Some of us could watch Stanley Tucci go to the DMV and be glued to the screen. The actor, director and author is simply imbued with charm. He’s fresh off an Emmy win for his new-in-2021 travel and food show “Searching for Italy,” and it’s been 25 years since his groundbreaking film “Big Night,” which he co-directed and co-starred in. (It continues to be so iconic among Hollywood types that the show “Billions” recently included an homage of the omelette-making finale.)
We couldn’t be more thrilled to have Taste: My Life Through Food, his new memoir and cookbook, on our list. It lands on October 5th, and he’ll be chatting with Blake Lively about it On October 6th in the WS virtual classroom.
The book’s few and carefully selected recipes add contour and context to Stanley’s tribute to family and food. He has shared some of the recipes on Instagram, including the Tucci family ragù (recipe below), which is next up on our Sunday supper list.
“It is fair to say that I now probably spend more time thinking about and focusing on food than I do on acting,” writes Stanley in his book’s introduction. Peppered with recipes and insights into how he grew up North of New York City eating his mother’s fantastic Italian food, the book echoes Stanley’s arched-eyebrow screen persona: It’s dry, it’s colloquial, and it’s full of jokes. About his Negroni-Up, a variation on a classic Negroni, he writes:
“There are those who consider serving this cocktail ‘straight up’ to be an act of spirituous heresy. But they needn’t get so upset. I never planned on inviting them to my home anyway.”
Here is the ragù recipe whose aroma woke Stanley “practically every Sunday morning of my childhood. Even today, when I am with my parents on a Sunday it is this traditional meal that we share.” (We can’t get enough of you or your ragù, Mr. Tucci.)
This is the traditional way the Tuccis make ragù. My maternal grandmother made a lighter version of this same sauce. It calls for spare- ribs and stewing beef in this recipe, but different cuts of meat may be added depending on what is on hand—pork chops, sausage, pig’s feet. It is delicious with polpette (meatballs), which may be added to the sauce during the last half hour of cooking. The sauce may be prepared two days ahead of serving. Refrigerate it overnight and reheat before tossing with the pasta. It may also be frozen with the meat and meatballs.
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 pound stewing beef, trimmed of fat, rinsed, patted dry, and cut into medium-size pieces
- 1 pound country-style spareribs, trimmed of fat, cut in half, rinsed, and patted dry
- 1 cup roughly chopped onions
- 3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 1⁄2 cup dry red wine
- One 6-ounce can tomato paste
- 1 1⁄2 cups warm water, plus more as needed
- 8 cups canned whole plum tomatoes (about two 35-ounce cans), passed through a food mill or pureed in the blender
- 3 fresh basil leaves
- 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, chopped, or 1 teaspoon dried
Warm the olive oil in a stew pot set over medium-high heat. Sear the stewing beef until brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove from the pot and set aside in a bowl. Add the spareribs to the pot and sear until they are brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove the ribs and set aside in the bowl with the 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 the onions and garlic into the pot. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the onions begin to soften and lose their shape, about 5 minutes. Stir in the wine, scraping the bottom of the pot clean. Add the tomato paste. Pour 1⁄2 cup of the warm water into the can to loosen any residual paste and then pour the water into the pot. Cook to warm the paste through, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes along with the remaining 1 cup warm water. Stir in the basil and oregano. Cover with the lid slightly askew and simmer to sweeten the tomatoes, about 30 minutes.
Return the meat to the pot along with any juices that have accumulated in the bowl. Cover with the lid slightly askew and simmer, stirring frequently, until the meat is very tender and the tomatoes are cooked, about 2 hours. Warm water may be added to the sauce, in 1⁄2-cup portions, if the sauce becomes too thick. (If you have made meatballs, they may be added during the last half hour of cooking. The meatballs will soften and absorb some of the sauce.)
Reprinted by Permission of Simon and Schuster. Copyright Stanley Tucci.