He grew up in an Italian American family and lived in Italy during his childhood – and, true to form, his love of cooking and eating runs deep.
Tucci has written several cookbooks showcasing his recipes, along with some from family and friends.
A Venetian classic
It’s fitting to start with an appetizer. Tucci said his mom taught him to always set out some small plates – like olives, cheese and salami – and serve wine or espresso when guests arrive.
Courtesy Gallery Books / Simon & Schuster, Inc.
The salt cod is soaked in cold water for 24 hours then cooked in milk with garlic and potatoes. It’s drained then put in a food processor with oil until it forms a smooth spread. Then parsley, Parmesan and freshly ground pepper are added. Some variations include stirring in bell peppers, Kalamata olives or cubed potatoes.
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The dish is best served warm on toasted bread with olive oil or a slice of grilled polenta.
“Don’t be put off by the cod’s aroma, because once the baccalà is soaked in liquid for a full day the smell disappears and its sweet taste is revived,” Tucci wrote in his cookbook.
And of course, Tucci would not want you to forget the wine! He recommends a sparking, full white or light red pairing.
A hearty fisherman’s stew
This fish stew in the style of the Marche region, which in Italian translates to fisherman’s fishing boat, is a flavorful, tomato-based soup from eastern Italy. There are many variations of the dish. It was originally made by fishermen who cooked up the leftover scraps that they caught or imperfect fish they couldn’t sell.
Don’t panic about finding all those ingredients – Tucci’s version only calls for two types of fish, plus calamari and shrimp. You can use rockfish, halibut or striped bass; for the other fish, the recipe calls for scrod, snapper or cod.
“I like to use an assortment of fish and seafood in this stew, but it may also be prepared using just one type of fish,” Tucci said. “Select any you like – although I would not recommend oily fish, such as salmon, tuna, or blue fish.”
To make the stew, start by making the tomato base of onion, garlic and tomato paste. Then add the fish one at a time. Tucci suggests not stirring the mixture so the fish doesn’t break apart; instead, the trick is to shake the pan back and forth to cover the seafood with the sauce.
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It can be served as a main course over rice, pasta, or toasted bread. You can also cut the amount of fish in half and serve it as a hearty appetizer in a shallow bowl.
And we can’t forget the wine. This stew pairs well with light- or medium-bodied white wine.
The ultimate sweet course
Nothing says classic Italian dessert quite like tiramisu. Its name means “pick me up,” which perfectly sums up this sweet, caffeinated spot-hitting cake found on Italian menus all around the world.
Tiramisu is traditionally made from layers of ladyfingers dipped in coffee and heaped with mascarpone that’s been whipped with eggs and sugar. Some modern versions use sponge cake, and others add coffee liqueur to give an extra kick.
Stanley Tucci’s recipe comes from the sister of chef and coauthor of “The Tucci Cookbook” by Gianni Scappin. “I prefer my sister Livia’s tiramisu to all others I’ve tried,” Scappin said. “Livia took the elements that she liked best about each recipe (not too sweet, not too heavy, etc.) and incorporated them into a recipe of her own.”
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This take on tiramisu uses a well-beaten egg-and-sugar mixture to minimize the “eggy flavor.” The recipe also includes crushed amaretti cookies and only a single layer of ladyfingers. Good appetite!