Because food connects us all, Yahoo Life is serving up a heaping plateful of table talk with people who are passionate about what's on their menu in Deglazed, a series about food.
Before he was wowing audiences with his outfits in The Hunger Games or taking viewers on a culinary tour of Italy on Searching for Italy, Stanley Tucci was a young boy growing up in an Italian family that connected over delicious meals.
"I think it’s just nice to get together with the people you love and to share food with each other," Tucci tells Yahoo Life, "to take the time to sit down to a meal that you’ve created yourself."
At the holiday season, Tucci says he finds it even more important to sit down to a meal with the people he loves. And there are a lot more people around his table these days. "Around the holidays, Italians get together even more than they do when there aren’t holidays," he says. "They are very family oriented."
"Growing up, I was always surrounded by family and we always extended that to friends who didn’t have a family — either they were visiting or just didn’t have family around anymore," he continues."So, especially as I get older, there are friends who don’t have family anymore and we always try to invite them over. It’s of great importance."
Tucci is passionate about Italian cuisine, and says beyond well-known Italian dishes like lasagna, and spaghetti with meatballs, there are some dishes he feels everyone should try. "You have things like veal Milanese ... and you have risotto of any kind," he says, "But something like vitello tonnato is a really interesting dish that a lot of people don’t know about and may be afraid of when they hear the description of it, which is poached veal with a tuna mayonnaise."
"It’s from the Piedmont region [of Italy] and it is amazing," he adds. "It’s served as an appetizer and when it’s done properly, it’s absolutely delicious."
Also on Tucci's "absolutely delicious" list is zucchini-based pasta dish spaghetti alla Nerano, which he discovered while filming Searching for Italy. The now-viral pasta, which Yahoo Life recently recreated, is so simple that Tucci says he was in disbelief the first time he ate it.
"I couldn’t believe — even growing up around Italian food and having traveled all over cooking Italian food myself — that there were basically four ingredients in this dish and it was astounding," he says. "I kept pressing the poor woman who was one of the owners of the restaurant like Are you sure there’s nothing else in it? And that was it: It’s zucchini, basil, oil, cheese. That’s it."
Still, simple ingredients don't always mean a simple dish to prepare. Tucci says while pasta alla Nerano is one of his favorites, he doesn't make it as often as he'd like.
"It’s not labor-intensive, but it is time-consuming because you have to cut up all the zucchini, which is easy, but then you’re frying them," he says. "You have to fry a lot of them in order to feed my family. If you’re making it for two people, it’s not so bad. But if you’re making it for like seven or whatever, you have to ask how much time you really want to spend frying zucchini. But it really is incredibly delicious and satisfying."
Tucci spoke with Yahoo Life as part of his work promoting S. Pellegrino, with which he created "S. Pellegrino's Taste of Tucci" holiday meal kits, featuring Tucci's Gnocchetti con Salsiccia e Broccolini recipe. The brand also made a $10,000 donation to No Kid Hungry as part of the partnership.
"We’re all very lucky to have the food that we have on our plates every day, particularly around the holidays, and a lot of people don’t have that," says Tucci. "Part of this is to raise awareness and give back, but also a way of maybe having people embrace a new Italian tradition or a new Italian meal that you can use for the holidays or any time you want to."
Tucci also created a video with S. Pellegrino, filmed in San Pellegrino Terme, Italy, where he talked about experiencing "perfect moments" in life. But what's the most recent perfect moment the 62-year-old actor and filmmaker has experienced?
"Last night," he says. "I came home from filming and I had some prawns in the refrigerator so I made a little stock out of the shells and some fresh tomato. I sautéed the prawns with some white wine and served that over some fettuccine with my wife and my eldest daughter."
"It was like — just standing up at the counter eating that and it was very satisfying and really fun. I had a glass of wine. It was great," he adds. "You think Am I too tired to cook now? But it didn’t take that long, maybe like 20 minutes, and it was really simple. And it’s so much better than having some awful take-out."
Still, all Italian cuisine and world travels aside, Tucci is easy-to-please. If he were headed to the Hunger Games arena, what would he choose as his last meal?
"Oysters and a martini," says Tucci.
Vodka or gin?
"Both," he adds.
Want to try Tucci's meal kit-worthy pasta at home? He shares the recipe below.
Stanley Tucci's Gnocchetti con Salsiccia e Broccolini
Courtesy of Stanley Tucci and S. Pellegrino
"This doesn’t have to be a holiday pasta. It can be an any day pasta," says Tucci. "The beauty of this dish is it’s really simple and delicious. If you’re a vegetarian, don’t put the sausage in. If not, put extra sausage in. It’s so delicious and it’s a classic Southern Italian dish. It’s a wonderful, really simple meal that you can make for a lot of people really easily."
4 ounces extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
2 whole pepperoncini
1⁄2 cup fresh fennel bulb and fronds, finely chopped
1 pound mild Italian sausage
1⁄2 cup chicken stock
1 pound broccolini, blanched and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pound gnocchetti sardi (small gnocchi pasta)
8 ounces finely-grated Pecorino Romano
1 tablespoon Calabrian chili flakes
1 liter bottle S. Pellegrino sparkling mineral water
salt and pepper
1. In a large pasta pot, bring 4-5 quarts of water to a boil. Once boiling, add: 11⁄2 tablespoons of salt.
2. Meanwhile, measure out and heat in a 14-inch sauté pan (or the largest pan you have) over medium heat until shimmering: 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, garlic cloves (minced), fennel seeds and whole pepperoncini. Stir with a wooden spoon or shake the pan until the spices are fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.
3. Add fresh fennel bulb and fronds, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of coarse black pepper. Stir the chopped fennel to coat with spices. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the fennel is bite-tender. Transfer mixture to a plate and set aside. Return the pan to medium-high heat.
4. Measure out and heat until shimmering: 2-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.
5. Stir in: mild Italian sausage, breaking it up as you go. Cook the sausage until the meat is no longer pink and is just starting to brown. Return the reserved fennel mixture to the pan and stir in: chicken stock.
6. Stirring occasionally, allow the stock to reduce for about 3 minutes, or until liquid is mostly evaporated.
7. Drain, pat dry and stir in: broccolini. Cook for about 2 more minutes, or until the greens are heated through. Remove mixture from heat, discarding the pepperoncini.
8. Add to the boiling salted water, cooking 6-8 minutes, or until just al dente (slightly firm when bitten): gnocchetti sardi. Do not overcook the pasta, as it will finish cooking in the next steps. Just before draining the pasta, reserve and set aside: 3 cups of pasta water.
9. Drain the pasta and toss immediately into the sausage mixture over low heat. Slowly stir in the pasta water about 1⁄2 cup at a time, adding only enough to bind the mixture and to create a light sauce. 1-2 cups will likely be enough to accomplish this, though you may need more. Any unused pasta water can be discarded.
10. Remove from heat and fold into the gnocchetti: Half of the grated Pecorino Romano (approximately 4 ounces).
11. Divide among 4-6 warmed bowls. Finish each serving with: drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of Calabrian chili flakes. Pass the remaining Pecorino Romano around the table so guests can help themselves.
12. Serve alongside the chilled bottle of S. Pellegrino. Buon appetito!
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