Photo by: Fine Dining Lovers / Stanley Tucci's portrait by Daniel Krieger /
In episode four of Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy, the American actor travels to the county’s north, including the financial and business capital Milan, where he learns how to make cotoletta milanese, risotto milanese, pizzocheri and polenta. He also indulges in the city’s habit of aperitivo, a way to graze with a cocktail before dinner.
In previous episodes, Stanley Tucci explored Rome, where he tried the Eternal City’s four famous pastas of amatriciana, carbonara, cacio e pepe and pasta alla gricia; as well as Emilia-Romagna, where he met up with Massimo Bottura and learned to cook tortellini in brodo.
This time Tucci was in the country’s more prosperous and cosmopolitan north, specifically in Milan. The city is famous for its risotto milanese, a golden-hued rice dish flavoured with saffron. Tucci visits restaurant Ratanà, where chef Cesare Battisti explains the history of risotto Milanese and shows him how to make it.
"The story goes that one day they were pranked by being fed rice as yellow as the windows they made," Battisti tells Tucci.
Why rice, and not pasta? "Because Italy is split in two," chef Battisti explains. "The south is very warm, and wheat grows there, (but) the north is rainy and has got marshes, so rice grows here."
How to Make Risotto Milanese from Searching for Italy
Risotto Milanese is not a difficult dish to make, but it must be made with the highest-quality ingredients. So make sure you use superfine Carnaroli rice to make it. The other ingredients you will need to make it are a white onion, unsalted butter, chicken or vegetable stock, and of course good-quality Parmigiano cheese.
Risotto Milanese from Ratanà as seen in Searching for Italy
This is a recipe from Ratanà, the restaurant where Stanley Tucci learned how to cook risotto Milanese in Searching for Italy. This recipe offers a twist on the classic risotto, adding a touch of aromatic orange to lift the dish.
Parmesan Risotto Recipe
Get a personal tutorial with all the steps and the tricks you’ll need to make the perfect parmesan risotto with Michelin-starred chef Riccardo Camanini.
Pizzoccheri is a northern Italian buckwheat pasta that comes in ribbons. It is associated with Valtellina and the mountainous regions north of Lake Como. When it is cooked in the classic style, it is cooked with wilted greens, usually cabbage but sometimes green beans, and with cubed potatoes. It is all mixed together with plenty of pizzicchero or talegio cheese, parmesan, oil and sage. It is a hearty and warming comfort food that Italians look forward to after a long walk in the Alps.
Learn how to Make Delicious Pizzoccheri with Pasta Grannies
Learn How Make Cotoletta Milanese from Searching for Italy
No trip to Milan would be complete without eating cotoletta Milanese, a breaded steak that is usually served with a wedge of lemon and French fries. In Searching for Italy, Stanely Tucci discovers the history of the dish in Milan, where it is sometimes said that it has its origins in the schnitzel, as the area was under Austrian rule before reunification. Tucci agrees with the assertion that the schnitzel is, in fact, a copy of the cotoletta Milanese.
The ingredients you will need for cotoletta Milanese are your meat steaks – traditionally made with veal, but it is more commonly made with chicken these days. You can use any meat or poultry you like, breadcrumbs, egg and a lemon.
Known as the ‘bread of the poor’ in the industrial north, the maize-flour meal still holds a lot of import for people from this part of Italy. It is easy to make, but does take time and a little effort to get it right. Once it’s cooked, it’s quite versatile and it can be served as fritters or just a creamy, cheesy side to just about anything.
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