Meet Gina: someone who knows all about Italian food and happiness
Introducing Gina Andracchio, a food lover like no other. I hope you enjoy this post as much as I did. Elisabetta
People around the world love Italian food.
That, although is a deliberate generalization, is a matter of fact. I, being a first-generation Italian-American, am expected to not only eat delicious food on a daily basis but also be able to cook it. That is a stereotype I am willing to live with because it beats the one about loving mobster movies.
I have been fortunate enough to eat to my fullest satisfaction because I have been surrounded by elaborate home-cooked meals including zuppa di baccalà (codfish soup), frittelle di zucchine (zucchini fritters), frittata (the Italian version of an omelette), and endless pasta dishes adorned by homemade tomato sauce (our family how-to video here.) More importantly, my childhood family vacations in Southern Italy (primarily in Calabria and Abruzzo where my parents are from respectively) have allowed me to observe and understand what food means to Italians.
Talk about farm to table, food in the small Mediterranean peninsula is a treasure, which is carefully treated from the time crops are harvested to the prudent integration of flavors for every daily dish. For example, the pizza Margherita (in honor of the Queen of Italy by the same name) was originally topped to look like the Italian flag using basil, mozzarella, and tomato sauce. This pizza has become a classic not because it was overloaded with multiple meats and an unhealthy coating of cheese but instead because of its subtle amounts of freshly-chosen toppings combined to perfection. Italian recipes often include the usual fundamental ingredients, such as olive oil, onion, garlic, salt and pepper due to the notion that seasonings should not cover up food but should instead evoke the flavors of naturally-delicious ingredients.
When cooking, I keep in mind certain lessons I have learned in my family:
- Balanced meals are vital to staying satisfied longer. An easy go-to dish could be pasta e fagioli. Pasta (the carbohydrate) and some type of bean (the protein) are delicious when accompanied by broccoli or asparagus (the vegetable). I might add a small can of plain tomato sauce into the beans then add some water and seasonings which make the dish more of a stew, which brings me to my next point.
- Sauce is never the star of the show; the ingredients are. Italians do not smother their food in sauce, but instead use it as a “highlighter” of the food.
- I buy certain imported products from Italian specialty stores, such as imported cheese, pasta, olives, and wine. Although not the cheapest option, it allows me to indulge occasionally and feel closer to Italy.
- Rustic cooking brings me back to nature, even if it is not actual cooking. For example, I use a moka instead of an espresso machine and pop kernels over the stove instead of buying microwaveable popcorn.
- As cliché as it sounds, there is no better ingredient than love. I genuinely appreciate the art of cooking and recognize food as a blessing in my life.
Some favorite dishes of mine to make are Chicken Marsala, arancini (rice balls), conchiglie ripiene (stuffed shells), and Tiramisù. Beyond cooking, I pride myself on making a morning cappuccino and my homemade Limoncello which has also become the standard digestivo in my household (video recipe here.)
Cooking is one of the many reasons why I co-authored “Italian Recipes for Happiness: How to Live Healthier, Happier and Richer Lives like Italians”. My experiences as an Italian-American allow me to observe the culture as an outsider and translate it to the world in a unique way.
In addition to cooking, the book covers topics such as Italian dining, making acquaintances, and developing long-term romantic and familial relationships and how these are linked to actual studies on happiness. Along with my fellow co-authors, Matthew Platania and Gianni Andracchio (my brother), the reader is provided with anecdotes, Italian phrases, food recipes and actual takeaways on how each of us can live happier lives by taking the “best of the best” of Italian culture.