Tuesday, 27 January 2009

10 minutes with US celebrity chef Mary Ann Esposito

Mary Ann Esposito is behind Americas most widely watched and longest running cooking show, Ciao Italia! on PBS. A lover of all things Italian Mary Ann has been sharing her passion for the freshest and most authentic ingrediants since the first airing of Ciao Italia! in 1989! Since then she has penned 10 cookbooks including the now famous '30 Minute meals from The Italian Kitchen' and 'Bringing Italy Home.' Her show is watched by an average of 1.4 million weekly viewers who love her no nonsense, grass roots and very Italian attitude to food, cooking and life!

1. If you could choose a cooking holiday from Flavours in either Tuscany, Sicily, Puglia or Bologna which one would you choose and why?
Oh my! That’s nearly impossible to answer since every region is unique and I love them all. But if you made me choose just one I’d have to say Sicily, because my family roots are there.

2. Who would be your ideal cooking companion on a cooking holiday in Italy?
No question, it would have to be my husband Guy. He’s always been my number one traveling companion and no one knows more about wine than he does.

3. What is your essential Italian cooking ingredient?
Lemons. I love how versatile they are. They do wonders for flavors of all kinds of food, from fish to dessert.

4. I couldn’t cook without my…?
Immersion Blender. It’s a must have.

5. What do you do when you’re not in the kitchen?
If I’m not in the kitchen at home, chances are I’m in the kitchen on the set of Ciao Italia. And if I’m not in one of those two places, I’m probably working behind the scenes on the show or doing a book signing for
Ciao Italia Slow and Easy, my most recent cookbook.

6. What’s the best thing about Italy?
In Italy there’s a commitment to getting the most out of life, really living it to the fullest. The appreciation, the reverence Italians have for life and for living really appeals to me.

7. Have you had any cooking disasters?
Sure, I blew up the kitchen stove when I was a newlywed. I was trying to get the pilot light lit in order to keep pancakes warm. Singed my eyebrows right off.

8.Please tell us what is your favourite Italian Recipe?

A Drum of Eggplant and Bucatini
Timballo di Melanzane e Bucatini

SERVES 10-12

Recipe from
Ciao Italia Slow and Easy by Mary Ann Esposito

Making a timballo, or timpano, is an event. It becomes the moment in which ordinary ingredients like macaroni, cheese, and vegetables are transformed into an extraordinary, impressive drum of baked pasta that, when unmolded, receives a standing ovation.

The region of Campania claims the timballo as its own and the recipe that follows comes from Sorrento. It calls for bucatini, a thicker cut of hollow spaghetti, which neatly nestles and holds the ingredients together. It is customary in Campania to use buffalo milk mozzarella, a cheese with a delicate texture and superb taste, but it is very perishable and not readily available. Fresh cow's milk mozzarella can be used instead.

Assembling the timballo is easy when done in stages. Make the sauce several days ahead; cube the cheese and cook the marble-size meatballs 2 days ahead. Patience is the key to the unmolding; you will get much neater wedges by allowing the timballo to cool for about 20 minutes - and the joy of tasting that first forkful will be worthy of the best drum roll.


3 large eggplants (each at least 11 inches long)
1/2 cup toasted bread crumbs
2 tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 cup finely chopped onions
1 rib celery, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
5 cups chopped fresh or canned (drained) plum tomatoes (about 10 medium size)
1/4 cup dry red wine
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Tip: Use fresh mozzarella cheese, but if it is not available, substitute pasteurized.

Note: Instead of frying the meatballs, bake them on a lightly greased cookie sheet at 350ºF until nicely browned, about 20 minutes.

Note: For a nice presentation, spread additional sauce over the top of the unmolded timballo and garnish with curls of Pecorino cheese.


2 cups bucatini broken into thirds
1 pound ground veal
1 large egg, beaten
2 tablespoons dry white wine
2 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino cheese
1/2 cup toasted bread crumbs
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups cubed fresh mozzarella (fior di latte) cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/2 cup peanut oil for frying
1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino cheese


Cut off the stems of the eggplants and discard. Slice the eggplant lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Salt and layer the eggplant slices in a colander set over a bowl. Place a large bowl of water on top of the slices to act as a weight. Let the eggplant "sweat" for at least 1 hour to remove the excess water.

Butter a 9 x 3 1/2-inch-deep round mold or cake pan and coat the inside evenly with the 1/2 cup bread crumbs. Shake out the excess crumbs and refrigerate the mold until ready to fill.

To make the sauce: In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and cook, stirring, the onions, carrot, and celery until they soften. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until the garlic softens. Stir in the tomatoes, red wine, and bay leaf. Cover the pan and simmer the sauce for 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. Remove the bay leaf before using.

Cook the bucatini according to the directions. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Set aside.

In a medium-size bowl, combine the veal, egg, white wine, the 2 tablespoons grated Pecorino, bread crumbs, and salt. Mix gently to just combine the ingredients. Form marble-sized meatballs with your hands.

Heat the butter in a large sauté pan and fry the meatballs until browned on all sides. Transfer the meatballs to the bowl with the bucatini. Add the mozzarella, parsley, and 2 cups of the tomato sauce. Stir to combine the ingredients well and set aside.

Rinse and dry the eggplant slices. Heat the peanut oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Fry the eggplant slices a few at a time until they soften, about 2 minutes on each side. Drain the slices on brown paper. Use additional oil if the pan seems dry.

9.What’s your top tip for the perfect Italian meal?
Always use quality ingredients and keep the treatment simple. Let the individual flavors shine through.

10. Where can we find out more?
A couple of places actually...
The Official Website of Ciao Italia with Mary Ann Esposito:
The Ciao Italia Blog: ciaoitalia.typepad.com


LearnEnglishinEdinburgh said...

This is a fantastic blog, come and read ours! Ciao!

Anonymous said...

I love MaryAnn! Nice interview!

Anonymous said...

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