"It's really lovely. When it's that close and that fresh, there's such a beauty in the simplicity of the food," she says.
Fanucchi, one of four siblings, laughs when asked if she does the cooking at family gatherings.
"I'm really low on the totem pole," she jokes, adding that among the talented cooks in her clan are her father (an expert fisherman and barbecuer) and an older brother, who makes homemade olives.
At first, Fanucchi, who is not a community member, but who has worked at the center since 2007, worried she was not up to the task of contributing to a cookbook. She is quick to credit others with inspiring her, saying she does not consider herself a recipe developer.
"Then they said, 'Teresa, just put down on paper what you cook.' Well, I can do that. When you say it that way, it's not as intimidating," Fanucchi says.
Some recipes echo her childhood meals, such as ratatouille over soft polenta. The eggplant and zucchini are roasted before being added to sautéed onions, bell peppers and fresh tomatoes. And here's a treat Fanucchi learned at her mother's side — chill leftover polenta, then slice it and fry it in olive oil for breakfast.
In addition to her recipes, the book features cookie recipes by longtime baker Ann Chamberlin, who retired from the center this year. Fanucchi is continuing the tradition of welcoming guests with homemade cookies.
Fanucchi and the others who worked on the cookbook say they were motivated by wanting to help the center and to honor the Immaculate Heart Community. "It really did become a labor of love for us," Vecchione says. "The more we became involved in the history of the center and how brave these women were, the more it became something that drove the project forward, as well as just our love for the food."
"A Place at the Table" is available for $35 plus shipping at http://www.immaculateheartcenter.org.