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I Binge-Watched Stanley Tucci’s Searching for Italy and This Is All I Can Think About

Spoiler alert: the original bolognese didn't have tomato sauce and didn't simmer for hours.

Scroll down for Stanley Tucci's "10-minute" bolognese recipe.

This weekend, I embarked on a delightful culinary adventure without leaving the comfort of my living room. Thanks to the charismatic Stanley Tucci, I found myself glued to the screen, binge-watching "Searching for Italy." The show offers an enchanting exploration of the rich, diverse, and mouthwatering cuisine of Italy. As I indulged in this visual feast, I couldn't help but develop intense cravings for some iconic Italian dishes. Join me as we explore the history and origin of each of these delectable Italian foods: mortadella, prosciutto, Parmesan, mozzarella, pizza, risotto, and bolognese.


Mortadella is a quintessential Italian deli meat, hailing from the charming city of Bologna, often referred to as the "food capital" of Italy. This delectable sausage dates back to ancient Roman times, but the modern version we adore was perfected in the 17th century. What sets mortadella apart is its distinct flavor and texture, thanks to the addition of fragrant spices, peppercorns, and, most importantly, cubes of creamy white fat. Sliced thin and served with freshly baked Italian bread, mortadella is a staple for any antipasto platter.


One of Italy's most famous exports, prosciutto, is a dry-cured ham that hails from Parma, a city in the Emilia-Romagna region. This exceptional ham is known for its melt-in-your-mouth texture and sweet, salty flavor. The secret lies in the aging process; prosciutto di Parma undergoes at least 12 months of aging, which allows it to develop its distinct taste and texture. A plate of prosciutto, paired with fresh melon or wrapped around grissini breadsticks, is a luxurious and timeless Italian treat.


Italy's "King of Cheeses," Parmesan, or Parmigiano-Reggiano, finds its home in the regions of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, and parts of Bologna and Mantua. This hard, crumbly cheese has been produced for over 800 years, and its rich, nutty flavor makes it a versatile addition to countless dishes. Parmesan cheese is famously used to elevate pasta dishes, but it's equally delightful when served in chunks, accompanied by balsamic vinegar, or sprinkled over salads.


Mozzarella is perhaps the most beloved Italian cheese, originating in the Campania region, especially in the city of Naples. Known for its smooth, delicate texture and mild flavor, mozzarella is made using fresh cow's milk. It's an essential component of classic dishes like Caprese salad, where it's paired with ripe tomatoes, fresh basil, and a drizzle of olive oil. Whether served cold or melted on a hot, crispy pizza, mozzarella is a cherished Italian ingredient.


Stanley Tucci's journey through Italy undoubtedly showcased the country's love affair with pizza. While pizza's origin is a subject of much debate, Naples claims to be the birthplace of this iconic dish. The Margherita pizza, with its simple yet harmonious combination of tomato, mozzarella, basil, and a drizzle of olive oil, was named after Queen Margherita of Savoy. Its vibrant colors represent the Italian flag and remain a symbol of pizza's timeless appeal.


Risotto is a creamy, comforting rice dish that's popular throughout Italy, but it's most closely associated with the northern regions, particularly Lombardy. Arborio or Carnaroli rice varieties are the key to achieving the dish's signature creamy texture. The slow, labor-intensive process of stirring the rice while gradually adding broth results in the irresistible creaminess that makes risotto so delightful. Variations abound, with ingredients like saffron, mushrooms, and seafood, each offering a unique flavor profile.


Bolognese sauce, or "ragù alla bolognese," originates from the city of Bologna in the Emilia-Romagna region. This hearty meat sauce, traditionally made with a blend of ground beef, pork, and veal, is slow-cooked to perfection. What surprised me the most was 3 things: learning the original recipe of bolognese had no tomato sauce, the sauce didn't simmer for hours, and no olive oil was used, only butter because oil was too expensive. Sounds like my kind of pasta. Served over tagliatelle or fettuccine, Bolognese sauce is a true Italian comfort food.

As I indulged in a binge of "Searching for Italy" with Stanley Tucci, I couldn't help but be swept away by the tantalizing allure of Italian cuisine. Each dish, rooted in history and tradition, offers a unique journey through the heart and soul of Italy's diverse regions. From the delicate flavors of mozzarella and prosciutto to the hearty delights of Bolognese and risotto, the foods of Italy beckon us to savor their rich heritage. So, next time you find yourself in the mood for an Italian culinary adventure, consider preparing one of these iconic dishes and let the flavors of Italy transport you to the charming streets and vibrant kitchens of this beautiful country. Buon appetito!


Bolognese without tomato sauce, mind blowing

Ingredients you'll need:

  • 1 pound (450g) ground veal or a mix of pork and veal

  • 4 ounces pancetta, finely chopped

  • 2 tablespoons butter

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped

  • 2 carrots, finely chopped

  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 cup (240ml) beef or vegetable stock

  • 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour

  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • Grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese, aged 24+ months

  • 1 pound (450g) pasta of your choice (tagliatelle or pappardelle work well)


  1. Sauté the Vegetables and Meat: In a large, deep skillet or saucepan, melt the butter over medium (or medium-low) heat. Add the chopped onion, carrots, celery, ground veal. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 1 hour, to allow the meat and vegetables to become tender.

  2. Get the Stock Ready: While the meat is cooking, warm the stock over medium heat in a sauce pan.

  3. Deglaze with Stock: Using a medium heat, a 1/4 cup at a time, pour the broth into the meat mixture. Add in nutmeg, flour and salt and pepper and let it simmer for a few minutes, allowing it to reduce and absorb into the meat and vegetables. Stir and scrape the bottom of the pan to release any flavorful bits. Cook for about 10 minutes.

  4. Cook the Pasta: While the sauce is simmering, cook your choice of pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain and set aside.

  5. Serve: Toss the cooked pasta in the sauce. Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese. Serve hot and enjoy!

Online Home Ec Italian Cooking Classes


Home Ec is your kitchen companion, where cooking transforms into a delightful journey. We're here to make your culinary adventures easy, enjoyable, and utterly delicious. Whether you're a novice in the kitchen or a seasoned home cook, Home Ec's cooking classes are designed to ignite your passion for food. We'll take you from the basics to gourmet masterpieces, all while sharing tips, tricks, and the joy of creating wonderful meals. So, roll up your sleeves, grab your apron, and let's embark on a culinary adventure together!


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