I was one of the privileged few invited by Aurora execs to attend Lidia Bastianich’s live show in Toronto earlier this month. It was a wonderful evening of food talk, cooking tips and Italian stories where Lidia shined and made all of us feel at home -and hungry. We learned that Lidia’s passion for food comes from her youth helping her Nonna harvest vegetables from the garden and cooking for the family. During this story she delivered one of the best lines I have ever heard from a chef: ”food keeps us connected with our family between generations” and I couldn’t agree more, since I am an immigrant too, who cooks my family’s recipes whenever I feel homesick.
While allowing us to dig into her moving personal history, Lidia cooked a menu of three courses and dessert, making it all look so simple and smell so good. The aroma was both wonderful and torturous, since we knew we weren’t going to be able to taste any of those delicious dishes. Starting with Frico, a cheesy antipasto to die for, she then moved to pasta with a wonderful Spaghetti all’Amatraciana, an Italian classic that she masters to perfection. The main course was Skillet Gratinate of Mushrooms and Chicken, which smelled and looked so good that I had the urge to cook it myself that very same night when I got home! For dessert, and in less than 5 minutes, Lidia prepared an amazing cake with mascarpone cheese and whipped cream. Everything was wonderful, but between all this cooking and story telling, Lidia still found time to share some great cooking tips, which I am anxious to share with you now!
Lidia on Cooking Pasta
We all think we know everything there is to know about cooking pasta, but that is likely not true. Lidia explained that you shouldn’t put olive oil in the water when you boil the pasta because it coats the pasta and inhibits the absorption of the sauce. If you like the olive oil taste (who doesn’t?) you can always drizzle some over the finished dish later. Lidia also explained how, once you have thrown the pasta in, you want the water to reach boiling temperature again as soon as possible, or otherwise your pasta will be sticky. And, of course, don’t drain your pasta but just scoop it out of the water!
Lidia on Oils
When you go to an Italian restaurant the olive oil on the table is not for your bread, it’s to drizzle on your soup, pasta… #LidiaLiveTO
— Aurora Importing (@AuroraImporting) 10 de febrero de 2013
Is it possible to talk Italian food without mentioning olive oil? After explaining the real reason what Italian restaurants always have good olive oil on the table for (see tweet above), Lidia explained the different smoke points of various oils and how that makes them appropriate for different things. The smoke point marks the temperature at which the oil molecules start breaking and nutritional degradation occurs. For example, olive oil has a low smoke point and therefore is not the best choice for frying since this process requires really high temperatures. Lidia also made a good point on the need of getting good quality olive oil, and the fact that she was saying so while holding a bottle of Aurora’s Olive Oil made us really proud. (btw, Aurora Grapeseed Oil has a very high smoke point and is excellent for frying with healthy properties too!)
Lidia on Reserving Your Pasta Water
Last but not least, I was really impressed to hear Lidia explain how throwing away the water you have used to boil your pasta is not only a waste, but a no no. During the show she used it to lighten the Amatriciana sauce that was getting a bit too thick, and she also explained how the startch left in the water from the pasta makes it a simple yet really effective broth to use in your recipes.
Aside from the wonderful aromas, beautiful recipes, and the great time I had, I will remember these tips from Lidia’s live show for a lifetime! Were you at the Toronto Center for the Arts watching Lidia’s Live show as well last weekend? If you were there, what is your favorite memory? If you weren’t, is there something you learned from her TV show that you could share with us? We would love to hear from you, we had a great time with our giveaways and it culminated into a great show that was enjoyed by many. Grazie Lidia!….”tutti a tavola a mangiare!”