Christmas with Chef Lidia Bastianich: ‘Nothing brings forth traditions better than food!’
It’s Christmastime, and chef Lidia Bastianich, a true curator not only of all things culinary, but also of Italian culture and tradition, is sharing her family’s Christmas memories and customs.
Aside from the consumerism the holiday can be associated with, it can truly be a beautiful time of year to enjoy festive and memorable traditions. It doesn’t matter how much is in your pocket, or what the TV is telling your family it should be doing for Christmas, you can make the holiday your own.
Sit back and enjoy Lidia Bastianich’s heartfelt memories and thoughts on this time of year.
Bastianich’s Christmas children’s book
The television cooking show host published an endearing children’s book in 2010 called, Nonna, Tell Me a Story, about an Italian grandmother surrounded by her grandchildren. Filled with stories of her own upbringing and holiday traditions, Bastianich explained that the book was born out of her grandchildren’s frequent requests that she tell them another story about her life in Italy. She decided to finally put it down on paper.
When asked by Serious Eats in 2008 to describe her favorite part of Christmas, the author said, “A moving moment for me is when the whole family is around the table. We say grace, and the aromas of the food fill the air, and I feel very gratified when I serve the capon tortellini soup and Olivia, Lorenzo, Miles, Ethan, and Julia, my five grandchildren devour it and ask for seconds.”
“At that point I know they have been nourished with food and love, and they know it as well.”
Bastianich recalls her happiest Christmases
She told Parade in 2013 “the memories of my earliest Christmases were very warm, at my grandmother’s house in a little town in Italy. Our Christmas tree was edible! We made cookies, we dried figs that we had . . . the tree was delicious, it smelled delicious and on the sixth of January, which is the Befana, we ate the decorations.”
“I still make them today with my children for the holidays. I recall making them with my grandparents. The decorations are maybe a little contemporary but the basic cookies are those cookies.”
“Continuing to carry on those traditions is very important. It gives identity to who you are as an individual, it gives security to children as they’re growing up and nothing brings forth traditions better than food.”
“Grandchildren are so special, the relationships between grandparents and grandchildren are so important. Grandparents give unconditional love.”
A Christmas recipe from Bastianich
Bastianich, as she has said earlier, loves cooking for the holidays, and even more, cooking with her grandchildren. A favorite dessert for Christmas? Almond Pine Nut Cookies.
As she says on her website, “These cookies appear at every Italian holiday. They are simple to make, keep well for a week or more, are a great gift to give and to receive, but most of all they are delicious.”
“Some like them chewy, some like them crunchy; the degree of crunchiness is only a matter of how long you bake them. The longer you bake them the crunchier they become.”
They’re so easy to make, it’s a great cookie for children to help make. The cookies keep for a week or two if well wrapped or in a cookie tin, but they likely won’t last that long!