Whip up an Italian comfort food feast for $40

Hungry for some Italian comfort food?

That's exactly what Mike Isabella whipped up on "The Early Show on Saturday Morning" in our "Chef on a Shoestring" challenge of making a three-course meal for four on a budget of $40. But Isabella is no stranger to cooking challenges. He's the runner-up on "Top Chef All-Stars."

Isabella was also automatically entered in our "How Low Can You Go?" competition, in which the "Shoestring" chef with the lowest ingredients cost will be invited back to whip up the feast for our year-end holiday extravaganza - and spend as much as he or she wants!

Isabella, who is about to release his first cookbook "Flavors from a Jersey Italian," is also the chef and owner of the recently-opened Graffiato restaurant in Washington, D.C.

Enjoy all our "Early Show" recipes!


Caramelized Butternut Squash
Braised Short Rib Ragu
Spiced Orange Panna Cotta

Caramelized Butternut Squash with Rosemary


  • 1 butternut squash
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 sprigs rosemary


1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out and discard the seeds. Place flesh side up on a baking sheet.

3. Drizzle with the extra virgin olive oil and season with the salt. Where the seeds were removed add 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 rosemary sprig to each half.

4. Cover the butternut squash tightly with aluminum foil and bake in the oven for 45 minutes or until tender.

5. Remove from the oven and uncover. Let cool until you can handle it. Scoop out the flesh of the butternut squash.

6. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Once melted and bubbling, add the cooked butternut squash. Gently tossing around until a golden brown texture begins to form.

7. Transfer to serving dish. This side dish is ready to serve family style.

For Mike's Braised Short Rib Ragu and his dessert recipes, go to Page 2.