• Lisa Hanly

Cooking Club: Searching for Italy

Updated: Aug 29

Each episode of Stanley Tucci's Searching for Italy could inspire its own dinner party...but our friends rolled the whole first season into one fantastic menu.


Before the pandemic, our dinner club met about every other month. After being far apart for too long, we got back together for an Italian feast. In each of the six episodes of CNN's Searching for Italy, Stanley Tucci travels to a different region of Italy to showcase the area’s regional specialties and their love affair with food, and the menu reflected that.


“We look forward to breaking bread and toasting to our reunion in the same enthusiastic way as the Italians," said our hosts.

Cocktail—Milan episode

Negroni: 1 ounce gin, 1 ounce Campari, 1 ounce sweet vermouth, garnished with an orange peel. It is a gorgeous color.


Bread (Pane)

Focaccia: our bread baker did a beautiful job, it all looked and tasted like she'd been to an Italian bakery. She served it with a variety of dipping sauces: truffle oil and Parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and a spicy pepper flake oil. The chunky salt flakes on top were the best. Recipe from An Italian in My Kitchen.


Salad (Insalata)—Tuscany episode

Panzanella: a fresh salad made of bread cubes, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onion, basil and capers. The bread deliciously soaks up all the tangy, vinegary dressing. We relied on Ina Garten for this summer salad recipe.


Appetizer (Apertivo)—Siciliy episode

Arancini (Deep Fried Rice Balls): not sure how a ball of rice can turn out so light and crisp, but it does. Adjust the saffron amount depending upon how much you want to invest in this recipe! The mozzarella cheese in the middle is a stretchy surprise. Serve with your favorite arrabbiata sauce.


Main Dish (Piatto Principale)—Rome and Bologna episodes

Pasta Bolognese and Pasta Carbonara: our hosts purchased the handmade pasta from one of our favorite St. Louis restaurants, Pastaria. The fresh pasta really makes a difference from dried. I liked the carbonara the best, eggy and silky with chunks of guanciale...decadent.


Dessert (Dolce)—Naples episode

Migliaccio: a cake made of ricotta and semolina that looks just like a cheesecake. The consistency is more grainy than smooth. This recipe from Manu's Menu has a great photo by photo recipe to help you feel confident as you make it. I added a homemade blueberry sauce as the cake is a bit boring to look at.


Lemon Digestif (Limoncello)

Normally limoncello takes months to make, but with the sous vide only two hours! I love making this and putting it in a pretty bottle. Our friends said my version was "smooth" and easy to drink. Try this two-hour limoncello recipe from Foodista Seattle via Anova's website. Sip limoncello straight up, with ice or mix with prosecco for a crisp and light drink.