We talk a lot about Italian food, and with reason - it's one of the world's most favourite cuisines. It's a culture that's proud of its contributions to the world, and it should be. Immigrants from Italy have shaped how people eat across the globe, bringing their traditions to new worlds, and starting new ones of their own.
We love meeting people who share passion for food and cooking for others. We had the wonderful opportunity to get to know two very special Italians - the authors of SugarLoveSpices. SugarLoveSpices is a culinary blog based in Canada owned with love by the husband and wife duo Loreto and Nicoletta. Loreto is a Canadian born Italian, and Nicoleta is Italian born and moved to Canada with her husband.
We fell in love with their story, their incredible photography and beautiful dishes, so we decided to learn more about them.
An Interview with Loreto & Nicoletta of SugarLoveSpices
Q: "Loreto, as a Canadian born Italian, and Nicoletta, an Italy born Italian, you must find some interesting differences in the way you were raised. Tell us about some of your favourite moments growing up."
"My most precious memories are all centered around my grandma. She practically raised me. While my parents were working, she walked me to school, came to pick me up, entertained me in the afternoon, and took me to ballet. When I was not reading or playing dress up with her gorgeous clothes and hats, I stood on a chair close to her, while she was making fettuccine. I had a spot on the wood board all for me, with my own dough and made my own pasta, copying her confident gestures. Her fettuccine is still the best I ever had. She lived until 97 years old and she made fettuccine for all the family until she was 90!"
"My most cherished memories were Sundays. There was always a get together and food was being prepared. My grandmother would come over. The smell of tomato sauce stewing... watching and playing with dough as my mother and grandmother make fresh homemade spaghetti. My brother and I would make tomato sauce sandwiches... a nice wooden spoon full of the rich pulp that would be stewing for hours at the bottom of the pot, slathered on a great piece of crusty Italian bread. That was the best. My mother would chase us from the kitchen in fear there would be no more sauce! On occasion you could find my father cursing as he swirled the wooden spoon in the sauce pot only to find that the amount of sausages he had put in was not the amount he saw now, Italian brothers strike again, lol."
Q: "Nicoletta, moving to Canada from Italy must have been a bit of culture shock. What did you find were the biggest differences between Italian and Canadian food cultures?
"Oh, the first time I came as a tourist I found so many differences! I noticed Canada has a density of restaurants higher than we have, and lot more ethnic restaurants - probably due to the mix of cultures living in the country. I noticed with pleasure that Italian food is highly appreciated, but also, I have to say, highly altered and readapted. I remember being amazed and a little annoyed at the quantity of spelling errors on the menus and the “invented”, added ingredients on some of our popular dishes. I guess I still am, annoyed I mean, sometimes. :-)"
Q: "Yes! It's so true. Italian food in North America is very different than authentic Italian food.. what is one Italian ingredient you couldn’t live without?"
"Easy, a good quality cold pressed olive oil."
"I could not live without pasta!"
Q: "We couldn't live without either! At The Chef & The Dish, we believe cooking together is an important part of a relationship, making a couple stronger and more creative. We love your cooking duo! What are your favourite moments in the kitchen together?"
"Our favorite moments in the kitchen are when we're working together. We have a small kitchen so there is a lot of bumping in to one another and a lot of hugging and kissing that goes on. Whether I am being a sous chef for Nicoletta or Nicoletta is being sous chef for me - we love preparing food and desserts together- helping one another to infuse our passion into the things we create.
Q: "It seems like food is the great connector of the world. Italians seem to understand this so well. What is it about food that you think brings people together?"
It is not the fast food or drive-thru, for sure. Coming from an Italian family, I have to say siting at the table for a 7 course meal, like we're used to: antipasto (appetizer), primo (first course), secondo e contorno (second course and side dish), dolce (dessert), frutta (fruit), caffè (coffee), helps unite the family. You're sitting at that table for a few hours, and even if some chats get animated, at least there is connection among people, exchange and interaction.
