Food and Drink

6 standout meals from Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy

When we think of Stanley Tucci, we think of The Devil Wears Prada, Captain America and The Hunger Games. We certainly don’t think about wafting scents of hearty tomatoes cooking on a hob, seducing sounds of sizzling steak, or a heartwarming homage to Italy. Well, not for long. His new 6-part CNN show Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy has taken the world by storm, and for a good reason. Traveling throughout the country from Naples to Rome and Tuscany to Sicily, the Italian-American actor explores the most scrumptious delicacies from each region, as well as the culture and history surrounding Italian food.

Whether you’re going to binge it all in one night, or watch it slowly as if it were a dollop of fresh burrata straight from Puglia, you’ll want to have some Italian flavors embracing your taste buds as you do so — trust us on that. So here are 6 mouthwatering recipes — one for each episode — that feature in the show that will make you shout mamma mia! and reduce your envy during Tucci’s escapades.

Ragu alla Bolognese (Emilia-Romagna)

No Italian recipe is more iconic than the bolognese. This meaty, tomato-y deliciousness can hardly ever not be perfect. Unfortunately, the most common pairing — spaghetti — might give the local nonnas a mild stroke. The traditional recipe works best with tagliatelle. According to the experts at Pasta Evangelists, the increased surface area of tagliatelle along with its rough and porous texture make it an ideal shape to contend with chunkier or more robust sauces.


  • 14oz tagliatelle
  • 5½ oz lean veal fillet
  • 2oz pancetta
  • 1½ oz unsalted butter
  • ¼ onion
  • ½ carrot
  • 2 medium celery stalks
  • 1 tsp flour
  • 1 pint beef stock (preferably homemade)
  • Nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper
  • Grated parmesan cheese


  1. Chop the veal, pancetta, onion, carrot and celery. Make it as fine as possible.
  2. In a pan, heat butter. Add the veal, pancetta and vegetables, then season with salt and pepper.
  3. Once the veal has browned, add a sprinkle of flour and nutmeg, and a ladle of stock.
  4. Simmer for 10 minutes, adding stock as necessary.
  5. Cook the pasta according to package instructions, or, if you’ve made it fresh, place it in boiling salted water for 3-5 minutes, then drain. Make sure it still has some bite.
  6. Toss together and serve with a healthy measure of parmesan.

Ribollita (Tuscany)

Bean and vegetable soup. It may sound simple, but this traditional Tuscan dish is the perfect comfort food. Served with bread, ribollita — literally meaning ‘boiled twice’ — will warm your hearts and provide a healthy meal that’s also soothing. This is one of those soups that work no matter the season, and is a fantastic option for the vegans out there.


  • Unsalted Tuscan bread
  • 28oz cannellini beans (or 10oz dried)
  • 1 head chard
  • 1 bunch black cabbage (cavolo nero)
  • ½ Savoy cabbage
  • 5 medium carrots
  • 4 medium potatoes
  • 3 medium onions
  • 3 celery sticks
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • Thyme to taste
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Cut all the vegetables into medium-sized chunks.
  2. Boil the beans, then pass them through a sieve, forming a puree. However, leave some whole.
  3. Heat up oil in a pan and add the onion. Once it has browned, mix in the tomatoes and tomato puree. Cook on a medium heat for a few minutes.
  4. Add the bean puree and whole beans. Stir well and incorporate the rest of the vegetables.
  5. Season to taste, then add the thyme.
  6. Drop in 6 ladlefuls of water and leave to cook for at least two hours.
  7. Toast the sliced bread, then rub with garlic.
  8. Pour the soup over two slices of bread for each dish served.
  9. Cover the soup with a layer of finely sliced onions and heat again in the oven — this is the ‘twice boiled’ part!
  10. Once the onions have browned, serve with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.

Spaghetti alla Nerano (Amalfi Coast)

This fresh, cheesy recipe is a perfect springtime dish which stars the zucchini. It’s the definition of a young and fun dish. In fact, its inventor, restaurateur Maria Grazia, was quoted saying she came up with it ‘just for fun’ — and the restaurant where it was born in the 1950s is still up and running. Pair with a pristine glass of white wine and the picturesque beaches Tucci is visiting will not seem as far away.


