So, apparently it’s not enough that Fabio Viviani is attractive, charming, and can cook like a badass. But he happens to be funny, too.
I had the pleasure of getting an advance copy of his upcoming cookbook, available April 23rd, and talking with him.
He was a pure delight! At the time we chatted, it was his first night home in over 40 days, but he was most gracious with his time. Here is just a little of our conversation (awesome accent not included – you have to imagine that for yourself.)
Q: Name a few items that are always in your refrigerator.
A: Well, let’s go take a look….I have a bunch of condiments, 4 logs of dried salami, 7-8 rotten apples, a gigantic chunk of Parmesan which barely allows the door to close, and olive oil.
(Who knew to put olive oil in the refrigerator!?)
Q: If friends or family popped in unexpectedly to your home, what would you make for them?
Q: What is that?
A: Tucine? You’ve never heard of Tucine? Tucine Alfredo?
Q: Ooooh. Fettucine Alfredo?
(*facepalm* And, btw, in case you didn’t catch that – if he was surprised with unexpected guests, he would whip up a batch of fresh pasta. A fresh batch of pasta. How badly do I want to be his friend? And stop by unannounced…all the time. Check out Fabio’s Perfect Fettucine Alfredo Sauce.)
Q: What is your go-to meal when you lack time or energy at the end of the day?
A: Jar of Nutella! Aaaah, what can I say, I’m Italian. I cook things in bulk that freeze well, like minestrone soup. So when I come home I can still eat healthy.
Q: What was your first recipe creation you remember being really proud of?
A: I was 5 1/2 years old and I made an apple cake for The Pope.
(The full story is in his cookbook and it’s a riot.)
Q: If you could only use one herb in your cooking for the rest of your life, which one would you choose?
A: Hmmmm. I choose basil. The runner up is parsley. Hear me out…chopped up basil and parsley both taste great on fish, on pasta, in a salad. But only basil makes a great pesto.
(Well played Fabio. Well played.)
Q: I read in your book that you don’t believe buying expensive cuts of meat for meatballs is necessary. What ingredient do you feel is totally worth spending a lot of money on?
A: Parmesan, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.
(Agree. Agree. Agree.)
Q: Pie or cake?
A: Oh, you’re one of those people! I choose cake. A bad pie crust is bad, but a bad slice of cake is still great with a glass of milk.
(I was too captivated to disagree. I snapped out of it once we said goodbye.)
Okay. So, listen. Every time I think I couldn’t possibly love or find room for another cookbook, I’m proven wrong. I am absolutely in love with Fabio’s Italian Kitchen. IN LOVE. It’s gorgeous, I want to make everything in it, and it’s sprinkled with hilarious and touching stories from his childhood and adulthood. If his publisher said to me tomorrow, “Ya know, we decided we really need you to pay for that,” I would do it!
This gorgeous salad is one of many fantastic dishes included in his book. And I did not want to stop eating it! Simple, fresh, and so pretty on a plate.
1 lucky U.S. reader has a chance to win a copy of Fabio’s Italian Kitchen.
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Dead Ricotta in the Garden
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
• 1 pound good crumbly ricotta cheese
• 2 tablespoons Pecorino cheese, grated
• 2 tablespoons flour
• Salt and pepper
• 3 egg yolks
• 20 cherry tomatoes, cut in half and seeded
• About 30 basil leaves, preferably small ones
• A handful of snap peas, cut into small pieces
• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• Red wine vinegar
• 4 tablespoons olive oil
Mix the ricotta with the Pecorino, the flour, a good pinch of salt, and the egg yolks. When it is all well mixed, season it to taste with pepper.
In another bowl, mix the tomatoes, the basil, and the snap peas. Add the extra-virgin olive oil, a splash of vinegar, and some more salt, mix, and place in the fridge. (Refrigerating the tomato mix provides a nice temperature contrast between the hot pancake and the cold vegetables when you assemble the dish.)
Heat the olive oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat. Using an ice cream scoop, make balls of the ricotta mixture and place them in the hot oil. Use a plastic spatula to flatten each one a bit, so it looks like a lumpy disc.
Fry the ricotta cakes for a couple of minutes or until golden brown, then turn them over and fry them on the other side for one more minute.
Serve all the cakes at once, family style, with a good spoonful of the tomato-and-pea mixture and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil on top of each one.
This recipe is courtesy of FABIO’S ITALIAN KITCHEN by Fabio Viviani. Copyright © 2013, VF Legacy, LLC. Published by Hyperion in April 2013. Available wherever books are sold. All Rights Reserved.