Recipe Spotlight

How to Cook Your Way Through Stanley Tucci: Searching For Italy

Did watching the hit CNN show make you hungry? Learn to make some of the dishes Tucci ate.

Published Apr. 29, 2021.

Every once in a while, a show comes along that you know will stick with you for a very long time. That’s how I felt watching Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy (available to stream through CNNgo). Though the final episode aired a few weeks back, I still find myself daydreaming about the amazing food Tucci ate throughout the show’s six episodes.

For those of you who haven’t seen it yet, the show follows actor Stanley Tucci as he explores six different regions of Italy, all while tasting local dishes and learning their history. To do this learning, he didn’t just eat at Michelin-starred restaurants throughout the country. He also went to farms, small cafés, window-service eateries, and small family-run restaurants. He spoke to people from different walks of life who all shared a common thread: a passion for the food of their country.

Since none of us can visit these places right now, here are some recipes from our archives to help bring some of the food from the show into your own kitchen, by region.

Just a heads up, these recipes are free until May 6, 2021. Just sign up for a free account through any of the recipe links—it takes 30 seconds!

Naples & Amalfi Coast

One of the places Tucci visits in the premiere episode is Pizzeria la Notiziza in Naples, where he meets chef Enzo Coccia. Coccia makes him the perfect Neapolitan pizza, using a sauce made from San Marzano tomatoes and topped with fresh basil and buffalo mozzarella.

You can create something similar at home with our recipe for Pizza Margherita. This recipe uses a food processor to make quick work of our homemade pizza dough, mixing it in just two minutes. After topping it with a freshly made tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and chopped basil, you’re left with one of the best homemade pizzas you’ll ever make. [GET THE RECIPE]

pizza on cutting board with pizza cutter


When Tucci visits Rome, he eats a lot of pastas, from carbonara to pasta all’amatriciana. However, the scene that stuck with me the most was when he ate cacio e pepe at Bistrot64. Prepared by Kotaro Noda, Tucci claimed it was one of the best things he’s ever eaten.

The simplicity of cacio e pepe is what makes it special, and why it is so important to source high-quality ingredients. All it takes to make this dish is spaghetti, Pecorino Romano, freshly cracked black pepper, olive oil, and heavy cream. It is the perfect weeknight meal, as you can make it from start to finish within half an hour. [GET THE RECIPE]

bowl of spaghetti being scooped up with tongs


In the third episode, Tucci visits the Emilia-Bologna region of Italy, which is known for the high-quality food products it produces; the region exports world-class ingredients across the globe. But it is also known for ragu alla bolognese, a rich meat sauce that can have many different interpretations, and can vary from family to family.

In our version of ragu alla bolognese, we use six different types of meat: ground beef, pork, veal, pancetta, mortadella, and chicken livers. When combined with red wine and tomato paste, the sauce tastes complex and rich, but not overwhelmingly so. Plus, it clings nicely to the pasta, allowing for flavor with every bite. [GET THE RECIPE]

tongs holding up scoop of tagiatelle with bolognese sauce


In the fourth episode, Tucci visits Milan, a cosmopolitan city in the northern part of Italy, known for its fashion, commerce, and history. While exploring this city that is a mix of both old and new, Tucci enjoys drinks and classic Milanese dishes, one of which is risotto.

Risotto milanese is a creamy rice dish with minimal ingredients that also requires a careful eye. Its signature creamy texture is achieved through constant stirring. This version is one of the most luxurious, with saffron as one of its key ingredients, adding complexity and color to the dish. In this recipe, we toast the saffron in butter, which helps it release its deep, floral aromas. [GET THE RECIPE]

Bowl of risotto with spoon


The next region on Tucci’s list is Tuscany, with its rolling hills, vineyards, and rustic charm. But it is also the home of Florence, where Tucci lived for a year as a child. In the episode he visits a restaurant close to his heart, Osteria Cinghiale Bianco, where he eats panzanella, a salad of fresh tomatoes and bread.

In this simple salad, the bread acts as a sponge to soak up the tomato juices and bright vinaigrette. Refreshing and easy to make, our panzanella recipe also toasts the bread in the oven to add a nutty flavor and prevent the bread from getting soggy when it is tossed in the dressing. Finally topped with sliced shallot and basil, this makes for the quintessential summer meal. [GET THE RECIPE]

plate of panzanella with tomatoes and cubes of bread


Season one is finished off in Sicily, an island region with beautiful weather, which allows for beautiful local ingredients. Because of this quality, Sicilian recipes are simple in the best way, allowing the fresh ingredients to be the star of the meal. One of the dishes Tucci enjoys in this episode falls squarely in this category: pasta alla norma.

Sicily’s most iconic pasta dish, pasta alla norma includes a combination of tender eggplant and a flavorful tomato sauceseasoned with herbs and anchovies to add deep savorinessall combined with al dente pasta and topped off with salty ricotta salata. Complex flavor, without actually being complex to make, is what makes this recipe perfect. [GET THE RECIPE]

Bowl of rigatoni with pieces of eggplant and sprinkled with shredded cheese

Photo: Ernesto Ruscio / Getty Images

Get more invaluable cooking tips here (new articles are added every day) and start a free trial to access all our rigorously tested, reliable recipes and product reviews.

This is a members' feature.