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The Daily Meal Council is an assembly of respected chefs, restaurateurs, writers, purveyors, food historians, and others who play key roles in the food world. They have agreed to share their opinions and their expertise with us from time to time, answering occasional queries, responding to surveys, and advising us on matters of importance to us all.
Lidia Bastianich was born on the Istrian Peninsula, then part of Italy but today belonging to Croatia. As a child, she visited her grandparents’ farm in Busoler, near Pula, Istria's main city. Her grandparents grew, raised, produced, vinified, and milled everything they needed to survive, and bartered any excess for items that they did not have. Her grandmother's simple country cooking was a major influence on her later career. Bastianich immigrated to the United States at the age of twelve, and got her first food-related job at a bakery near her family’s apartment in Astoria, Queens. Years later, in 1971, she opened a restaurant in Forest Hills with her husband, Felice Bastianich. A decade after that, the Bastianichs launched Felidia in Manhattan. With her children, Joe and Tanya, Bastianich currently co-owns Felidia, Becco, Esca, and Del Posto, all in New York City, Lidia’s Kansas City, Lidia’s Pittsburgh, and Eataly in New York and Chicago. Together with Tanya, she also runs a food product line and a television production company, and has starred in the three-time Emmy-nominated television series Lidia’s Kitchen, Lidia’s Italy in America, and Lidia’s Italy. Her cookbooks, co-authored with Tanya, include Lidia’s Commonsense Italian Cooking, Lidia’s Favorite Recipes, Lidia’s Italy in America, Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy, Lidia’s Italy, and two children's books, Nonna Tell Me a Story: Lidia’s Christmas Kitchen and Lidia’s Family Kitchen: Nonna’s Birthday Surprise.
What's your earliest food memory?
My earliest food and sensory memory is helping my grandmother in the garden. As a little girl, I’d walk behind her as she hoed up the potatoes; she would pick the large ones, and I would collect the smaller potatoes in my basket. I still recall the warmth of those potatoes in my hands. In addition, when it was time to plant potatoes, I recall cutting up the stored potatoes that had grown sprouts. Each piece of cut potato with a sprout which, when planted, grew into a new potato bush and yielded a new crop of potatoes. I vividly recall the seasons and the fruits and vegetables they gifted us, and my grandmother harvesting them and making great food with them. I recall picking those vegetables alongside my grandma, and I would help to clean and wash them in the courtyard, where the beans were shelled, the garlic was braided, and the seeds were flailed out on mats to get them ready for the next planting season. We dried, pickled, and jarred vegetables, too, for use during the leaner, cold months of the year. In the fall, the whole courtyard would be festooned with drying beans, onions, garlic. We made our own olive oil, fermented the wine, and even grew wheat, and we would go regularly throughout the year to the mill to turn it into flour for the making of pasta and bread. We had courtyard animals as well: chickens, geese, ducks, rabbits, goats, and pigs. All were an essential part of our food chain, part of our daily table. For me the experience of growing and raising of food is an integral part of being a chef, as is understanding and appreciating where food comes from; the cooking part, that is the secondary phase.
When did you decide that you wanted to be in the restaurant business, and why?
I always had a love and respect for food, thanks to those special memories with my grandmother. Once we moved to the United States, I found myself naturally gravitating towards the kitchen. With both parents working full time, I was often in charge of dinner and found complete comfort and happiness when grocery shopping and following directions that my mother left me in the morning before she left for work. My first food related job was at the Walken Family bakery not far from our apartment in Astoria, and although I began as a sales girl at the counter, I found myself always wanting to be back in the kitchen preparing and decorating the desserts. Years later, I married Felice Bastianich, who also shared an intense interest in food, and as a professional in the restaurant industry, eventually wanted to open a restaurant. In 1971, we opened a 30-seat establishment in the Forest Hills section of Queens. I worked as the sous chef and honed my kitchen skills. In 1977, we opened a second restaurant in Queens, and by 1981 we had sold both of those establishments and leveraged all the proceeds and made our big move to Manhattan and opened my flagship restaurant in Manhattan, Felidia, where I became the chef.
