Tasting the World

5 sought-after recipes from the fall season of 'Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy'

Janelle Davis, CNNUpdated 31st October 2022
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Editor's Note — "Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy" is available now on CNNgo and Discovery+.
(CNN) — Stanley Tucci transports viewers as he travels around Italy and indulges in the world's most popular cuisine.
In this season of "Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy," he invites you to a front-row seat as he and chefs, artisans and home cooks celebrate such specialties as the rich pesto Genovese in Liguria, the sharp pecorino shepherd's cheese in Sardinia and some of Tucci's favorite family dishes in Calabria, where his grandparents were born.
Feeling inspired? We have gathered the top recipes from the season so you can enjoy the regional delights from your own kitchen.
Here are five recipes, adapted for the home cook, from this fall season.
Liguria is the region we have to thank for pesto. And no one knows pesto better than chef Roberto Panizza. "Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy" airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET.

Pasta with Pesto, Potatoes and Beans

Trenette al Pesto con Fagiolini e Patate
Courtesy of Roberto Panizza, chef at Il Genovese in Genoa, Italy
Known as the land of basil, Liguria is the region on the border of Tuscany and France that we have to thank for pesto. And no one knows pesto better than chef Roberto Panizza. For Tucci, who counts the delectable green sauce as one of his favorite things ever, the King of Pesto prepared the simple, creamy dish using sweet, fragrant Genovese basil crushed by hand.
Make this pesto in summer months when basil is at its peak and available at farmers markets. You can find the narrow, flat pasta called trenette, pecorino Sardo and fruity Riviera Ligure extra-virgin olive oil at online Italian specialty stores.
Makes 4 servings
Ingredients for pesto
Coarse sea salt
4 bunches basil, preferably from the farmers market or your garden (3 ½ cups | 60 to 70 grams)
2 garlic cloves
¼ cup | 30 grams pine nuts
¾ cup | 45 to 60 grams Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
¼ cup | 20 to 40 grams pecorino Sardo, grated
5 ¼ tablespoons | 60 to 80 milliliters extra-virgin olive oil, preferably Riviera Ligure
Ingredients for pasta and vegetables
1 pound | 400 grams dried trenette or linguine
1 cup | 100 grams green beans, trimmed and cut in half
¾ cup | 120 grams potatoes, cut into small ½-inch (or 1 to 1 ½-centimeter) cubes
Salad spinner
Large mortar and pestle
1. Before starting the pesto, prepare the pasta water by boiling 4 ¼ quarts (or 4 liters) water in a large pot over high heat. Sprinkle in the salt.
Make the pesto: Without crumpling them, remove the basil leaves from the stems and rinse in a salad spinner. Empty the water and use the spinner to remove excess moisture from the leaves.
2. In the mortar, grind the garlic cloves and then the pine nuts until they form a creamy consistency. Then, without completely filling the mortar, add a few pinches of salt and the basil leaves. Working quickly to ensure the basil doesn't oxidize, continue to pound the basil with the pestle. Crush the leaves in batches, if necessary.
3. When the basil has reduced in size, start using a softer rotational movement, grinding the pestle against the surface of the mortar. Repeat this process until the mixture has an oozy consistency and turns bright green.
4. Next, add both cheeses. Pour in the extra-virgin olive oil and mix it all together. Set aside in a bowl.
5. Prepare the pasta and vegetables: When the water starts to boil, add the pasta to the pot. After, toss in green beans and potatoes. Stir occasionally.
6. Making sure to reserve a ladleful (½ cup or 120 grams) of the pasta water when it's almost ready, cook the pasta until al dente, 6 to 9 minutes. Just before draining the pasta, add the ladleful of pasta water to the reserved bowl of pesto. This helps loosen the pesto's consistency.
7. Remove the pot from heat and drain the pasta, potatoes and green beans. Away from the heat source, mix in the pesto. Never put the pesto in a pan over heat; it would affect the flavor and the color. Serve immediately.
Alghero is world famous for its lobster. It's so good Queen Elizabeth II herself requested it for her wedding reception. "Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy" airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on CNN.

