Lidia’s Italy in America Tour and Capellini alla Primavera

Lidia Bastianich, everyone’s adopted Italian grandmother, mother or best friend visited the Count Basie Theater last month as part of her “Lidia’s Italy in America” tour.  Lidia is best known for her PBS shows, her fabulous restaurants, and cookbooks that celebrate her Italian heritage.  The doors of The Count Basie Theater opened an hour before the show which allowed the attendees to visit with the sponsors of the event.  After seeing a few booths of local vendors, we found the ‘good stuff, Banfi Chentine wine was providing samples of their Tuscan wine, Red, Rose and white.  Next stop, Cento.  They displayed their bright beautiful yellow cans of San Marzano tomatoes as well as provided samples of cannolis.  The friendly Cento gentlemen at the booth were very informative about the tomatoes.  I later found out that Cento offers make-your-own cannoli kits.  Lidia’s books were also for sale and a book signing followed her presentation.  Last but not least was a booth for Autism Awareness, a cause near and dear to Lidia.  A portion of the events proceeds went to Autism Awareness.

We got in our seats and saw Cody Hogan, Lidia’s right hand man setting up and prepping for the recipes she was going to show us how to prepare.  The house lights dimmed, the crowd hushed and we were ready for the show.  It opened with intros of the sponsors, a cooking demo by Christopher Mariani from Buona Sera then….Lidia!  Dressed in a springtime green shirt, she simply lit up the stage when she walked out.  The crowd burst into a hearty applause to welcome her to Red Bank.  Over the next 90 minutes, the audience was captivated by her stories both live and via video as an Italian immigrant, a young girl who just wanted to eat TV dinners like American kids to the story of her culinary journey that brought her to where she is today.  While recounting these stories Lidia prepared 3 dishes, a seasonal asparagus frittata, Grandma’s famous Chicken and Potatoes and finally Linguine in Clam Sauce.  A favorite story of the night was that her Grandmother in Italy would tell her to run out and gather an egg and point her to the chicken.  Her grandmother knew which chicken laid the egg by their cluck.  Many other endearing stories and tips were given along the way as Lidia made it all seem so simple as well as encouraging to eat seasonal and shop locally.   We were lucky enough to get a recipe from Lidia’s new book which is perfect for the season and sourcing local produce.   As Lidia would say, “Tutti a tavola a mangiare.”


Capellini alla Primavera

Pasta with spring vegetables—or, for that matter, any vegetables—has always been a staple of Italian

cuisine. But Sirio Maccioni, the renowned Italian restaurateur who has owned Le Cirque for decades,

claims to be the one to baptize it primavera in 1974. Along with Romeo Salta, and the Giambelli  brothers, Sirio was at the lead in bringing the fi ne Italian dining experience to New York. Sirio runs a restaurant that is French by name but serves pasta primavera.

Serves 6

1 teaspoon salt, plus more for

pasta pot

1 pound capellini

1⁄₂ cup extra- virgin olive oil

4 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled

8 ounces green beans, cut into

1- to- 2- inch lengths

8 ounces asparagus, peeled, cut into 1- to- 2- inch lengths

1 pint grape tomatoes

1 bunch scallions, chopped

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

1⁄₂ cup heavy cream

1⁄₂ cup fresh basil leaves, loosely

packed, shredded

1⁄₂ cup grated Grana Padano or

Parmigiano- Reggiano

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for pasta. Once it is boiling, slide in the capellini, and cook until al dente. Pour ¼ cup of the olive oil into a large skillet over medium- high heat, then toss in the garlic cloves. Once the garlic begins to sizzle, slip in the green beans, asparagus, and salt. Pour in ½ cup pasta water, then cover and let steam until crisp- tender, about 4 minutes. Once the asparagus and green beans are crisp- tender, add the grape tomatoes, and cook until they begin to wrinkle, about 2 to 3 minutes. Pour the scallions and peas into the skillet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil, and ladle in about 2 cups pasta water. Bring to a rapid boil, and cook until reduced by about half. When the capellini is al dente, transfer it to the sauce. Pour in the cream, the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, and up to ½ cup more pasta water if the sauce is too dense. Bring to a boil, and cook until sauce coats the pasta; toss with the shredded basil. Remove from heat, and toss with the grated cheese.

Michele Pierdinock was born in Edison where she was raised until college at Rutgers in New Brunswick. After graduation she did over a decade in Hoboken before landing happily in Red Bank.  She began her love affair with food and cooking as a child watching her grandfather in his kitchen stir polenta patiently in his special copper pot.  This continued as she grew up helping her mom prepare dinners, bake breads and create wonderful desserts.  Michele is also intrigued by a vast array of food experiences, everything from restaurant dining to making fresh pasta to attending a chef lecture.  As the author of the food blog, Average American foodie, she shares the experiences with her audience. Follow Michele on twitter: @AvgAmFoodie