Q&A with Cooking with Nonna author Rossella Rago

Rossella Rago is host of the popular web cooking show Cooking with Nonna. In each episode, Rossella invites an Italian-American nonna to cook with her, sharing traditional Italian recipes and fond memories of childhoods in Italy. Working with these incredible, strong women inspired her to pen a cookbook featuring their recipes and stories. We caught up with her to chat about these amazing women and what they mean to her.

Author of Cooking With Nonna--Rossella Rago

Who are some women that have inspired your love for food and cooking and what have you learned from them?

My grandmother has inspired my love for cooking so much, probably more than anyone else. She had an incredible life, she lost her husband at 29, worked in a factory for $40 a week. But she always found a reason to be happy and to smile. She was happy with the smallest things like making pasta and baking for me and my brother when we were born. I also love Nigella Lawson. Even though she isn’t Italian, she has a very Sophia Loren vibe and I love that she embraces that she can be a curvy healthy woman that doesn’t eat salad to make anyone else happy.

Why do you think its important for women to pass down food traditions down to future generations?

I think especially in 2018 there has never been a more liberated time to be a woman, though of course there will always be more to go. And there is something to be said for remembering where you came from and the women that came before you. I spend so much of my time documenting women that were in my grandmother’s generation, which I personally think was the greatest generation ever lived. That immigrant generation built America into what it is today and allows me to have the choice today to be a food blogger or go to school or whatever I want to be. In many ways, we found everything done for us and they were really the people that built the America that I live in.

You worked with so many nonna’s in the creation of your cookbook – what was the experience like of collaborating with some strong Italian grandmothers?

It was incredible! Every single one of them was so different, I worked with a nonna that had an IQ of 157. I worked with ladies that went up to third grade and then had to leave school to take care of 8 siblings and keep a fire going at home to feed everyone. So when are you working with people with that much cumulative experience, you have to look at every single meeting as a opportunity to learn something. I really do approach each recipe testing with a nonna like “what am I going to learn today” and I am always learn something new from them. It reminds you how much knowledge is still out there and how vast Italian cuisine and culture. Even though Italy is the size of Florida, it really is huge when you break it down in terms of recipes, it can be different in one house and then 5 miles away have a completely different twist.

In Italian cooking, food is so much more than food, it represents love and comfort and celebration – what are some recipes that make you feel connected to the women in your life?

Making pasta by hand always reminds me of being in my grandmother’s basement, where I learned most of what I know about Italian cooking. And there are so many recipes that remind me of being in the kitchen with my nonna, my mom, my aunts, all the women in my life. Anytime we make parmigiana it is such an undertaking and everyone is assigned a different role. I would be frying the eggplant, my Aunt Rosa would be making the sauce and someone else would be chopping the cheese. Or making fresh focaccia and waking up every Sunday morning to that smell. There are so many things that you can’t see or smell without being brought back to a specific place in your life.

Huge thanks to Rossella for taking the time to chat with us about the strong women in her life! Enter to win a copy of her cookbook below and check out this excerpt for her Nonna Romana’s Focaccia Bread.

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Cooking with NonnaLearn to cook classic Italian recipes like a native with the long-awaited debut cookbook from Rossella Rago, creator of the popular web TV series Cooking with Nonna!

For Rossella Rago, creator and host of Cooking with Nonna TV, Italian cooking was never just about the amazing food or Sunday dinner; it was also about family, community, and tradition. Rossella grew up cooking with her Nonna Romana every Sunday and on holidays, learning the traditional recipes of the Italian region of Puglia, like focaccia, braciole, zucchine alla poverella, and pizza rustica.

In her popular web TV series, Rossella invites Italian-American grandmothers (the unsung heroes of the culinary world) to cook with her, learning the classic dishes and flavors of each region of Italy and sharing them with eager fans all over the world. Now you can take a culinary journey through Italy with Rossella and her debut cookbook, Cooking with Nonna, featuring over 100 classic Italian recipes, along with advice and stories from 25 beloved Italian grandmothers.

With easy-to-follow step-by-step instructions and mouthwatering photos, Cooking with Nonna covers appetizers, soups, salads, pasta, meats, breads, cookies, and desserts, and features favorite recipes including:

Sicilian Rice Balls
Fried Calamari
Stuffed Artichokes
Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe
Veal Stew in a Polenta Bowl
Ricotta Cookies
Homemade Pasta
Handcrafted Spaghetti with Meatballs
Four-Cheer Lasagna

If you are ready to bring back Sunday dinner and learn how to make Italian food just like nonna, then look no further!