A Conversation with Lidia Bastianich:
“In one way or another, food has always been at the forefront of my life—whether growing it, harvesting it, not having enough of it, or having more than enough and selling some of it at the local market or preparing it, eating it, sharing it, and enjoying it,” writes Lidia Matticchio Bastianich in her new memoir, "My American Dream: A Life of Love, Family and Food."
Celebrity chef and author Lidia Bastianich is scheduled to appear at The Music Hall on March 12 for Writers on the New England Stage, where she will talk about her new book and the role that food has played in her life. Host of the Emmy Award-winning PBS series, "Lidia’s Kitchen," she is the author of 13 cookbooks and three children’s books. Bastianich is the chef-owner of four acclaimed New York City restaurants. She also runs and operates restaurants with her daughter, Tanya, and with her son, Joe. Believing that good food begins with good ingredients, she opened Eataly, the largest artisanal food and wine marketplace, in New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Seacoast Media Group recently talked to Bastianich about her new memoir and the fulfillment of her own American dream. The story she recounts began in Pula, a small city on the tip of the Istrian peninsula where she was born. She enjoyed a childhood that was easy and free — learning to cook from her grandmother, Nonna Rosa, foraging for wild mushrooms and asparagus, and fishing with her uncle Emilio. She helped her grandmother care for her large garden and tended pigs, goats, chickens and geese at her home in nearby Busoler.
But life was also difficult for the ethnic Italian community under the Communist regime of Marshal Tito. Speaking Italian and practicing religion were forbidden. Many small family farms were confiscated and replaced by large government-owned farms. Her parents eventually made the decision to leave everything behind and flee with Lidia and her brother, Franco, across the border to Trieste in Italy.
As a young girl, Bastianich spent two years in a refugee camp called San Sabba in Trieste waiting for visas to enter the United States. Staying close as a family, her biggest regret was that she hadn’t been able to say goodbye to her grandmother. Eventually, she and her family immigrated to America in 1958.
Looking back on her experience as an immigrant, Bastianich said that she sees a parallel to what is happening today.
“Will the world never learn?” she asked. “Unfortunately, there are people who don’t want to embrace someone else’s identity. The two years I spent in the refugee camp at San Sabba makes me able to understand the plight of these families today. If not for the many good people we encountered along the way, I don’t know where I would be today.”
In "My American Dream,"ꂺstianich tells her deeply personal and inspiring story of struggle, determination, family, and her passionate love of food.
Cooking in Lidia’s Kitchen
For the many fans of "Lidia’s Kitchen," the program is reminiscent of learning to cook with one’s own mother, grandmother or a dear friend. Until recently, when the program was moved to a studio, "Lidia’s Kitchen" was filmed in her own kitchen in Douglaston, New York, with her 97-year-old mother at her side.
Bastianich sees herself as a teacher, rather than as a performer.
“The idea behind Lidia’s Kitchen is to teach people how to cook real food … simple food that reflects a heritage and recipes that are passed down through families and generations,” she said. “When the holidays come, there are certain things that need to be on the table. Family members who are no longer with us are still present in the food we prepare. To this day, the aroma of rosemary is like being in a room with grandma.”
As she traveled from her home in Istria to a new life in America, she writes in her memoir that 𠇏ood was like an umbilical cord – a connection to Grandma … When I became a mother, I tried to give my children the same security and comfort that my grandmother gave me through food.”
As the author of multiple cookbooks, she notes that in the past recipes were not written down.
“It was a pinch of this, or a little of that. That’s how things were measured,” she said. “Recipes should be a guide, but feel free to roam. Everyone has their own style. It makes cooking more creative.”
Bastianich said that being a chef is “really about the products — fresh wholesome food like I had in Nonna Rosa’s garden.” That was the idea behind introducing her own line of products and the success of the Eataly markets. She believes the slow food movement signals a promising return to “real food.”
She said food is also a way to highlight the diversity of America. In her new PBS series, "Lidia Celebrates America," she takes viewers on a cross-country tour to explore how immigrants have preserved their traditions through food.
