Lidia Bastianich is the Italian grandmother you never had who passes down family recipes and teaches you how to make marinara sauce and meatballs. Now, she’s even sharing her pasta bowls and wooden spoons.
The cooking show host, cookbook author, and restaurant owner has launched her first line of cookware and serving dishes on the television shopping network QVC and qvc.com. Items range from $20 to $60 and will include rustic serving platters, terracotta baking pans, and cheese knives.
Bastianich says the line is five years in the making and that the idea came about organically after she was urged by fans. “There was a need, I guess, or a want, to bring more Lidia into their homes,” she says.
Even if you have an Italian grandmother, Bastianich makes you think you could make room for one more. She’s the queen of Italian cuisine, with a warm, low-key attitude and an authentic approach to cooking. Along with Chef Mario Batali and her son, Joseph Bastianich, she is a partner in Eataly, the new splashy Italian marketplace in New York City, where she runs a cooking school.
Bastianich chats with us about her QVC line, Thanksgiving at her home, and the ingredient she can’t get enough of right now:
SheKnows: What’s special about your new line for QVC?
Lidia Bastianich: If I’m going to do something, it needs to have a message, it needs to make sense. The line is really based on my experiences in the kitchen and the ergonomics of holding a pot. So I designed the handle [of the pot] with leverage support that goes almost under the arm. The handle is longer, it’s wider, and it has a ridge where the thumb nestles.
The design of the serving ware has…my style, my elegance, if you will. I think it looks beautiful on the table; food looks good in it.
SK: Speaking of putting food on the table, what are Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners like with your family?
Lidia: This year, both will happen at my house. Thanksgiving [for us] is very American. My children are American and I’ve been here since [age] 12 so I feel very American. Turkey will be on the table, but I do take tiny liberties; I glaze it with balsamic vinegar. We have sweet potatoes, but I don’t put marshmallow on it; I put in some nutmeg and amaretto cookies crumbled on top.
The vegetables are the vegetables of the season: I like red cabbage salad; I like broccoli rabe; we might have escarole; depends on what’s out there.
SK: What advice do you have for home cooks who will be hosting holiday dinners?
Lidia: The one thing to keep in mind is the oven; it really can be your friend. You kind of initiate cooking the vegetables [ahead of time]—certainly roasted potatoes, but also roasted root vegetables—and at the end, you put everything back in the oven while you’re carving the turkey. All the vegetables come back to temperature. Use the oven not just for the turkey, but for at least two of the three side dishes.
SK: Is there an ingredient or dish that you can’t get enough of right now?
Lidia: Celery root. Celery root and apple salad. [Celery root] is readily available and people are maybe not too friendly with it; it’s a big, ugly root, but it’s good raw. You can clean it and slice it and toss it with apples, or cook the whole head and peel it off like a potato. Sometimes it can have nooks and crannies—clean them all up. And then you cut apples the same size. A little bit of olive oil and apple cider vinegar and you have a great, great salad. I throw in some scallions, too.
I also love dinosaur kale. I braise it with garlic and oil and a little bit of bacon.
SK: You’re the dean of La Scuola, the cooking school at Eataly. Will you teach any classes yourself?
Lidia: January, February, and March, that sort of trimester, I’ll be teaching, so will Joseph [Bastianich], so will Mario [Batali]. We’ll all get in there.
SK: You have such loyal fans. How do you connect with them?
Lidia: I think I earn their trust. I think that’s a big element. I deliver something to them that will add [to their lives]. And today, more than ever, people are really looking for that family gathering around the table and I exemplify that—not because I planned it that way, but because it is part of what I do, who I am.
SK: On your cooking shows on PBS, you’ve kept the format pretty simple.
Lidia: If you follow the sensibility of a culture, if you follow the seasons, if you follow the locality, you don’t need gimmicks.