Catalan-Style Lobster

Aragosta alla Catalana
Courtesy of Antoinette Salaris, chef at Ristorante Mabrouk in Alghero, Italy
Alghero, a city on the northwest coast of Sardinia, has some of the best lobsters in the world. The secret to their flavor is in the local waters. Saltier than the ocean, the Gulf of Alghero is also unusually clean, thanks to a coral reef. Chef Antoinette Salaris, known by locals as the Queen of the Sea, prepares the lobster with a fresh salad — a recipe that originates from Catalonia in Spain. Alghero lobster is of such renown that the late Queen Elizabeth II requested it for her wedding banquet. Tucci called it "f**king delicious."
Makes 4 servings
½ teaspoon | 3 ½ grams table salt plus more for pot
1 female lobster (2.2 pounds | 1 kilogram)
1 white onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons | 30 milliliters white wine vinegar, divided
¾ cup | 150 grams extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
1 ¾ pounds | 800 grams vine-ripe tomatoes
1. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a rolling boil. While the water is heating, place lobster in freezer for 15 minutes. Next, cut off the rubber bands securing the lobster claws.
Using tongs or gloves, submerge the lobster headfirst in the boiling water until the shell is bright red and the tail curls up, about 15 minutes after it starts boiling. When it floats, it's ready. Once cooked, use tongs to remove the lobster, and set it aside to cool.
2. While the lobster cools, soak the sliced onion in a medium bowl of water with 1 tablespoon (or 15 milliliters) white wine vinegar to expel all the acidity, about 20 minutes. Drain the onions.
3. Holding the lobster firmly, place the tip of a large knife at the base of the head and cut down the center of the body, dividing it in half.
4. Carefully remove the red roe sack in the carapace of the female lobster.
5. Remove the tomalley, the soft green substance that runs from the head to the tail, and discard it.
6. Place the lobster roe in a medium bowl with olive oil, lemon juice, remaining 1 tablespoon (or 15 milliliters) white wine vinegar and ½ teaspoon (or 3 ½ grams) salt. Whisk together into a smooth consistency.
7. To plate, cut the lobster into pieces and place it on a large platter. Cover with tomatoes and onion and coat everything with the lobster roe sauce. Let it rest for 30 minutes before serving.
Italian chef Celso Laforgia cooks up spaghetti all'assassina, or assassin's pasta. This spicy dish delivers explosive heat. "Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy" airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET.
Spaghetti all'Assassina
Courtesy of Celso Laforgia, chef at Urban Bistrot in Bari, Italy
This spicy dish delivers explosive heat. To start, chef Celso Laforgia drops the raw pasta into a pan with oil and aromatics — but not a drop of water. "Honestly, I've never seen anything like that before," Tucci said. "And I've been around, too." The trick is to burn the pasta enough that it's crunchy, caramelized and a little charred but not so much that it's bitter.
Makes 4 servings
⅔ cup | 150 milliliters olive oil
3 whole garlic cloves, peeled
3 tablespoons | 16 grams crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste (1 to 5 tablespoons)
Table salt to taste
1 pound | 400 grams dry spaghetti
⅔ cup | 150 grams tomato puree
Pinch of sugar
1. In a large sauté pan, add the olive oil, garlic cloves and red pepper flakes.
In a separate pan, boil about 17 cups (4 liters) of salted water.
2. In the first pan, brown the garlic over high heat for about 30 seconds and then add the raw spaghetti. Toast the pasta until it has reached a light brown color, then pour and spread the tomato puree over the entire pan with a wooden spoon. Stir in a pinch of sugar to correct the acidity of the tomato puree. When the spaghetti starts to stick to the bottom of the pan, flip it to the top using a heat-resistant spatula.
3. Pour a medium ladleful of the hot salted water into the pan with the spaghetti and continue to stir. As soon as the water begins to simmer, let it rest. When you hear the sauce sizzle, flip the spaghetti that's stuck to the bottom of the pan to the top with the spatula.
4. Carefully turn the spaghetti, letting it stick a little to the bottom of the pan. When the spaghetti starts to stick to the bottom, flip it with a spatula to bring it to the top. Pour another ladleful of water and continue, as if you were preparing a risotto until the pasta starts to crackle, 8 to 9 minutes.
5. When the pasta is ready, serve immediately from the pan to the plate.
For the Tucci family, a feast is not complete without zeppole, a deep-fried beignet-like doughnut. "Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy" airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on CNN.
Courtesy of the Ventra family (relatives of Tucci)
Zeppole are deep-fried doughnuts that Stanley Tucci called "addictively delicious." Italians often serve puffy, golden zeppole with a generous dusting of powdered sugar, but the Tucci family prefers a savory version, incorporating anchovies within the dough.
Makes 30
5 ¼ cups | ¾ kilogram yellow potatoes, peeled and diced
4 cups | ½ kilogram flour plus more for surface, preferably type 00
¾ tablespoon | 15 grams table salt
1 ½ tablespoons | 12 ½ grams brewer's yeast
¼ cup | 60 milliliters warm water
Oil-packed anchovies, drained, patted dry and diced, or diced salami (optional for savory)
Olive oil for frying
Powdered sugar or honey (optional for sweet)
Potato masher or potato ricer
Deep fryer or large pot
Deep-fry thermometer (optional)
1. Boil the potatoes in a large pot until they are soft, about 10 minutes. Drain and transfer potatoes to a large bowl and mash them with a potato masher while they're still warm. (If using a potato ricer, load them in batches into the canister and extrude the potatoes into the bowl.) Combine 4 cups (or ½ kilogram) flour and salt with the mashed potatoes.
2. Dissolve the yeast in warm water to activate and then add it to the mixture.
3. Knead the ingredients together in the bowl until the mixture is a smooth, dry dough.
4. Cover with a cloth and let the dough rest until it has doubled in volume, about 3 hours.
5. When it has doubled in volume, turn the dough over onto a floured work surface. With wet hands, divide the dough into small pieces and form doughnut-shaped rings that are about ½-inch (or 1 ¼-centimeter) thick. You can adjust the size based on your personal preference.
For a savory version, add a couple of diced anchovy fillets or diced salami to the dough as you shape it if desired.
6. Pour the oil into a large saucepan to reach a depth of 2 inches (or 5 centimeters) and heat over medium heat. To check that the oil is hot enough, immerse a piece of dough; if it remains on the bottom, it is still cold. If the dough comes to the surface and fries, the oil is ready. If the oil becomes dark, then it is too hot, and you will have to lower the temperature by removing the saucepan from the heat. (Alternatively, heat oil until a deep-fry thermometer registers 300 degrees Fahrenheit (or 149 degrees Celsius).
7. Fry the doughnuts in small batches, turning them over halfway through cooking, until they are puffy and golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes total. With a slotted spoon, transfer doughnuts to a plate layered with absorbent paper towel for a few seconds to soak up the excess oil. Change the oil halfway through frying.
8. Serve hot. You can eat them plain or with toppings if desired. Add powdered sugar or honey to the warm zeppole for a sweet version.
At La Collinetta, (from left) Stanley Tucci and farmer and activist Annalisa Fiorenza sample the ancient dish of lamb cooked in clay.
At La Collinetta, (from left) Stanley Tucci and farmer and activist Annalisa Fiorenza sample the ancient dish of lamb cooked in clay.
Agnello cotto in Argilla
Courtesy of Pino Trimboli, chef at La Collinetta in Martone, Italy
In Martone, a mountain town in the region of Calabria, farmer and chef Pino Trimboli wraps herb-flecked meats in wet clay to seal in the aromatic flavors and delicious juices. After the meat cooks and the clay hardens in the oven, he gives the clay shell a hard whack to break it apart, revealing the savory meat within. This time-honored tradition dates to the Stone Age.
Makes 4 to 6 servings