“Preserving our different cultures is what gives strength to America,” she said.
Family remains a cornerstone of Bastianich’s life. She encouraged her son and daughter to get an education and pursue their own dreams. But she was very pleased when Tanya and Joe eventually decided to join her in her restaurant and food-related endeavors.
Preserving her own history was the spirit behind writing her memoir. She returns every year to visit Nonna Rosa’s courtyard at the home in Istria that she has maintained and refurbished. She has even taken her grandchildren to visit San Sabba in Trieste where she spent those difficult years as a refugee.
“It’s important to tell our stories,” she said. “They are like sharing recipes — passing them down from one generation to the next. People know me as a chef, but there is a lot more that goes into shaping a life.”
Here&rsquos how to cook Potato and Egg Frico by Lidia Bastianich.
Potato and Egg Frico
- 1 1&frasl2 pounds russet potatoes (about 4 small potatoes)
- 1&frasl4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large onions, sliced
- 1&frasl4 cup drained, chopped pickled peperoncino
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 cups shredded Asiago
- 1&frasl4 cup fine-grind polenta or cornmeal
- 6 large eggs
- Put the potatoes in a large saucepan with water to cover, and simmer until a knife just pierces the
- potatoes or they are about halfway cooked, about 10 to 12 minutes. Drain, cool, peel, and slice 1&frasl2-inch thick.
- Heat a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat, and add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion, potatoes, and pepperoncini, and cook until browned, about 8-10 minutes. Season with salt and scrape onto a plate.
- In a large bowl, toss together the Asiago and polenta. Wipe the skillet clean, and return it to medium heat. Sprinkle half of the cheese mixture in an even layer in the pan, and top with 3&frasl4 of the potato mixture, spreading evenly. Make six depressions in the potato mixture, and break an egg into each.
- Spoon remaining potato mixture gently over each egg. Sprinkle over this the rest of the cheese mixture to cover evenly.
- Cook, moving the pan around the flame, so each part of the bottom browns evenly. You will know the frico is ready to flip when it slides in the pan. If necessary, loosen the sides with a knife to help it along.
- Gently invert the frico into another 12-inch nonstick skillet or slide the frico onto a 12-inch plate and invert in the same skillet. Continue to cook until the bottom is browned and the eggs are set, about 4 to 5 minutes for yolks that are still runny.
Recipe provided by Lidia Bastianich.
Having made this recipe with my children, there are a few similarities to the classic Eggs in Purgatory (which cooks eggs in tomatoes). The hardest part of this recipe is flipping the frico. The best advice is not to be hard on yourself. Even if you do not have the perfect flip, it will still taste delicious. Cooking is not always about perfection it is about the taste.
Additionally, it is important to have a good non-stick skillet for this dish. If you don&rsquot have a good 12-inch non-stick skillet, it is time to upgrade some of those kitchen essentials.
While the potato and egg frico is a delicious for dinner or even brunch, pasta is a common ingredient in many classic Italian recipes. For Bastianich, she likes to share stories about her family and their pasta dishes. Although the old-world recipes might be slightly different from today&rsquos plates, the stories show the connection between the generations.
In her recipe Spaghetti with Breadcrumbs and Anchovies, Bastianich shows how women would innovative with the ingredients that were on hand. More importantly, nothing was wasted in the Italian household, a lesson that many people need to remember today.
While some people might put breadcrumb topping on a mac and cheese, this recipe uses breadcrumbs as the poor man&rsquos cheese. Simply using left over (or stale bread) in the recipe ensures that nothing goes to waste.
In addition, the breadcrumbs add a layer of texture to the pasta dish. That little bit of crunch makes each bite even more satisfying.
Lastly, the anchovies are an important part to this dish. For novice cooks, the anchovies might be a little difficult because of the flavor and texture. Still, anchovies are a great way to add flavor, saltiness, to a dish. It is definitely an ingredient to learn to like.
