Stanley Tucci is one of those performers who perfectly straddles character acting with being on Hollywood’s A-list. Over the past few decades, his roles range from playing a leading fashion authority in The Devil Wears Prada to a serial killer of young girls in The Lovely Bones. However, thinking about Tucci over the last five years, more people might identify him as their go-to social media mixologist during the depths of the pandemic, or roaming Italy and perusing local cuisine on CNN’s Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy. However, his entry into the culinary and beverage industries came well before either of those. It was over ten years ago, writing down his family’s cherished recipes into The Tucci Cookbook.
As an Italian-American who grew up in New York, Tucci’s Calabrian Italian roots were integral to his upbringing. The Tucci Cookbook offers many recipes showcasing his love of Italian cuisine and his fondness for family memories.
“In each recipe, we have worked hard to document those often elusive touches and techniques that result in a great meal as opposed to an ordinary one,” says Tucci in the book’s intro.
While the cookbook includes a variety of fish and meat-based dishes, it also has a generous selection of vegetarian recipes. It’s particularly noteworthy as it features a variety of flavorful and inventive dishes that will satisfy even the most discerning palates; from appetizers to mains and sides, there is no shortage of veggie-forward options. This book is a win for any Italian foodie, particularly those who like to focus on generous selections of fresh, seasonal ingredients.
Here are five recipes from The Tucci Cookbook that deserve continuous rotation on nights when meat takes a back seat.
Editors note: We refrain from publishing the recipes in their entirety due to copyright law.
One could argue it’s the simplicity of the potato croquette that makes it delicious. Basic ingredients include potatoes, eggs, all-purpose flour, and breadcrumbs, with Italian nods of pecorino Romano cheese and fresh Italian, flat-leafed parsley. Mash the potatoes, mix in the ingredients, hand-roll into 3- to 4-inch cylinders, season with salt and fry in oil.
Equally as swoon-worthy as this potato concoction’s simplicity is its ability to be just as delectable unfried as it is fried. For this, it’s essentially elevated mashed potatoes, replacing the egg with butter or cream to ensure a smooth texture (and not consume raw eggs). It’s also a way to avoid the inevitable failure of the first fry batch.
But for those with no qualms about hot oil and know not to fidget with the croquettes until they unstick themselves from the bottom of the pan on their own, then frying is the way to ensure a creamy center encapsulated by a light-golden crunchy exterior.
Technically, Tucci’s Green Lasagna is three recipes in one, requiring the inclusion of Maria Rosa’s Sauce and White Sauce (pages 124 and 116 of The Tucci Cookbook, respectively). As any proficient home cook knows, using your favorite store-bought pasta and béchamel sauces will help lighten the workload just fine. Although, you risk losing a bit of authenticity in doing so.
The green, or vérde, for this recipe comes from the noodles. Tucci recommends alternating regular pasta sheets (homemade or otherwise) with spinach noodles for a boost of color and flavor. The spinach in the noodles combined with carrot, celery, onion, garlic, and herbs in Maria Rosa’s sauce adds a brightness of flavor, while the creamy béchamel sauce and melted cheese make it a rich and satisfying meal.
Summer Vegetable Soup
In addition to various veggie-forward appetizers, entrées, and sides, The Tucci Cookbook also has a section focusing on soup. This minestrone-esque version encourages using fresh, summer produce like ripe tomatoes, zucchini, fresh peas, and asparagus, ideally local, depending on availability where you live.
The genius of this summer vegetable soup is that it makes the most of summer’s bounty while also allowing for the creation of homemade vegetable stock using leftover peelings and trimmings from the carrot, potato, zucchini, and asparagus bottoms. It’s the vegetarian’s version of eating nose-to-tail (à la The Whole Animal) — using the waste from the fresh ingredients to make the soup’s broth.
Mushroom and Potato Casserole
Say ‘casserole’, and some think of cold weather. For others, it could also summon the imagery of ‘throw everything in together and see what happens’.
Admittedly, in the cookbook, Tucci claims the first version of this recipe could have come out better. “We tried again, all (my family) working together, and finally arrived at this version,” he says of trusting instinct.
Soul-filling ingredients of mushrooms (chef’s choice to use porcini, portobello, or cremini) and potatoes are the vessels for fresh herbs, onion, and garlic, in a casserole that will make you stand by the oven, counting down all 50 minutes until it’s done.
Tucci recommends this as a side dish to simply prepared fish, meat, or chicken. But any vegetarian knows that when mushrooms are involved, the meal is complete.
Eggs With Tomato
This stripped-down Italian version of Shakshuka involves gently poaching an egg over a mixture of simmering onions and tomatoes. It takes patience, not only getting the onions perfectly sweet before adding the tomatoes but also waiting for the egg to reach the perfect amount of medium firmness.
For a real treat, get a fresh Italian loaf for dipping in the sauce.
Tucci recommends using Gianni’s Basic Tomato Sauce or Sailor’s-Style Sauce (two other family sauce recipes in the cookbook) instead of olive oil, onion, and tomatoes for a leveled-up variation.
A Note About Wine
No Italian cookbook would be complete without a mention of wine. Tucci enlists the expertise of Tyler Coleman — aka Dr. Vino — to write about wine’s role alongside food. Suggestions include avoiding power struggles between spicy dishes and wines with higher alcohol and finding regional wines to serve with dishes with specific regional ingredients — much like we see in SOMM TV’s Pairings: Rimessa Roscioli.
When it comes down to getting the most out of wine, Coleman urges serving wine in good glassware and finding a friendly wine shop that will recommend a bottle based on what you’re serving.