When we caught up with Bastianich, renowned chef, restaurateur and host of the PBS show Lidia's Italy, she talked about her new book and her memories of cooking for her children (Joe Bastianich and Tanya Manuali) when they were small. "I think I always reverted to my culture. The basic soup, the basic stock, the basic sauce for the pasta, and I changed according to the season. I reverted to recipes that I learned from my grandmother and mother.''
Bastianich, 67, who lives in Queens, N.Y., with her mother, Erminia Motika, has five grandchildren. Her restaurants include Felidia, Becco, Esca and Del Posto in New York as well as Lidia's Pittsburgh and Lidia's Kansas City.
Her new book, Lidia's Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine: Everything You Need to Know to Be a Great Italian Cook, is a three-year joint effort between the master chef and her daughter. It includes hundreds of recipes, illustrations and a glossary.
What's on your nightstand?
Lately I've been into biographies. I finished reading Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War by Robert M. Gates. In these times, I want to understand how the people that govern us see things. I also have Vigilance by Ray Kelly. He was the police commissioner in New York City, and I wanted to see what his thoughts are of cities like New York where homicides are going on. These two books, I take and read on the plane. I also have The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and in Business by Charles Duhigg and Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. So, I read the biographies and now I'm going to get more in depth with (the mind). I like to have long periods of time to read. I look forward to three- or four-hour plane rides to read and when I'm on vacation, but also weekends when there's an aroma in the house, and you just kind of stretch out on the couch.
I was wondering if any cookbooks were on your nightstand.
You know, I always just skim cookbooks, but it's funny, people have told me, "Oh, Lidia, I take your book to read in bed.'' I tell them, "You should take it into the kitchen, not the bedroom.'' But, I understand. Cookbooks don't demand a high intense amount of concentration. Food is soft. It is positive. Food helps shape everybody's memories.
Should they have your new book on their nightstand?
It is a comprehensive book. My daughter helped me. She's an art historian, a great researcher and a great reader, actually. People can get little bits of information throughout the book. It's a lot about understanding ingredients. I encourage people to make recipes their own and understand the technique, like, if you understand how to make risotto, you can bring it into any season. Now it is squash. In summer, it's peas, and so on.
Contact Piper Castillo at [email protected] Follow @Florida_PBJC.