An Italian meal out at a restaurant in Queens circa the seventies would likely have featured something parmigiana—fried veal or eggplant with red sauce and white cheese. It might have been delicious, it might not have, but it wouldn’t have been authentic in that “homesick for the old country” sense. It would have been “Italian-American cuisine,” says Lidia Bastianich, the 69-year-old chef and cookbook author turned culinary celebrity of her role in introducing to the North American palate regional, northern Italian, and Istrian fare. “I was an immigrant,” says Bastianich, who headed up her first kitchen upon opening Felidia in New York in 1981, “and I remembered the food—regional Italian food: polenta, risottos—and I started cooking all these foods, and interest came from the press.”
Young Bastianich soon drew attention from within the culinary community as well. Julia Child, upon tasting Bastianich’s mushroom risotto, requested a private cooking lesson, sparking a friendship between the two that led to Bastianich being a guest on Child’s Cooking with Master Chefs program in 1993 and subsequently allotted a cooking show of her own. (“You do for Italian cuisine what I did for French,” Bastianich remembers Child encouraging her.) It was an auspicious start to a career that’s seen 10 cookbooks, five television shows, an array of supermarket sauces and dry pastas, three children’s books, two social media feeds she updates herself (Instagram and Twitter), a partnership role with every North and South American Eataly location (including an anticipated Toronto outpost), and one dinner cooked for Pope John Paul II, before which he blessed each member of her kitchen staff individually.
“You do for Italian cuisine what I did for French,” Bastianich remembers Julia Child encouraging her.
Bastianich’s distinctive personality, palate, and narrative sensibility elevate all her endeavours—she is the no-nonsense nonna keen for you to not just enjoy yourself, but to learn something useful. So it’s fitting that these days she identifies most as a mentor, particularly in her role as a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier, an international, invite-only philanthropic society focused on women in the culinary industry. “I’ve been with the Dames at least 20 years,” says Bastianich, who will be honoured by the society’s only Canadian chapter, located in B.C., this autumn. “Women from all walks of food life form Les Dames, from chefs to writers and food scientists and anthropologists,” she continues. “Supporting young women in the industry and giving them opportunity to develop is crucial—to be a food professional, you need to surround yourself with mentors.”
Less frequently in the kitchen herself these days, Bastianich is focusing on transferring the knowledge she’s accrued throughout her career to her team, including her children, Tanya and Joe, with whom she works. (Bastianich also teaches cooking classes at Eataly’s La Scuola cooking school in New York and Chicago). “Educating people—and giving them the opportunity to familiarize themselves with Italian products, culture, and techniques—is a role I really like,” she says, “and I like sharing the stories of recipes: how they came to be, based on history and region. It’s what we call una vita vissuta in Italian—a life lived.”
Lidia Bastianich's Favorite Family Meals
Here, legendary cookbook author and restaurateur Lidia Bastianich takes about her favorite family meals.
F&W&aposs #FOODWINEWOMEN series spotlights top women in food and drink in collaboration with Toklas Society. Follow the hashtag and share your best memories on Twitter (@foodandwine).
- Who: Lidia Bastianich
- What: Emmy award-winning TV host, best-selling cookbook author and restaurateur
- Where:Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group @LidiaBastianich
I am truly fortunate that cooking—something I have loved ever since I was a small child-has become my life’s work. My days are filled with the challenges and delights of making delicious food, whether on television, for my cookbooks, or together with my chefs.
However, I am most fortunate when I am home, in my free time, and I get to cook again, and it’s with and for my family. Sundays and holidays are the special days for cooking in my home. It is a time when I get to relax in my kitchen and cook a meal for those I love dearly: my mother, my children and my five grandchildren.
My children and grandchildren have all been sniffing the aromas and enjoying the textures and tastes of my food since they were babies. When still unable to walk, I crushed leaves of basil, thyme and rosemary under their noses, and as soon as they could chew they would join us at the family table and tasted the dishes that the adults ate. By pre-school, they were helping me in the kitchen shape gnocchi or roll out fresh pasta dough. Now, my grandchildren range in age from eleven to seventeen and join me in various tasks in the kitchen, including chopping, mixing, baking and also clean up! Without a doubt, my favorite dishes to cook for them (and with them) are simple spaghetti with tomato and basil sauce, a risotto with chicken alla Pitoca, gnocchi with butter and sage, Grandma’s chicken and potatoes and apple strudel.
