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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Cristina Ferrare 's face has graced the covers of Harper's Bazaar and Vogue, but in her new cookbook the former model, actress, and talk show host spotlights the simple pleasures of family, friends and Italian home cooking.
"Big Bowl of Love," which shares its title with the cooking show Ferrare hosts on OWN (the Oprah Winfrey Network), dishes up more than 150 of Ferrare's homey recipes, along with her equally down-to-earth advice on pulling together a family dinner in 30 minutes, stretching one meal into two, and setting up a pantry.
Ferrare, 61, spoke to Reuters from her Los Angeles home about Italian comfort food and the flavorsome ties that bind.
Q: How did you come to write this cookbook?
A: "Big Bowl of Love" is my second cookbook. I've been working on it for the last year and a half. It was perfect timing that the book came out at the same time I was hosting the show."
Q: What was the idea behind "Big Bowl of Love?"
A: "I wanted cooking to be not scary. I wanted people to see they can put together a home-cooked meal easily. It takes just as much time to wash a fresh salad as it does to open up a can.
"It's also about bringing a family together. For me the kitchen is the core for keeping communication open with your family, your kids, your friends. I wanted to show how easy it is to save time, save money and still be able to feed your family well."
Q: Where did you learn to cook?
A: "I grew up in a big Italian household. My mother and grandmother were always in kitchen, cooking, and I always wanted to be there because it always seemed like such a happy place. I developed this passion very, very young."
Q: How would you describe your style of Italian cooking?
A: "My mother is from the north (of Italy), my father is from the south, so I had the best of both worlds. Up north they cook a bit lighter, and in the south it's very rich with tomatoes and lots of herbs. I picked up both sides.
"Basically I've taken the recipes that my grandmother gave me and brought them up to date. But I've broadened my horizons as well. In the book you'll find some Asian flavors as well as the Italian. And because I'm living in California, the recipes are enhanced by the abundance of herbs and fresh vegetables we have here."
Q: What are the essential ingredients in your kitchen?
A: "My philosophy is if you keep your staple pantry items well stocked, then you can have a meal at any time. I keep olive oil, garlic, cannellini beans, pasta, tomatoes and chicken stock. With whatever I have in my refrigerator, say a vegetable, I can make a wonderful minestrone, or Tuscan bread soup, or a great dish of pasta."
Q: How important is presentation to the meal?
A: "I believe that people eat with their eyes first. I think table settings are just as important as the meal itself."
Pappardelle with Bolognese Sauce - serves 8 to 10
1 large white onion, quartered
1 small carrot, cut into four pieces
1 celery rib, cut into four pieces
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound ground chuck
1/2 pound ground pork
2 teaspoons table salt
1 cup whole milk
1/3 cup white wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 (28-ounce) can tomato puree
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 cups water plus additional as needed
1 pound pappardelle or your favorite pasta
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup fresh basil
In a food processor, pulse to chop the onion into small pieces. Set aside. Pulse to chop the carrot and celery into small pieces. Set aside.
Heat a saucepan on medium-high until hot. Add the olive oil and heat for 30 seconds. Add the onions, reduce heat to medium, and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the carrot and celery, and sauté for 2 minutes.
Add the ground chuck and ground pork, breaking up the meat as much as you can. Sprinkle on the salt and pour in the milk, continuing to break up the meat. Cook, reducing the milk until the meat starts to sizzle (about 10 to 15 minutes).
Add the wine, and mix well. Continue to cook, reducing the wine by half. Reduce heat to a simmer and add tomato paste. Stir in completely and keep mixing for at least 30 seconds. Add the tomato puree, sugar, and water. Mix well. Cover and simmer on very low heat for 1 hour, stirring often.
If you feel the sauce is getting too thick, add more water, 1/4 cup at a time.
Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain well. Pour into a large serving bowl, mix in the sauce, and sprinkle plenty of Parmesan cheese on top. Garnish with basil. Serve immediately.