Today the spotlight is on Alessandra Rovati from Dinner In Venice our favorite Kosher Italian food blog.
What is your earliest cooking memory?
Making gnocchi while my mother was at work and I was at home with the chickenpox (I must have been about 8). Our housekeeper was a nice older lady who never tried to stop me from experimenting in the kitchen. Apparently, my mom knew what was going on as soon as she walked into the building – and we lived on the fourth floor! – because the traces of flour went all the way down to the street, at least that’s what she told me….
What is your favorite kitchen gadget?
Probably the “Mezzaluna”, my Italian double-handed knife… I am constantly chopping fresh herbs and that’s what gives me the most control.
What’s your favorite kosher dish to cook?
Having grown up in Venice, I have to say risotto: hundreds of years ago Venetian Jews were already famous for their risottos “all’onda” (creamy and not too dense) and everybody still loves them now. It’s actually the Venetian Shabbat rice that is thought by many historians to have inspired the famous ‘risotto milanese’ with saffron. I find the constant stirring required for making this dish well more relaxing than yoga, especially because I get to taste something yummy!
Who is your cooking inspiration?
l have always liked eating in people’s homes more than in restaurants, because there is something intimate about food (after all, you put it into your body!). For this reason, most of my inspiration comes from family and friends – my mother first, for her “scientific” approach to cooking, and her obsession with olive oil (she is from Tuscany!), even in the early 70's when a lot of people in the Veneto region cooked everything with butter or seed oil. Also, because there are only about 450 (Italian) Jews living in Venice, we don’t use a caterer for most holiday community-wide meals, but rely on a handful of volunteers. I was always impressed by a couple of the older ladies who could easily pull off a meal for hundreds while also taking care of their own family meals, and basically with no staff…
Please share a favorite cooking tip or trick with our readers:
When making pasta, always add a ladleful of the cooking water to the sauce: it acts as both a thickener and an emulsifier and makes it taste creamy even if you didn’t use much fat.
When making pasta for Shabbat, make an oilier sauce, use more sauce, and add more cooking water. That way, when you reheat it, it won’t dry out. You should also keep it very ‘al dente’ and reheat it only for the time it takes to make it lukewarm, or it will become mushy.
Which recipes are you sharing with us today?
Main Image - Tagliolini in Lemon Sauce
Alessandra Rovati was born and raised in Venice, Italy, and has had a passion for food since a very young age (she is said to have feasted on garlic and chili-marinated herring at 15 months). Alessandra writes about Kosher and Jewish Italian food and teaches cooking; she also posts free recipes and how-to’s, offering a glimpse of Jewish Italian culinary history, on her website, Dinner in Venice.