Cooking together and eating together at the family table is a message that is intrinsic with my passion for cooking and something that I have been sharing with my family, my customers, viewers and readers from the beginning. It is at the table that important family discussions are had and memories are made. I guess that’s why the following phrase came so naturally to me during the first episode of my Public Television show over fifteen years ago, “Tutti a Tavola A Mangiare!”—𠇎veryone to the table to Eat!”
Lidia Bastianich is worth a surprising amount
It wasn't long after Bastianich and her now ex-husband opened their first restaurant that they opened up Secondo, per Celebrity Net Worth. But, it wasn't until her third restaurant when she met iconic American chef Julia Child that things started to change for the mother-of-two. Showbiz CheatSheet reports that Child would frequent her restaurant Felidia and eventually went on to invite Bastianich on her show Cooking with Master Chefs, catapulting Bastianich into the TV world.
Since then, she has gone on to produce 14 celebrated cookbooks, three children's books, and a memoir, per her website. Although her first two restaurants are now defunct, Bastianich still owns Felidia along with Lidia's Kansas City, Becco, Del Posto, and Eataly (which has locations in Las Vegas, New York City, Boston, Los Angeles, and Chicago). The famous cook also hosted several award-winning shows and specials like Lidia's Italian Table and Lidia Celebrates America (via Celebrity Net Worth). With all of this on her plate, it's no wonder Bastianich's net worth rounds out at a cool $16 million.
Lidia Bastianich continued her food empire with Eataly
In 2010, soaring on the success of her various television, cookbook, and restaurant projects, Bastianich partnered with son Joe, chef Mario Batali, and businessman Oscar Farinetti to open the first U.S. location of Eataly, the sprawling, 50,000-square-foot conglomeration of Italian-themed restaurants and shops located in New York's Flatiron District. The venture was an immediate success, with locals and tourists alike filling their shopping baskets with fresh pasta, aged cheeses, and fine wines. In October 2010, just a few months after Eataly opened, The New York Times called the location "enormously crowded." Today, there are seven Eataly locations across the country.
Now a long way from her difficult origins across the Atlantic, Bastianich has created a life — and a career — on new shores. And through her food, she has learned about the culture of her second home. "I'm an immigrant," she told GBH in March 2021, promoting her special Lidia Celebrates America: A Salute to First Responders. "I wanted to know more about America, about what makes America America."
‘Lidia’s Favorite Recipes’ cookbook combines Bastianich’s love of food, family
Lidia Bastianich is as warm and entertaining in person as she is on television.
Bastianich, host of “Lidia’s Italy” on PBS, swung through town last week for a fundraiser and met local food writers for lunch to talk about food, family and her new cookbook, which has everything to do with both.
“Lidia’s Favorite Recipes,” co- written with Bastianich’s daughter, Tanya Bastianich Manuali, is a collection of recipes Lidia makes in her own kitchen and serves to her family.
Bastianich said the recipes have all been streamlined to make cooking as simple and enjoyable as possible.
“But still, the complexity of flavors is there,” Bastianich said.
Bastianich also dished on reality for most cooks, even those with restaurants and TV shows.
“Nothing in this cookbook is mine,” Bastianich said. “(The recipes) are Italian, or you borrow (them) from someone and you work with it.”
She also included many recipes that have been fan favorites over the years.
After reading the charming book, I came to a conclusion: I’d like to be invited to dinner at Bastianich’s house.
While awaiting my invitation, I’ll start cooking some of the recipes. I think baked polenta layered with a mushroom ragu sounds perfect for this chilly weekend.
Everyone's Italian when celebrating with Lidia Bastianich
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Many of Lidia Bastianich's best culinary creations begin with two words: “Company's coming!”
