Lidia Bastianich shows that classic Italian recipes are perfect for family dinners.
When it comes to classic Italian recipes, Lidia Bastianich is a food authority. From her numerous cookbooks to her well-respected restaurants to her PBS television shows, Bastianich is more than a highly acclaimed chef. She has a way of melding stories into her recipes. In many cases, those recipes are a reflection of her family’s past, present and future.
Recently, many people have discovered the kitchen and the joy of cooking. Although some aspiring foodies might want to jump into the deep end with complicated, elevated recipes, it can be better to start simple. While it might be nice to replicate that signature chef’s dish, cooking it at home can be quite harder than it seems.
Luckily, Bastianich has a way of highlighting recipes that are simple, classic Italian recipes that anyone can master. Many of the recipes use pantry ingredients, which makes the recipe more approachable to the home cook. By using common, easily available ingredients, that recipe is seems doable even for the person who might have difficulty boiling water.
Recently, I spoke to Lidia Bastianich over the phone. While more information on our conversation will come in future article, the advice that she gave about her recipes was straightforward. Similar to her PBS television show, her recipes seem to be comforting food. It is the food that satisfies not only the hunger in your stomach but the hunger in your soul.
From bringing a piece of family history to the table to the memories that an aroma can awaken, these dishes are more than just another family dinner. They can spark a conversation that lasts far longer than the food on the plate.
For example, Bastianich shared a recipe for Potato and Egg Frico. The humble potato is the base for this recipe. More importantly, the simplicity in the recipe only highlights the flavors. Sometimes, the best dishes do not need superfluous ingredients.
Bastianich noted that even the most novice cook can gain confidence in the kitchen and can master a recipe. She recommended to start small, with a few ingredients and common foods.
More importantly, she reminded me that any dish is gift to the person that you serve. When a meal is cooked with intention, the recipe is filled with flavor and love. That bite is always the best nourishment.
Here’s how to cook Potato and Egg Frico by Lidia Bastianich.
Potato and Egg Frico
- 1 1⁄2 pounds russet potatoes (about 4 small potatoes)
- 1⁄4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large onions, sliced
- 1⁄4 cup drained, chopped pickled peperoncino
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 cups shredded Asiago
- 1⁄4 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 1⁄2-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 3⁄4 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.
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’s 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’s 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.
Here’s how to make Spaghetti with Breadcrumbs and Anchovies.
Spaghetti with Breadcrumbs and Anchovies
- Kosher salt
- 1 (3-to-4-inch) chunk day-old country bread
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 12 good-quality anchovy fillets, drained
- 4 garlic cloves, sliced
- 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or 1 or 2 dried calabrian chiles, crumbled)
- 1⁄4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. Grate the bread on the large holes of a box grater (or pulse in a processor) to make 3⁄4 cup coarse crumbs.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add the breadcrumbs and cook, tossing frequently, until light golden and crisp, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
- Add the spaghetti to the boiling water. Heat the remaining 1⁄4 cup olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the anchovies and garlic, and cook until the anchovies dissolve into the oil and the garlic is golden, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the peperoncino. Ladle in 2 cups of pasta cooking water and let simmer rapidly. Reduce to about 1 cup while the pasta cooks.
- Once the pasta is al dente, remove with tongs and add to the sauce. Add the parsley and toss to coat the pasta with the sauce, adding a little more pasta water if it seems dry. Add the bread crumbs and toss to mix.
Recipe provided by Lidia Bastianich.
Whether you are a new cook, an aspiring cook or an experienced cook, these classic Italian recipes should be part of your families’ cooking repertoire. Hopefully, these recipes will spark a conservation, create a memory and provide a sense of comfort every time they are served on the table.
As Bastianich said, food is nourishment, nourishment for the mind, body, soul and heart. It is a privilege to feed others and that expression of love stays with people. It is something that Lidia Bastianich does in her own family and community, and she encourages others to share those experiences in their lives.
I would like to thank Lidia Bastianich for sharing these classic Italian recipes as well as taking the time to speak with me.
Lidia Bastianich has television programs on PBS. Check your local listing for additional information. Her various cookbooks can be found online. Also, she has numerous restaurants and is associated with Eataly.
What recipes hold special meaning to your family? How are you offering a sense of comfort through the food that you make?