Thick and Hearty Minestrone with Roasted Piquillo-Mozzarella Paninis

Welcome once again to a TLC Book Tour Stop.  

I’m pleased to present this review and accompanying recipes for Jen Collins Moore’s Murder in the Piazza.  I received a free copy of the book for an honest review.  All rants and gushings are my own.

About the Book:

Maggie White, a downsized American executive stuck in Rome on her husband’s expat assignment, is finding the dolce vita isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. She’s taken a job offering painting instruction to well-heeled travelers on a luxury tour and her boss—a rather unpleasant English lord—has turned up dead in his penthouse. Maggie’s left with a palazzo full of suspicious guests, a valuable painting her boss might have stolen, and a policeman who’s decided she’s the prime suspect. Now Maggie must keep the tour up and running while she tracks the killer and works to clear her name.


About the Author:

Jen Collins Moore is the author of the Maggie White Mysteries. Her short fiction has appeared in Mystery Weekly, and she is the editor of the Mystery Writers of America Midwest newsletter. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America, as well an established marketer and entrepreneur. A transplanted New Englander, she lives in Chicago with her husband and two boys.


Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Connect with Jen

Website | Facebook | Instagram

What I thought…

I need to preface this review with the following: I don’t like mysteries. But, I did jump at the chance to read Murder in the Piazza for a TLC Book Tour. Toss anything set in Italy my way, mention a piazza…I’m there.

Maggie White, the heroine of the novel, is a middle-aged American expat living in Rome. She finds herself working for a pompous and verbally cruel British lord who is living off the tourist trade.  As Maggie imagines the many ways she might murder her boss (just wishful thinking), he actually turns up dead.

Maggie, Maggie, Maggie…if you pose one more question in this novel, I will scream. If you go down one more crazy path while trying to solve the murders (in the piazza), I might strangle you.  I became a bit exasperated and didn’t really care whether the murders were solved or not.   I have a bad habit of skipping to the end when I read mysteries and I definitely started skimming the final chapters just to get it over with.

I did enjoy the characters though (sometimes even Maggie) that Moore creates: Thomas, a British artist; Ilaria, the cook for the tour group; and Charles, one of the tourists. Maggie’s husband, Burt, was an enigma and their relationship was a bit odd for having been married for so many years. I thought that relationship plot line was a bit unneeded and dull.  Aunt Gertrude, who makes almost a cameo appearance, was fascinating.  It might be intriguing to read a series on Gertrude’s life.   Maybe Moore is setting that up as well for a future novel.  I also appreciated the descriptions of the art, architecture and history that was provided as the tourists paint their way through Rome’s attractions.

There’s also a lot of suddenly inserted references to Maggie’s life in America: “Hadn’t she single-handedly saved the PTA bake sale when 450 cupcakes, cookies, and Rice Krispies treats were savaged by Mrs. Simpson’s basset hound, Napoleon?” (See, another question.) It made me think that there might be a series of Maggie White mysteries. This is Moore’s debut novel.

Again, I am not a mystery fan so I would love to hear what a mystery buff thinks of this novel.  I’m looking forward to reading the other tour hosts’ posts.

The Food:

There’s lots of good Italian food in this novel (plus a few other references):

  • arsenic in Lord Philip’s whiskey (1)
  • 450 cupcakes, cookies and Rice Krispie Treats (2)
  • charcuterie platter, chocolate semifreddo, fried artichokes, lasagna w/white sauce, monk fish (6)
  • rosemary and thyme (9)
  • espresso (24)
  • casseroles (26)
  • baking bread (26)
  • mini tarts and pastries (27)
  • yogurt, Muesli, dry toast, cottage cheese (27)
  • strawberry cornetto (27)
  • tiramisu (31)
  • gnocchi (54)
  • caramelized eggplant and zucchini (55)
  • roasted veggies, olives, slices of meats & cheeses, provolone, asparagus, loaves of bread  (60)
  • tiramisu and fresh fruit (62)
  • bruschetta, olives, prosecco (78)
  • cappuccino (85)
  • risotto (100)
  • caramels (108)
  • mozzarella (109)
  • olives, capers, pickled veggies (111)
  • tomato and artichoke casserole (120)
  • cocoa (123)
  • grapes and pears (159)
  • paninis with melted mozzarella, roasted red peppers, and tapenade and minestrone (177)
  • spaghetti carbonara (189)
  • lemon shortbreads, chocolate gelato and other cookies (189)
  • Millefoglie (195)
  • lasagna Bolognese (200)

My inspiration came from the minestrone meal with paninis that Ilaria made for the tourists.

Thick and Hearty Minestrone

Based on Beany-Vegetarian Minestrone

The refried beans make this a thicker soup than normal.  Use whatever veggies you have on hand–corn, green beans, peas, zucchini, yellow squash, chard, spinach….


  • 1-2 T. olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • salt and pepper
  • 6 1/2 c. vegetable broth, divided
  • 1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
  • 4-6 small, Yukon gold potatoes, quartered or sliced
  • 1 (14.5 oz.) can fat-free refried black beans
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 t. fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1/2 t. fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 stem of fresh basil
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 (15 oz.) can kidney beans
  • 3/4 c. frozen peas
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • 1/2 c. uncooked pasta (your choice)


  1. Heat olive oil in a large stock pot.  Place the onions, garlic, celery, and carrots in pot and saute until soft and have a bit of color.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add 1/2 cup of the vegetable broth. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, until veggies soften a bit more and broth is reduced.
  2. Add the remaining broth, tomatoes, tomato sauce, potatoes, refried beans, bay leaf, basil stem, oregano, thyme and black pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally to smooth out the refried beans.
  3. Add the kidney beans, peas, zucchini and pasta. Continue to cook for 20 minutes.
  4. Remove the bay leaf and basil stem before serving.

Yield: 8

Love this soup.  I changed up the original recipe a bit.  I used refried black beans instead of regular refried beans and added a few more fresh herbs and more veggies.   This is a keeper.  (This was also supposed to have 2 c. of chard and 1 T. balsamic vinegar stirred in at the end.  I totally spaced and forgot to add it.  It was still delicious.)

Now for the accompanying sandwiches.

Piquillo Pepper-Mozzarella Paninis

Based on Panini with Roasted Peppers

These are also great with tomato soup.


  • 8 slices sourdough bread
  • a good Dijon mustard
  • 1 lb. fresh mozzarella sliced
  • 1 (10 oz) jar grilled Piquillo Peppers (or roasted red peppers)
  • 2 T. Italian olive salad (or tapenade)
  • Olive oil (for grilling)


  1. Make four sandwiches by spreading the slices with Dijon and layering on mozzarella, peppers, and about 1/2 T. (per sandwich) of the olive salad.
  2. Heat a nonstick griddle or grill pan over medium heat.
  3. Wrap a brick completely in foil. (Or, use a heavy small cast iron skillet or any heavy object in your kitchen.)
  4. Brush sandwiches on both sides with oil. Place sandwiches on grill and top with the foil wrapped bricks. Use one brick per 2 sandwiches to weight down. Grill sandwiches 3 minutes on each side.
  5. Serve alone, with a salad, or with the hearty soup above.

Yield: 4

I’m linking up with Foodies Read

as well as Souper Sundays at Kahakai Kitchen.

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