The Emmy Award-winning public television host, restaurateur and best-selling cookbook author has a flair for entertaining guests that runs the gamut from extravagant to simple – from a formal sit-down dinner or a holiday gathering, to a buffet, barbecue or football game watch party with an array of hors d'oeuvres that exceeds “chips and dip” expectations.
“Some of the best times are spent at the table with family and friends, and there is always room for a celebration of that, whether it's an official party or just a regular Saturday afternoon,” she says.
Or a Tuesday evening, which is when Bastianich invites fellow foodies to join her Oct. 24 at her Lidia's Pittsburgh restaurant for a launch party of her latest cookbook, “Celebrate Like An Italian” (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, $35), written with her daughter, Tanya Bastianich Manuali.
The event will include a book-signing and four-course dinner featuring some of the cookbook's 220 dishes that she says are foolproof recipes that make every meal a party.
“Most cooks have difficulties cooking for a large group, so in this book, I give them recipes that are ideal for the different parties or events, and I tell them how to plan the party and the food,” Bastianich says. “I am hoping this book makes it easy and enjoyable to entertain.”
Her “Celebrate Like An Italian” dinner will feature recipes selected by Bastianich and Lidia's Pittsburgh executive chef Daniel Walker and his culinary team, paired with wines from her vineyards and coffee and tea service.
Antipasti, served family style: Crostata with Wild Mushroom and Onion, Caesar Salad with Baby Kale and Focaccia Croutons, Prosciutto with Spicy Giardiniera, Italian Deviled Eggs and Montasio Frico with Shrimp and Scallions
Pasta: Pear and Pecorino Ravioli with Cacio e Pepe Sauce and Pappardelle with Beef Guazzetto
Secondi, choose one: Mixed Seafood Brodetto, Heritage Pork Shank with Barley Risotto, Lemon Chicken with Sautéed Spinach or Portobellos Stuffed with Quinoa, Kale and Goat Cheese, and
Dolci, served family style: Chocolate Ricotta Cheesecake, Coffee Panna Cotta, Fig and Hazelnut Cookies.
With the holiday season just around the corner, Bastianich advises home cooks to wisely prepare ahead of time, and plan on having prepared foods in the freezer, such as stock, soups, sauces and basic sponge cake, foods that can be defrosted and turned into one course during a meal.
She also recommends planning a meal so that not everything is cooked on the stovetop or in the oven, but divided to include some cold salads, some vegetables in the oven, and other items on the stovetop, always striving to time the hot dishes so everything comes out hot together.
“I also personally like baked pasta because it can be prepared the day prior and then put in the oven, alleviating some of the work the day of the event,” she says. “I also prep my vegetables prior and choose the serving platters and utensils I will need in advance, so I am ready to go with everything at hand while cooking.”
A cold appetizer platter set out buffet-style allows the cook to be part of the party.
“The cook can mingle for a bit with a glass of Prosecco while people are enjoying the appetizers, and then head back into the kitchen to move the meal along,” she says.
Get-togethers and celebrations are always fun times at her house, particularly during the holidays.
“We especially love Thanksgiving because we celebrate an American holiday with mostly Italian food,” she says. “We make the turkey a bit Italian by glazing it with balsamic vinegar and everyone has a dish they bring.”
“Celebrate Like an Italian” is the seventh book she has co-authored with Tanya.
Bastianich's next book, her memoir titled “My American Dream: A Life of Love, Family and Food,” is due for release in spring 2018.
Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.
Bruschetta with Prosciuttoand Figs
If you have any leftover balsamic reduction, it is good drizzled over cooked vegetables or chunks of Grana Padano. Makes 6.
6 thick slices country bread, grilled or toasted on both sides, still warm
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
6 ripe figs, thickly sliced
12 thin slices prosciutto
Combine the vinegar, honey, and bay leaf in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, and cook until thick and syrupy and reduced to 1 ⁄3 cup, about 5 to 6 minutes. Let cool. Discard bay leaf.
Drizzle the warm bread with olive oil, and season with salt. Lay the fig slices over the bread. Drape the prosciutto over the figs. Drizzle with balsamic reduction. Serve.
