Actor's tribute to food, family

New York TimesOctober 30, 2012 

  • Concetta’s Stuffed Artichokes From “The Tucci Cookbook,” by Stanley Tucci. Tucci named the recipe for his grandmother and based it on his memories of her version of the dish. 4 medium or 2 extra-large artichokes 2 teaspoons chopped flat-leaf parsley 5 teaspoons finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 cup coarsely grated day-old bread or 1 cup plain dried bread crumbs, or a combination 4 tablespoons olive oil PREHEAT the oven to 350 degrees. Trim off and discard the stems and the top 1/4 inch of the tops of the artichokes and snip off the sharp outer points of the leaves. SNUGLY FIT the artichokes in a small saucepan and add water to a depth 1/4 inch below the tops of the artichokes. Cover, bring to a boil, and simmer until an outside leaf pulls away easily, about 20 minutes. Do not overcook or the artichokes will fall apart. Remove from water, turn upside down to drain, and set aside to cool. MIX the parsley, Romano cheese, garlic and bread crumbs. Sprinkle teaspoons of the filling between the leaves of the artichokes, working from the outer leaves toward the center, spreading the inner leaves slightly if necessary. PLACE the artichokes in a glass baking dish. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over each artichoke (2 tablespoons if you’re using extra-large ones). Add water to the depth of 1 inch. Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes. Remove foil, add more water if needed, and bake until artichokes are tender and lightly browned, about 15 minutes longer. Serve hot or at room temperature. Yield: 4 servings.
  • Tucci Ragu Sauce Adapted from “The Tucci Cookbook” (Gallery Books). 1/4 cup olive oil 1 pound stewing beef, trimmed of fat, rinsed, patted dry and cut into pieces 1 pound country-style spareribs, trimmed of fat, rinsed, patted dry and cut in half 1 cup coarsely chopped onions 3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped 1/2 cup dry red wine 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste 8 cups whole plum tomatoes (about 2 35-ounce cans), passed through a food mill or pureed in a blender or food processor 3 fresh basil leaves 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried WARM olive oil in a stew pot over medium-high heat. Sear stewing beef until brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove from pot, set aside in a bowl. ADD spareribs to pot and sear until brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove ribs and set aside in bowl with stewing beef. (If your pot is big enough to hold all the meat in a single layer, it may be cooked at the same time.) STIR onions and garlic into pot. Reduce heat to low and cook until onions begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in wine, scraping bottom of the pot clean. Add tomato paste. Pour 1/2 cup warm water into the tomato paste can to loosen any residual paste, then pour into pot. Cook to warm the paste through, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes along with additional 1 cup warm water. Stir in basil and oregano. Cover with lid slightly askew and simmer about 30 minutes. RETURN meat to pot, along with any juices that accumulated in bowl. Cover with lid slightly askew and simmer, stirring frequently, until meat is very tender and tomatoes are cooked, about 2 hours. Warm water may be added, 1/2 cup at a time, if sauce becomes too thick. Yield: 8 servings.

To appreciate how much food means to the actor Stanley Tucci and his family, you have to hear the stories about his maternal grandmother, Concetta Tropiano, who pickled her own tomatoes, canned her own pears, curdled her own ricotta, brewed her own beer and fattened her own chickens, rabbits and goats in suburban New York.

Tropiano died in 1997 at age 88, but her legacy endures, in part through “The Tucci Cookbook,” released this month by Gallery Books, a paean to Italian cooking and Italian-American families.

It includes recipes from the Tropiano and Tucci clans, both of which have roots in Calabria, in southern Italy. It reflects the year in the early 1970s when Joan Tucci and her husband, Stanley Sr., temporarily moved their children to Florence and fell hard for lasagne verde. It bows to “Big Night,” the 1996 movie set in an Italian-American restaurant, that Stanley Tucci not only acted in but helped write and direct.

Beyond all of that, “The Tucci Cookbook” suggests the meaty, saucy ways in which a love of food can bind and govern a family.

In Stanley Tucci’s life and career, cooking and eating seem to be the glues for every relationship, the sidebars to every adventure, the grace notes of every achievement.

“Big Night,” an exuberant celebration of culinary obsession, helped put him on the map in Hollywood. More than a decade later, “Julie & Julia,” in which he played Julia Child’s husband, Paul, cemented his reputation as one of Hollywood’s nimblest character actors.

Tucci, 51, is a proud and avid cook, and his arsenal of equipment trumps what many restaurants have on hand.

In addition to six burners and acres of counter space in his kitchen, there’s a mammoth stone pizza oven on the patio, along with a gas grill as large as a Fiat.

He has become friendly with several prominent chefs, including Mario Batali and Adam Perry Lang, the former owner of Daisy May’s BBQ in New York.

Lang saw the Tucci family in action during a visit last summer.

“It’s in vogue now to say, ‘The whole family gathers in the kitchen.’ But they invented that. There are all these people by the stove sauteing things and dunking things and putting gravy over things.”

For a printable copy of the recipes, click the links:

Tucci Ragu Sauce

Concetta’s Stuffed Artichokes

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service