Stanley Tucci and the Importance of Eating Eggplant
The endearing actor and cook still calls his mom for kitchen advice
“I would say to people, for many years now: I just want to cook. To learn more about cooking — it’s how I want to spend my time, really. But of course, I can’t do that. I have to make a living. And how I make my living is acting. It’s not that I don’t love acting: I love it. What I hate is the waiting. Either waiting for a job to come in, or then, when you’re doing the job, you’re just waiting around on set, a lot.”
My guest on Food with Mark Bittman this week is Stanley Tucci, who is objectively a big movie star, known for hits like The Devil Wears Prada, Big Night, and Julie & Julia. But lately, he’s perhaps even better known for his Emmy-winning food series, Searching for Italy. Building on this popularity — people went absolutely nuts for the show and Tucci is a great champion of good food — the adored actor now has a memoir. Taste: My Life Through Food is not just that, but a love letter to his family, in particular, his mom — who, he told me, he still calls for cooking advice. Tucci is as lovable as you’d expect, and I hope I get a chance to eat with him sometime soon.
The recipes featured in the episode — both Tucci’s, from his book — are below. Please listen, subscribe, and review! And remember to call us on 833-FOODPOD (833-366-3763) with all your food-related questions.
Thank you, as always. — Mark
A Negroni — Up
50 milliliters gin
25 milliliters Campari
25 milliliters good sweet vermouth
1 orange slice
1. Pour all the booze into a cocktail shaker filled with ice.
2. Shake it well.
3. Strain it into a coupe.
4. Garnish with a slice of orange.
5. Sit down.
6. Drink it.
The sun is now in your stomach.
(There are those who consider serving this cocktail “straight up” to be an act of spirituous heresy. But they needn’t get so upset. I never planned on inviting them to my home anyway. — Stanley Tucci)
Spaghetti with Lentils
This is a derivation of a recipe Stanley Tucci grew up with. He writes that he often makes a big pot and eats it over a few days for lunch at home or brings it to film sets “as an antidote to the usually horrid food served off a truck to cast and crew by beleaguered caterers.”
1/2 carrot, finely chopped
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1/2 stalk celery, finely chopped
1/2 garlic clove, sliced
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 cup dried brown lentils, rinsed and picked over
1/2 pound spaghetti
1½ cups salsa marinara
Freshly ground black pepper
1. In a medium or large saucepan (all the ingredients, including the pasta, will end up in this saucepan, so make sure it is large enough), sauté the carrot, onion, celery, and garlic in the olive oil over medium-low heat until they are soft, about 7 minutes.
2. Place the lentils in another medium saucepan. Fill the pan with cold water to a level 1 inch above the lentils. Slowly bring to a simmer and cook until the lentils are just tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
3. To break the spaghetti, lay out a clean dish towel, wrap the spaghetti in it, and fold over the ends of the towel. Roll, squeeze, and/or bend this bundle until you can feel the spaghetti has broken down into 1- to 1½ -inch pieces. Place the bundle over a large bowl and unfurl, thus emptying it of all the bits of spaghetti.
4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the spaghetti until al dente.
5. Reserve 1⁄2 cup of the cooking water before draining the pasta.
6. Meanwhile, drain the lentils and transfer them to the saucepan with the sautéed vegetables. Add the salsa marinara. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook until the lentils have blended with the sauce, about 10 minutes. Add the drained pasta, along with the reserved pasta water to make a liquid consistency. Season with salt and pepper as desired. Simmer the pasta and sauce together to allow the flavors to combine, about 3 minutes. Serve immediately.
— Recipes from Taste: My Life Through Food
A wonderful episode! Thanks, Mr. Bittman and Mr. Tucci, for all that you do and for caring so much about food!
I can't wait to try these recipes and to read this book! Thanks for this column, and for the many others and your books over the years that have inspired me.