Beef and Arugula Bruschetta
For an elegant starter, make this with thinly sliced beef tenderloin and your own homemade giardiniera (Italian relish). For a super-quick version, use sliced rare roast beef and giardiniera from a good deli.
Makes 16, serving 8 as a first course, more as part of an antipasto buffet
16 ½-inch-thick slices hearty country bread
2 cups drained giardiniera, plus 2 tablespoons of the brine
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups loosely packed baby arugula, coarsely chopped
1 pound beef tenderloin, cooked rare to medium, thinly sliced (or 1 pound thinly sliced rare roast beef from the deli)
Lightly toast or grill the bread on both sides. In a large bowl, toss together the giardiniera, brine and olive oil. Add the arugula and toss gently. Taste, and season with salt if necessary. Layer the beef on the bread. Top with the giardiniera mixture, and drizzle with any juices left in the bowl. Serve immediately.
Cannellini and Pancetta Bruschetta
The beans can be made a day ahead just warm them up before serving. This recipe might give more beans than you need, but they will keep for several days and also freeze well. Stir them into soup, or serve as a side dish next to a big grilled steak. In a pinch, canned cannellini can be used. Drain them and sauté them with the oil and parsley for a few minutes, until warm.
1 pound dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 large stalk celery, finely chopped
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
16 slices country bread, about 3 inches long each, grilled or toasted
Drain the soaked cannellini, and put in a pot with water to cover by 2 inches. Add the carrot, celery, bay leaves, and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.
Cover, bring to a simmer, and cook until the beans are tender, about 1 hour.
Uncover the beans, and simmer to reduce the cooking liquid down so it just covers the beans, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, season with the salt, and let cool until just warm. Drain the beans, and toss with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and the parsley.
Meanwhile, lay the pancetta in a nonstick skillet (you may have to do this in batches), and cook over medium heat until crisp.
To serve, mound some of the warm beans on the bread slices on a platter. Drizzle with a little more olive oil. Break the pancetta into shards, and set them on top of the beans.
Crostata with Kale, Butternut Squash and Ricotta
You can make this crostata, or tart, earlier in the day and serve at room temperature.
It makes for a lovely first course or lunch with a side of dressed greens—and is just as good cut into bite-sized squares as part of a buffet. You can wrap leftovers in foil and freeze them thaw and reheat before serving.
Serves 10 to 12 as a first course, more as an hors d'oeuvre
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Unsalted butter, softened, for the sheet pan
1 pound peeled butternut squash, grated on the coarse holes of a box grater
½ cup Arborio or other short-grain rice
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for cooking water
1 bunch kale, stemmed and chopped (about 8 cups)
1½ pounds fresh ricotta (about 2½ cups)
2 cups grated Grana Padano
2 bunches scallions, white and green parts, chopped (about 2 cups)
½ cup golden raisins (optional)
For the dough, in a food processor, combine the flour and salt and pulse to mix. In a spouted measuring cup, whisk together the olive oil and 1 ⁄3 cup cold water. With the machine running, pour in the liquids and process until a soft dough forms on the blade, about 30 seconds. If the dough is still crumbly, add a bit more water. If it is too wet, add a bit more flour. Dump the dough on a floured countertop, and knead until it just comes together. Wrap in plastic wrap, and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes (or refrigerate, if making a day ahead).
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a rimmed half-sheet pan. For the filling, in a large bowl, stir together the grated squash and rice and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour, so the rice absorbs some of the liquid from the squash.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil and add the kale. Simmer until just tender, about 10 minutes. Rinse, drain, cool and squeeze very dry and finely chop the kale.
Add to the bowl, along with the ricotta, grated cheese, scallions, eggs, milk, cream, raisins (if using) and 1 teaspoon salt. Mix well.
On a floured work surface, roll the dough to a rectangle 2 inches longer and wider than the sheet pan. Center the dough in the pan and press to fit. Pour and spread the filling into the crust, and fold the edges of the crust back over to create the sides of the crostata. Bake until the crust is deep golden brown and the filling is set, about 50 minutes. Cool on a rack before cutting into squares.
