Chef Lidia Bastianich explores regional Italian cuisines

Tue Nov 24, 2009 12:13pm EST
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By Richard Leong

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Chef Lidia Bastianich explores the lesser known regions of Italy and serves up recipes in her new cookbook that highlight the complexity of the country's history and cuisine.

In "Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy," the award-winning U.S. chef includes recipes from regions such as Valle D'Aosta and Sardinia which have been influenced by neighboring France and Spain.

The 62-year-old, who was born in Pula, Croatia, spoke to Reuters about her passion for Italy, collaborating with her daughter and saving cheese rinds.

Q: What do you want people to learn from your latest book?

A: "This particular book I have really chosen the less traveled roads in the regions of Italy. The jewels, the flavors and the intensity they have to offer on the table. Italy was first homogenized into one country, and slowly the regionality came out. The focus has always been on Tuscany and Veneto and maybe Rome and Naples. There are jewels in Italy that have so much to offer and which haven't been explored."

Q: What make these regions special?

A: "These regions not only reflect their topography and climate, but reflect their border situation and different occupations. Valle D'Aosta, which is a drop between France and Piedmont, is very French in their cooking and even the speaking. There is also a German-Slavic influence -- the sauerkraut, the horse radish. Beer is drunk. Then you go down to Basilicata, the in-step of the peninsula, and Calabria, the tip of the boot. You had the Greek occupation, couscous and all those flavors."

Q: What is the contribution of your daughter Tanya (who has a PhD in Italian art history) to the book?   Continued...

<p>Lidia Bastianich poses in this undated handout photo. REUTERS/Paul Gelsobello/Handout</p>