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May 17, 2011

Ask Lidia!


Lidia answers your questions here!

May 17, 2011

Holly- How can I make my tomato sauce not taste metallic? I have a friend in Reggio Calabria and he says “basil” will help with this. Do you have any suggestions?

@Holly-I find that when I buy canned San Marzano tomatoes from Italy and they are truly sweet, there is no metallic taste, so choosing the right tomatoes with low acidity is important. As well dump the tomatoes out of the tin can immediately after you open them and do not cook in aluminum pots. Adding fresh basil and herbs always helps.

Patricia -What kind of tomatoes do you grow in your home garden? Do you can them at the end of the season, and if so, do you add herbs when canning or wait until cooking with them?

@Patricia-I grow many different kind of tomatoes for juicy tomatoes like beefsteaks for salads, the cherry tomatoes all different shapes and colors for the children to pick and pop in their mouth but for sauce I plant two kinds; the San Marzano and the Roma tomatoes. I cook with them when they are ripe and I do can them at the end of the season. I like putting my basil when I can them , then I add more when I cook them.


Jill – Whenever I cook an Italian meal, I am always at a loss for what to make for dessert. I don’t care for tiramisu or panna cotta, and those seem like the obvious dessert choices. I’d love authentic ideas. Thanks!

@Jill- Italian desserts are basically simple, crostate with fruit or poached or baked fruits. Here are two delicious recipes for you to try. “Cherry Jam Tart” and “Roasted Pears and Grapes


Rudy – With Arabic Cuisine becoming more and more popular, I recently ate Kefta Kabobs. My family immigrated from Trieste. My dad was born in Istria and a couple of years ago while I was there I ate æevapèiæi (spicy beef or pork meatballs). It was similar but I know Kefta is made with lamb. Do you (I know you must ;) have the recipe for æevapèiæi ?

@Rudy,- Ćevapčići is a Balkan dish of grilled minced meat, a legacy of the Ottoman Empire found in the countries of South Eastern Europe. They are considered a national dish in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Serbia. They are also common in Croatia, Montenegro, Slovenia, as well as in Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Czech Republic, Slovakia and the border between Italy and Slovenia (provinces of Trieste and Gorizia).

Try this recipe:

1 1/2 pounds ground pork
1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 pound ground lamb
3cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preheat a grill for medium-low heat.

1. In a large bowl, combine the ground pork, ground beef, and ground lamb . Add the garlic, salt, baking soda, black pepper and cayenne pepper . Mix well using your hands, and form into finger length sausages about 3/4 inch thick.

2. Lightly oil the grilling surface. Grill sausages until cooked through, turning as needed, about 20 minutes.
Serve with chopped sweet onions


John -Do you salt or put oil in your pasta water?

@John- Here are some pasta cooking tips. When cooking pasta, oil should never be added to the cooking water except when cooking wide fresh pasta such as lasagna, or the sauce won’t adhere properly to the pasta. To test pasta when pasta is done, bite into a strand to determine whether or not the pasta had the appropriate al dente texture. As soon as the pasta is done, drain immediately, shaking off the excess water. Pasta should never be rinsed, except when making cold pasta dishes. Always sauce the pasta immediately while it is still hot. After you have drained the pasta, return it to the cooking pot or transfer it to a warmed bowl; immediately add at least a few tablespoons of sauce



May 9, 2011 

Lori-I grew up in my Grandmom LaVella’s house, and so I learned NEVER to waste any food. Now that my family is grown, and I cook for just my husband and I, I find myself with leftover good Italian bread that I get from our local bakery. We just can’t eat an entire loaf. I use the leftovers for breadcrumbs, and also for breakfast, fried with egg in the middle. Neither my husband or I much enjoy panzanella. Do you have any other suggestions for using leftover bread?


@ Lori- I love your comments and yes let me give you a few more ideas on how to use leftover bread; Pappa al Pomodoro.
Try my recipe for Zucchini and Country Bread Lasagna and Peach Lasagna.



Enjoy the reicpes

Diane -What spices do you use in your marinara sauce?

@ Diane-I like my marinara very simple. I use good San Marzano plum tomatoes, Extra Virgin Olive oil, garlic, a few flakes of red pepper flakes and fresh Basil. And I cook it about 20-30 minutes. Here is my recipe for Marinara Sauce. http://lidiasitaly.com/recipes/detail/589 
Enjoy cooking,
Lidia Bastianich

Karen -hi Lidia: I love you and your history and all your enterprises. I notice that you often cook with scallions. I’ve never known Italian cooks to use them, do you do it because American cooks tend to use this type of onion?