Fig and Hazelnut Butter Cookies
These cookies can be made a day ahead. Store them in an airtight container between layers of parchment so they don't stick together. You can play around with combinations of jam and nuts for the filling, as you like.
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 ⁄3 cup coarsely chopped toasted skinned hazelnuts
Sift the flour and salt together. Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until very pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes, then beat in the egg and vanilla extract. At low speed, mix in the flour mixture until a dough forms. Wrap dough in plastic, and chill until firm, about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees with racks in the top and bottom thirds. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Pinch off heaping-teaspoon-sized pieces of dough and roll them into balls. Place balls on the prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart, and flatten them slightly with the palm of your hand. Bake them until they are puffed but not browned, about 8 minutes.
Remove baking sheets from oven, and carefully make a small crater in the middle of each cookie, using a teaspoon-sized measuring spoon.
Fill each crater with 1 ⁄4 to 1 ⁄2 teaspoon preserves, and sprinkle some chopped hazelnuts into the preserves.
Finish baking the cookies until they are golden brown on the bottom and edges, about 8 minutes more. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer them to racks and cool completely.
Store in airtight containers at room temperature.
Recipes from “Lidia's Celebrate Like An Italian” (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)
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5 things you didn’t know about Lidia Bastianich
Lidia Bastianich is a staple of public television and one of America’s most beloved chefs, with a series of long-running cooking shows in which she cooks hearty and unfussy Italian classics in an engaging and straightforward way. Her simple stand-and-stir approach is a welcome respite from Food Network’s overwrought cooking shows, and it’s clear from even one viewing that Lidia really knows what she’s talking about. So Tutti a tavola a mangiare! Let’s learn some things about this renowned chef, restaurateur, and cookbook author.
She Was Born in Modern-Day Croatia
Lidia (nee Matticchio) was born in the city of Pola on the Istrian peninsula, which was originally Italian territory but became a part of Yugoslavia just several months before she was born in 1947. After spending nine years growing up under Marshall Tito’s Communist regime there, her family fled to Trieste, Italy, as a part of what came to be known as the Istrian exodus. After spending several years in a refugee camp, she emigrated to the U.S with her family at age 12.
When She Was 14, She Worked at a Bakery With Christopher Walken
Yes, the Christopher Walken. Her family eventually settled in Queens, and for a time she worked at a bakery in the borough’s Astoria neighborhood that was owned by Walken’s father. Walken and Bastianich became friends, and are still good friends to this day.
She Met Her Husband at Her Sweet Sixteen
Lidia was introduced to her future husband, a fellow Istrian immigrant named Felix Bastianich, at her Sweet Sixteen. Felix also left Istria at around the same time Lidia did, and they wed in 1966. The couple opened their first restaurant, a small Italian spot called Buonavia, in Forest Hills, Queens, in 1971. They divorced in 1998 (reportedly over disagreements about expanding the business), and Felix passed away in 2010.
She Learned to Cook In Her Own Restaurant’s Kitchen
When Buonavia opened, Lidia was actually the hostess. She trained to be an assistant chef there, however, and her cooking proved to be so popular that the couple was able to open a second restaurant in Queens, Villa Secondo. By this point, Lidia was beginning to achieve a level of local renown and also began giving cooking demonstrations.
Julia Child Introduced Her to a National Audience
By 1993, Lidia had already run the renowned Felidia (a combination of Felix’s name and hers) for 10 years in New York and had just opened the acclaimed Becco in the Theater District with her son, Joe (who’s now Mario Batali’s business partner). That year, Child invited Lidia to appear on her show, Julia Child: Cooking With Master Chefs, and she performed so well that she decided to focus on opening additional restaurants and launching her own show. In 1998, her first show, Lidia’s Italian Kitchen, debuted on Public Television.
Bonus: Her trademark phrase, “Tutti a tavola a mangiare!,” translates to “Everyone to the table to eat!”