"Oh, absolutely food is the glue that brings people together. It's the comfort, the diversity, and the hospitality of food that makes people feel welcomed, special and taken care of. For me, food is love and that love in the preparation of the meal is transmitted to the receiver. This is a wonderful thing. A blessed thing to share with people far and wide. I love here where we are. There is a festival called the Heritage festival. It is a celebration of all cultures sharing their food, their culture, way of life and creativity, all in harmony. The inspirations endless, the dancing, singing. The smell of the food wafting in the air. People of every culture smiling celebrating together. This is what food does create celebration, and in turn celebration creates unity and peace, a lovely thing."
Q: With food bringing people together then - what do you do if you have a last minute houseguest? What dish would you cook for them?
"Last minute? A good plate of al dente pasta! A simple fresh tomato sauce with garlic and basil and a generous grating of Grana Padano (or Parmigiano Reggiano). Or a white and delicious Spaghetti with Aglio Olio e Peperoncino (and some parsley).
If I was the chef for the night... and a last minute guest arrives, what would I make? Hmmmmmm. I think a wonderful Spaghetti with garlic, olive oil and peperoncino. Simple but robust and packed with flavor."
Q: "The Chef & The Dish lets foodies connect to top chefs to cook iconic dishes that originate where the chef lives all through private, 1:1, Skype cooking classes. Our chefs in Italy are based in Rome and in the countryside outside Milan, representing the different Northern and Southern styles of Italian cooking. What would you say are the biggest differences between the Northern Italian and Southern Italian cuisines?"
"That is awesome especially for those “iconic” dishes (and we have quite a few in Italy), having a chef based in the region of that particular dish it makes a difference in the result! I find myself leaning more towards southern Italy, maybe because Rome it's a little more south than north and I try to replicate many of the southern dishes, I'm thinking of all the seafood dishes of the southern shores, the sicilian sweets and eggplant dishes (like Melanzane Parmigiana), the neapolitan pizza, that kind of food that is a burst of flavors in your mouth. I find the northern cuisine more rich in butter, meats, confort foods like soups, risotto, the dishes you need when it's colder."
Q: "Your blog is beautiful. What is one thing you’d like people to take away from SugarLoveSpices?"
Thank you for the beautiful compliment! I am blushing, here! I'd say - cooking is for everybody. It takes more time and effort to buy pre-made “food”, opening the package, plopping it in the oven or microwave and trying to digest it after, than actually prepping a dish or a baked good with organic, fresh ingredients, ones that you can pronounce. Hope people find our recipes easy to follow and to re-make at home.
We would like people to feel at ease cooking and baking. It is not that difficult and does not always require a lot of time. Respecting traditions and creativity, the importance of organic and fresh food, treatment of all life in the most gracious manner with utmost respect and kindness. And most of all how to have fun and enjoy life!
**We love Nicoletta and Loreto's photography and recipes, and they were kind enough to let us share a beautiful autumn dish with you, Rigatoni Funghi e Piselli - Pasta with Mushrooms and Peas. A fantastic and simple dish to learn to master for any weeknight dinner.**
Rigatoni Funghi e Piselli
Prep Time: 10 minutes | Cook Time: 35 minutes | Total Time: 45 minutes | Serving Size: 3 servings
200 g peas, fresh or frozen
200 g mixed mushrooms
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic, whole
1 small onion, chopped
pinch of chili flakes
1/4 cup cream (more, less, or none)
salt and pepper to taste
few parsley leaves
350 g rigatoni pasta
a sprinkle of parmigiano (optional)
In a pan on the stove over medium heat put 2 tablespoons of e.v.o. oil, the chopped onion, the garlic whole and pinch of chili flakes.
Add the peas (fresh or frozen), saute for a couple minutes, then add the mixed mushrooms.
Cook for a few minutes, add salt and pepper, then add 2-3 tablespoons water and cook for 7-8 minutes with a lid. Then let the water evaporate removing the lid, add the cream and cook for 2-3 more minutes. Set aside the peas with mushrooms.
In the meantime, cook the pasta in plenty of salted boiling water.
At the recommended cooking time, drain the pasta leaving some of the cooking water.
Add the pasta to the pan with the mushrooms and peas, and if too dry, add a little of the cooking water (or a bit more cream).
Serve warm, with or without a sprinkle of parmigiano (Nicoletta and Loreto went without)
If you omit the splash of cream, it is a delicious vegan dish.
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