaged pigeons to lame ducks to earless cats to two-legged turtles. (None of these characters are fictional—I confirmed them with my cousins to make sure I hadn’t imagined them.) No creature was ever too small or too hopeless to receive her nurturing touch. 

I recently had the opportunity to stay at Aunt Karen’s home in Houston (with Schmoo, the aforementioned earless cat), and eat a delicious, late-night meal at her table. She served an extraordinary fig/feta/basil salad, expensive tequila in tiny glasses, and her soon-to-be-famous pasta sauce. The sauce had a few unexpected ingredients, like wrinkled olives and lupini beans, and was so delicious that I had to share it! The only modification I made here was adding artichoke hearts, because artichokes make everything better. I made a point of testing this recipe on my Italian husband, because he knows a good marinara when he meets one. He gave it a hearty stamp of approval. 


  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 T chili-infused olive oil
  • 1 T garlic-infuse olive oil
  • 3 cans organic crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cans artichoke hearts (quartered, in water not oil)
  • 1 cup lupini beans*
  • 1 cup oil cured, pitted black olives
  • 1 ½ cups fresh cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 1/2 to 1 cup low-sodium veggie stock (adjust for the consistency you prefer)
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
  • 2 T dried oregano
  • 1 t crushed red pepper


Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot. Once it’s hot, add the cherry tomatoes, artichoke hearts, lupini beans, and olives. Sautée for 5-7 minutes, then add oregano, red pepper, and red wine. Simmer over medium heat for about ten minutes, allowing the red wine to reduce slightly. Add the crushed tomatoes and fresh basil, stir well, and allow the sauce to simmer for about an hour, partially covered. Stir and taste occasionally, and when you’re ready, serve over pasta or use as a pizza sauce. You may not need to add salt to the sauce, because the olives and lupini beans are quite salty. 

A quick note about lupini beans: they’re hard to find! I’ve been using this brand, and they’re super tasty. In larger grocery stores, you might get lucky and find the Cento brand in the Italian foods section. If you can’t find them, you can omit them, or add cannellini beans at the very end, a few minutes before serving.

This recipe makes a huge pot of sauce! If you’re cooking for a small group of people, cut it in half! If you’re making it just for yourself, make ⅓ the recipe. 



So, when the weather starts to cool off where you are like it’s doing up in our mountains, and you’re finally craving a hot meal, whip up my Aunt Karen’s pasta sauce with your favorite noodles (Jovial brand gluten-free cappellini in my case!), and serve up a bowl of pure Italian bliss!

With love and lupini beans from us to you,