@Kerri- In Italy we did use scallions but mostly in the spring, like spring onions. I like them because they are flavorful, available, not expensive and they bring a freshness to any recipe. I like them raw or cooked in a salad as well.

Julie -What can I use in place of Guanciale for an amatriciana sauce?

@ Julie- Good slab bacon is good when Guanciale is not to be had. I also use the end of the prosciutto, where it is a bit fatty. Ask your deli-counter sales person to sell you the stub -the end of the prosciutto. Remove the skin and slice the meat as you would Guanciale.

Inger -My husband and I will be celebrating our wedding anniversary at LIdia’s Pittsburgh. What would you recommend from your menu-for our celebration?

@ Inger-Happy Anniversary and have a great time at Lidia’s in Pittsburgh. There are many delicious offerings and Chef Dan Sweeny makes delicious seasonal specials, so look for those, but the classics are our large T-Bone steak with country style potatoes, the Osso Buco with barley risotto is also a favorite and if you like chicken the Lemon Chicken with olives is a must. We also offer a special pasta trio which changes daily according to season and it is a year round favorite.
Enjoy, with best wishes,
Lidia Bastianich





May 2, 2011

Jill -What is the best way to “hand down” food traditions in a family?

@Jill, I think the best way to hand down tradition is to live tradition. Involve children and grandchildren in the cooking and preparing, especially around the holidays. Explain why this is a tradition in your family; did grandma always make this for Christmas, or did uncle Sal always bring the baccala for the Vigilia etc. And keep a record of all the recipes and traditions for future generations. Make sure you collect and record information and recipes from the aging members of the family. Pictures are always great to share.


Glenn-Why do some cookbooks recommend sautéing in olive oil and others warn against it? The “against” camp says high heat does something to ruin olive oil; where do you stand, Lidia?

@Glenn, of all the oils Olive oil has the lowest smoking point. That means that it will begin to smoke at a low temperature versus the other oils. Once the oil begins to smoke or burn, it loses its flavors and value. So if you are cooking something at a high temperature, canola or vegetable oil is advisable. But if you cook something at a low temperature, olive oil is fine. The best way to enjoy and eat olive oil is drizzled on food and salads at the end of the cooking process so you get the full nutritional and flavor value of the olive oil.


Mary- Dear Lidia, I made your delicious Gulasch Triestino (wonderful!) but am wondering why, in this recipe and others, you ask us to let the food cool down for several hours after cooking, and then reheat to serve. Thank you!

@ Mary, Good question. When you cook, especially when you braise meats, letting it rest gives a chance for the sauce to be absorbed back in the meat. During braising, the meat releases a lot of its juices and along with all the herbs and spices in the braising liquid, makes a good potion. By letting it all rest together this good sauce gets a chance to get back into the meat.


Stacy- Hi Lidia, Whenever I make risotto, it seems to take 2 more cups of hot stock to soften the rice than my recipes require. I’m also never sure what temperature of heat I should be cooking the rice at and whether or not I’m supposed to stir it …constantly or just enough to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. I find that stirring less works better than more. Can you please clarify these issues for me? My risotto always comes out good, but I’m sure that I’m doing something wrong.

@ Stacy, the rule of thumb for risotto is that one cup of rice when cooked into a risotto will yield double, that is two cups of finished risotto and it will take three and a half cups of liquid to get there.
Of course this is all subject to different elements. If the temperature is too high the liquid will evaporate faster and you will need more to finish the rice. If the pot is very wide the liquid again will evaporate quicker. So there is always some variance, do not feel that you are making grave mistakes. You should add just enough liquid to cover the rice each time you add, and stirring is needed but you are right, you need not be on top of the pot constantly.
The stock you add to the risotto should always be hot and the heat for cooking the risotto should be at medium once the risotto has started to perk.


Patt- I want to make homemade pasta with semolina flour. When I tried all semolina flour it was too hard. I’ve seen pasta from Italy that says made with 100% semolina flour. Is there a recipe I could use that the pasta would not be so tough. …

@Pat, semolina or durum wheat is known as hard wheat, that means that it has more gluten and proteins. It makes a great pasta but it is harder to work especially for a homemade pasta. All the good boxed pastas that you see in your stores are made from 100% semolina flour, but the dough for this dried pasta is mixed by a machine. To get some of the benefits and flavors of the semolina , next time you make pasta at home, use half semolina and half unbleached white flour. Have fun.

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