Some people have the knack for making it look effortless.

Samantha Ensign of Ravenel says her friend, Nancy Noble, is one of those cooks.

“I’ve never known anyone who can pull items from the pantry, the freezer and the refrigerator at a moment’s notice and prepare the most delicious and ‘uptown’ meal you can imagine. A meal that would take most of us a week to plan.

“I know this from first-hand experience. A couple of years ago my husband and I were going out to dinner with the Nobles; it was spontaneous so we had no reservations. We could not get in a restaurant without waiting an hour or more so Nancy suggested we head back to their house and she would make dinner. She fixed mussels in white wine sauce, pasta, spinach salad with strawberries and pecans, crusty Italian bread and pistachio ice cream with chocolate sauce ... oh, and vino, of course.”

Name: Nancy Noble.

Age: 63.

Residence: Johns Island.

Family: Husband Roy, son Damien and his wife, Caroline; daughter Jessica and her husband, Lou; and two grandchildren, Julien, 6, and Alexandra, 3.

Occupation: Sales rep.

Q. You specialize in Italian cooking. Is your family Italian, or what influenced you?

A. My husband’s family is Italian. I loved everything at first bite and resolved to cook what we loved to eat. My mother-in-law was a fantastic cook and she showed me the way. Everyone in his family was a terrific cook.

Q. What do people consider your best dish? What do you think makes it special?

A. My Chicken Francese has always been my go-to dish for entertaining. It has all the good stuff: breadcrumbs, Romano cheese, garlic, fresh lemon juice and wine.

Q. Samantha says you can throw a gourmet meal together in a moment’s notice. How do you make it look so easy?

A. A well-stocked pantry helps. We also buy and freeze things like cheese, fresh pizza dough and herbs from the garden for the wintertime. You can freeze just about anything.

Q. Have you traveled to Italy? What was your favorite meal?

A. We were last in Italy 10 years ago but are going again. We are very excited and will visit the Puglia region, which is where Roy’s mother’s side of the family originated.

Our favorite meal last time was a small neighborhood pizzeria in Sienna totally off the beaten path that served the most amazing fish. They didn’t speak any English, and we only had a few Italian words, but we spoke the language of food.

Q. On the wine side, I like ...

A. I am partial to a good Sangiovese. It is not too dry, is full bodied and earthy and works so well with Italian foods or just having a glass of wine with cheese.

Q. In Charleston, one of the best things I ever ate was ...

A. The charred octopus appetizer and the gnocchi with Bolognese sauce at the Wild Olive are fantastic. Mondo’s also inspired my fig recipe below. This is such a hard one to answer since we have had so many delicious dining experiences in Charleston.

Q. People would be surprised to know I don’t like ...

A. To eat desserts. It puts me over the edge.

Q. Do you like any of the “celebrity chefs” in particular?

A. I have always loved Julia Child and Mario Batali. Julia demystified French cooking, and Mario shows the ease of cooking with ingredients on hand.

A favorite recipe


12 fresh figs, washed and cut 3/4 through

4 ounces of cheese, cut in 1/2-inch chunks (can be gorgonzola, feta, goat or brie)

3 ounces of prosciutto, cut in thin strips

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar


Place cheese chunks inside cut figs and wrap with prosciutto. Secure with toothpicks.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in saute pan and brown figs on all sides. Remove to serving dish. Add balsamic vinegar to the pan, deglazing, and reduce to a syrup. Drizzle over the figs and serve immediately. (If figs are not in season, use canned artichokes in water. Drain gently before using.)

If you would like to suggest a good home cook to be profiled, email with “Good Cook” as the subject line. Briefly describe the person’s talent and how you know him or her, and provide their phone number or email address so we can contact them.