Stuffed mushrooms with Italian sausage, breadcrumbs, fresh sage, thyme, and melted blue cheese; with a glass of red wine. Selective focus.

Stuffed mushrooms are simple and also offer a lot of versatility.

This dish, loved by many, offers a chance to combine a variety of fresh ingredients and to create a multitude of unique culinary experiences.

Personal chef Johnny Carino recently took a coastal approach and created a recipe for stuffed mushrooms with shrimp, cheese, and spinach that is sure to be a crowd-pleaser at holiday events this season.

“I happen to be a mushroom fanatic,” Carino says. “So many different mushrooms exist, many have different tastes and textures, so I find it to be an ingredient that allows you to do almost anything you love and add fresh, flavorful ingredients.”

Carino has been cooking since he was 15, and he dreamed as a child of becoming a chef while he watched his Sicilian grandmother, standing on a stool as she cooked.

Growing up Italian, it was a godsend to be exposed to both great food and great passion, says Carino. It inspired him to go on to open more than 100 restaurants all over the world. He is also the namesake of the Johnny Carino’s restaurant chain.

Locally, Carino is well known for his culinary skills and unique creations.

“Becoming a personal chef happened when I wanted to have a personal way to cook and help others celebrate family, love, and of course, food,” he says. “I’ve had the honor of cooking for some really great folks.”

His business is personalized and focused on catering in homes for special events rather than for large affairs.

“Doing so allows a very much custom event and allows me to target and meet each client’s personal needs,” Carino says. “It truly is an amazing thing providing lifetime memories.”

And for those seeking to bring a delicious dish to any event this holiday season, Carino recommends the stuffed mushroom.

“Bringing these to a party lets you showcase your culinary skills, and as you can see you can create both vegan and non-vegan dishes,” he says. “Mushrooms to me exemplify the fall and winter months but are also great in the summer and spring, so it’s a very versatile ingredient.”