  • 12oz spaghetti
  • 20oz zucchini
  • 6oz Provolone cheese
  • 1 clove garlic (or more, if you’re adventurous)
  • 1 bunch basil leaves
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Thinly slice the zucchini, then fry a couple at a time in heated olive oil — don’t be afraid to use a decent amount of the oil.
  2. Place the pieces on a paper towel to soak excess oil, and sprinkle with torn basil leaves.
  3. Finely grate the cheese.
  4. Cook the spaghetti according to package directions, but keep two ladles of the pasta cooking water before draining.
  5. Sauté the garlic clove in oil, remove the garlic and put back the zucchini together with the spaghetti, one ladleful of pasta water, and half of the Provolone.
  6. Continue cooking on low heat, gradually adding the pasta water, stirring constantly, until a creamy sauce is formed.
  7. Serve with freshly ground black pepper.

Cacio e Pepe (Rome)

A classic yet simple dish, cacio e pepe — which translates to ‘cheese and pepper’ — is the most long-standing recipe in Italian cuisine, and can be traced back to the Roman Empire. Traditionally, the sauce is paired with tonnarelli, an egg-pasta shape reminiscent of spaghetti, only square, thicker, and with a rougher surface. However, most people today prefer to use spaghetti or bucatini, which are much easier to find. The beauty of this dish is that it only requires 3 ingredients.


  • 14oz spaghetti or bucatini
  • 7oz Pecorino Romano
  • ⅓ oz black pepper
  • Salt to taste (and to cook the pasta)


  1. Cook the pasta according to packet instructions, making sure it is al dente.
  2. Grate the cheese and mix with black pepper in a large bowl.
  3. Add ½ cup of the pasta cooking water to the mixture. Whisk with a fork until the sauce is creamy.
  4. Transfer the pasta into the bowl using tongs and toss to combine. If the sauce is runny, add more cheese.
  5. Serve immediately before the sauce turns too viscous, with pecorino on top.

Risotto Milanese (Milan)

A bright yellow delight, risotto Milanese is a dish befitting a true aristocrat. Coming from the rich regions of Northern Italy, it is full of luxurious saffron that packs a punch. Legend has it that this ambrosial meal was created in 1754 when Belgian glass-makers were decorating the windows of the Lombard Cathedral. They then convinced the chef to incorporate saffron, which was used for the yellow colour of the glass, into their rice. Whether it is true or not, a glass of red wine will marry perfectly with this vibrant dish.


  • 10oz (1½ cups) arborio rice
  • 5½ cups homemade chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • Pinch of saffron threads
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Bring the chicken stock to a simmer in a medium saucepan.
  2. In a separate, large saucepan, heat the olive oil.
  3. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 5 minutes or until softened.
  4. Incorporate the rice and cook for a minute, coating the rice and stirring thoroughly.
  5. Crumble the saffron into the wine, then add to the pan, stirring until the wine is absorbed fully.
  6. Pour in one cup of the warm stock, stirring constantly. Once absorbed, continuously add stock in ½ cup increments, waiting until it is absorbed before adding the next measure. Make sure you don’t stop stirring throughout.
  7. Carry on until the rice is cooked al dente and the sauce is creamy and thick. This should take about 20 minutes in total.
  8. Season with salt and pepper, stir in the cheese, butter and parsley, and serve immediately.

Spaghetti alla Bottarga (Sicily)

This dish is not for everyone. The cured fish roe might not be your cup of tea, but if it is, you’re in for a treat. Known as ‘Mediterranean caviar’, bottarga is an Italian delicacy that will make you salivate just reading about it. A perfect match for a gin or vodka-based cocktail, this will be a meal to remember.


  • 14oz spaghetti
  • 50g bottarga
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • Cooking oil
  • 1½ oz breadcrumbs
  • Salt


  1. Grate the bottarga into a glass bowl.
  2. Cook the spaghetti according to packet instructions. Note that the bottarga is already very salty, so not much salt is needed for cooking the pasta.
  3. Brown the garlic cloves in olive oil. Once they are golden, remove from the pan.
  4. Drain the pasta and add into the garlic-infused oil, along with ⅔ of the grated bottarga.
  5. Pour some more olive oil into the pan together with the breadcrumbs. Crisp them for a few minutes.
  6. Transfer the pasta into a large bowl and sprinkle with the rest of the bottarga.
  7. Serve, decorated with any remaining breadcrumbs, chopped parsley or some lemon zest.