I heard that the actor Stanley Tucci had written a cookbook — not a surprise from the star and moving force behind the cinematic delightful ode to Italian food, Big Night. But until I picked up The Tucci Cookbook I had no idea how deeply his love of food and cooking went. Readers of this cookbook will be happy to find included his step-by-step directions for the movie’s signature dish, timpano, and its many variations.
This is not just a book of recipes, but a collection of stories, as Tucci records variations on dishes from both sides of his family, dishes he has learned from professionals (most notably chef and co-author Gianni Scappin, who is the executive chef at Castellano in New York), and basic Italian recipes he has perfected on his own. The book is beautifully designed and illustrated, with photos that are apt to make one’s mouth water. To be perfectly honest, however, there are many dishes that tend to be either fried or deep-fried, or center around starches, that in my new way of eating I am not likely to try. But there are still enough to tempt me:
Eggplant antipasto (his take on the classic Sicilian dish caponata), p. 10
Vegetable tart, p. 17 and Stuffed Pizza, p. 104 – which both sound a bit like my family’s special dish, sfincioni
Basic Vinaigrette, p.48 and Sherry Shallot Vinaigrette, p. 49
Chicken Soup with Tiny Chicken Meatballs, p. 52 and Grace’s Chicken Soup with Mozzerella, p. 64
Walnut Bread, p. 91 – I haven’t done a lot of baking, but this bread makes me want to try
Rice with Sage, p. 192
Ponticello’s Orange Cookies, p. 328
Tucci is a respected actor who has had success on stage, television (Murder One, ER), and screen (The Devil Wears Prada, Julie & Julia, Easy A, Burlesque, Muppets Most Wanted). The busy actor seems to be in every movie these days, from his Academy award-nominated role in The Lovely Bones, to his colorful character in The Hunger Games films.
It is clear after reading The Tucci Cookbook that Tucci is not only comfortable in the kitchen, but spends most of his free time there, preparing food for himself and his family. Whether one is up to a multi-staged and prepped dish like timpano, or just looking for a nice twist on a pasta or other favorite Italian dish, the basic lesson one can learn from Tucci and his friends and family is that good food, prepared with fresh ingredients and love is the way to go. Bravo.
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