In the Kitchen with Luisa Valazza
The chef spends some time with her will-eat-anything grandson
By sheer coincidence, the favorite film of both grandma and grandson happens to be Ratatouille. Yet their favorite character is not the little mouse (Chef Remy, the film’s protagonist), but Anton Ego, the Mephistophelian food critic. Here, in the three-Michelin-starred kitchen of Al Sorriso ("sorriso" means “smile” in Italian, and it’s a play on the name of the town in which the restaurant’s located), not far from Novara, no one is afraid of food critics. “We’ve been in Sorriso since the beginning of the 80s. Our clients reward us by coming back again and again. Our secret? It’s all in the search for the best, always seasonal, ingredients. The kind you get directly from the farmer,” says chef Luisa Valazza, the aforementioned grandma, who is cooking an exclusive recipe for us at Elizabeth Street today with her five-year-old grandson, Filippo.
When asked about her tricks for getting kids to eat well, Valazza remarks, “The same ones I used with Filippo’s mother, my daughter Paola, who also works at the restaurant. The most important thing is using quality ingredients, but another thing needs to be clear: Children must eat everything!” And so it happens that Filippo doesn’t go crazy for chocolate as much as he does for, say, sundried tomatoes. “To get him to behave, all you have to do is hand him a tin full of them, or a jar of capers,” says the chef, with a satisfied smile, and adds, “the child is omnivorous, probably a result of having grown up in the kitchen, where the staff is always making him try everything.” As Filippo makes himself a mustache with whatever he finds in front of him on the table, she notes, “Even at nursery school, he gobbles everything up and has even learned to garden—growing carrots, for example,” and concludes, “It’s very important that a child has first-hand experience with our land, right from the get-go.” —Veronica Russo
Recipe: Cream of Peas with Fresh Cheese and Brown Bread
1 liter of water
500gr shelled peas
80gr of butter
4 leaves of lettuce (romaine or escarole), finely chopped
4 slices of brown bread
1 fresh, soft cheese (in Italy, one would use the childhood favorite Mio cheese; alternatively, try
Laughing Cow or a bit of Camembert)
2 tbsp ricotta
Prepare a vegetable stock with the carrots, leeks, onion, and water.
Sauté the onion in the butter. Add the peas and the lettuce. Cover with the stock and bring to a boil,
simmer until cooked through. Puree in a food processor. Pass through a food mill and keep warm.
Next, cut the bread into small croutons and “toast” them in a pan with some butter.
In a separate bowl, combine the cheeses with the chives and add salt and pepper. Form into a few
small “dumpling” shapes.
Ladle the soup into a serving dish. Place the cheese “dumplings” and croutons in the center, and finish
with a drizzle of olive oil.
Photo by Riccardo del Conte