Saturday, February 12, 2022

Weekend Cooking: Stanley Tucci's Searching for Italy

Normally, if I am going to be obsessing over a place to visit in Europe, it would be Paris, but right now I seem to be going through an Italian phase. I have been reading a book set in Tuscany and I have another two lined up, we have bookings for Italian dinner and a few other things.

Bearing that in mind, welcome to the first instalment off what may end up being an unofficial month of Stanley Tucci here on my blog. Tucci has an Italian heritage, and he clearly has a passion for all things Italian.  I am currently listening to his memoir ,and I have just borrowed one of his movies from the library. Let's see what happens.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have watched Stanley Tucci's foodie documentary Searching for Italy twice. Once was for entertainment and the second time because it was so good the first time! I enjoy a good travel show (particularly partial to train related travel shows - no idea why), and here we get a heady mix of the beautiful sights of Italy, food - both production and eating it, history, the intersection of food and religion, people, politics and more. Now it's fair to say that the fact that he is who he is means Tucci gets to go behind the scenes and into the kitchens of Italy in a way that you and I wouldn't be able to, but he clearly shows the warmth and passion of the Italian people and yet still manages to show good and bad sides of the nation.

In the first episode Tucci visits Naples and the surrounding area of Campania. In Naples, we learn about the origins of pizza including how to make a perfect margherita pizza using the best mozzarella and tomatoes of the region. life living in the shadows of Mt Vesuvius. It is very clear that Tucci is super passionate about the Italian food of his heritage. At one point he visits a restaurant with his wife on the famed Amalfi coast where he ate a zucchini pasta called Spaghetta alla Nerano that he has been trying to recreate at home ever since. Now he is back to get a lesson in how to make it properly and he ends up partaking in a huge feast as a massive storm lashes the coast. 

Next up, Rome! I enjoyed Rome when I visited many years ago, and I remember being surprised by the difference between what we think of as dishes like lasagna compared to how it is served in Rome. Here lasagna is layers of minced beef, pasta and white sauce. In a restaurant it would often be 2 inches high, but when I had it in Rome it was more like floating pasta sheets in a tomato sauce. In this episode, there is another example of this, when they talk about how carbonara should be made. Definitely no cream, whereas when we make it there is a lot of cream. The creaminess of a genuine carbonara comes from the egg yolks, cheese and a slug of pasta water. Very simple. Did you know that at one point Mussolini was trying to discourage Italians from eating pasta in favour of rice? Can you imagine Italy without pasta? It's not all about pasta though. Tucci also shares with us about tripe and the influence of the Jewish community on Roman food. An example of this is deep fried Jewish artichoke hearts.

The third episode is about Bologna in the Emilia-Romania region, home to parmigiano regianno cheese and more than 40 other protected foods. One of the stories was a fascinating look at a case of food fraud in 2017 where an inferior product was being sold as genuine prosciuto. They also talked about different types of pasta, with the pasta from this region being softer that that from further south. He also takes a look at the first cookbook to talk about the food of the regions of Italy and looks at the true bolognaise sauce, which looks nothing like the version of bolognaise that we eat on a regular basis, and it definitely doesn't get served with spaghetti.

Next stop - Lombardy - Home to Milan and Lake Como. And now, food wise, not so much pasta but rather risottos and polenta form the basis of the dishes.

And now Tuscany! Tucci and his family spent a year in Florence when he was 12 years old which really forms the basis of his love of Italy. He is joined by his parents in this episode. they look at the role of the Medici's in the history of Florence. In another nod to history, they talk about the little doors in the walls of buildings where you can buy wine and talk about the "poor food" of Tuscany.

Next - Sicily and the island of Lampedusa. Inevitably this episode includes references to the Mafia, but also how the face of Sicily is changing, particularly with the influx of refugees and migrants. One of the dishes they talk about is Timballo. I have read about this in his memoir, Taste, where it is referenced as a Christmas dish and apparently forms part of the final scene of Big Night.

I found it fascintating to be reminded that when we go to an Italian restaurant there will be options like arancini balls, pasta, risottos, and they are all Italian cuisine. What this series did was explain which region and why the food differs from region to region.

There are things that I always forget about Italy. For example, I remember the Amalfi coast, but given the shape of country, there is a lot more coastline that just there. I always forget that Rome is only 15 miles from the sea and that Tuscany has a coast!

You can see the trailer for this series here.

I was very pleased to see that there is going to be a second series. We will definitely be watching!

Weekly meals

Saturday - Out for dinner
Sunday - Warm steak salad
Monday - Steak, Broccolini, Mushrooms and Peas
Tuesday - Sausages with vegies
Wednesday - Beef kebabs and baked potato
Thursday - Fried chicken, mashed potato, beans, gravy
Friday - Takeaway Friday

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page


  1. I Loved, Loved, Loved that show. Thanks so much for bringing it to my attention a few weeks ago. And I *know* what you mean about cooking, eating, watching, and visiting (?) Italy . . . especially after that show.

    1. I am so pleased there is going to be a second series!

  2. That sounds like a fabulous series, and I enjoyed reading your summary. I read Tucci's "Taste" recently, and also watched one of his films.

    best... mae at

  3. Take me to Italy. Thanks for the review - I can't wait to watch it.

  4. We were last in Italy 2019 (last trip pre-covid) and loved taking the train around.
    I've watched a lot of shows set in Oxford lately, and that is where I am hankering to go.

  5. We are about to re run Stanley Tucci's Searching for Italy! We actually watched it quickly over just a few days and can't wait to do so again! We are on our third round of what ever virus is going around these past two years, so I have been concentrating on the basics around here. I hope everyone is well and happy, take care and boo to this virus!

  6. I should start watching this show! When I finished law school my brother was living in Rome, so I persuaded most of the family to go for a two week vacation in Tuscany. We rented a villa and splurged on a cook. It was so incredible to come home from sightseeing and have dinner's aroma floating out from the kitchen! I wish we had written down all her recipes. The only one I recall asking her for was peas and onions - I think we were so amazed that peas could taste so good that we overcame the language barrier. I can understand slow, basic Italian but that happens about once in a blue moon!

    1. That sounds so lovely CLM! I am so jealous!

  7. i love stanley! and i really enjoyed his book Taste.

  8. This sounds fascinating. The Naples and Amalfi Coast segments particularly appeal to me.



Related Posts with Thumbnails

  © Blogger template Simple n' Sweet by 2009

Back to TOP