Whole leg of lamb (about 3 ¼ pounds | 1.5 kilograms)

1 pound | ½ kilogram pork rind or bacon, thinly sliced

1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped

1 rosemary sprig, finely chopped

4 bay leaves

¼ cup | 55 grams unsalted butter, cut into small pieces (about ¾ inch or 1x2 centimeters)

Pinch of dried oregano

Pinch of orange powder (available online; any citrus powder works)

2 sheets parchment paper

6 ½ pounds | 3 kilograms clay for baking (You can find clay for baking online.)
1. Preheat oven to 480 degrees Fahrenheit (250 degrees Celsius).
2. Debone the leg of the lamb by cutting straight toward the bone and then trimming around it until it can be removed along with the bone joints. To facilitate the cooking, roughly chop into 1 ¼x3 ½ inches pieces (about 3x9 centimeters). Then place the lamb on a sheet of parchment and mix the meat with the pork rind, garlic and rosemary. Add the bay leaves; leave them whole.
3. Sprinkle the butter, oregano and orange powder on the meat. Using the second sheet of parchment, wrap the meat, making sure all surfaces are covered.
4. Shape the clay around the parchment layer, using a bit of water to soften it. Make sure that it adheres to the wrapped leg.
5. Cook the lamb in the oven at 480 degrees Fahrenheit (250 degrees Celsius) until the clay has hardened, about 3 ½ hours.
6. When cooked, let the meat rest for 15 minutes. Next, put the cooked clay parcel on a tray and carefully break it with a spoon. Remove the clay, gently unwrap the parchment and remove the bay leaves. Then serve the meat on a large platter. Pour any juices from the meat over the platter.