I learned to cook from watching my imaginary aunties and uncles. I may not have grown up in a gastronomically inclined home, but the warm, encouraging stars of food television — Julia, Martha, Sandra, Rachael, Emeril, Alton, the Two Fat Ladies, and, of course, Lidia — showed me the way. They talked me through my early faltering steps as a home cook, and they teach me still.
As accessible as she is meticulous, author and restauranteur Lidia Bastianich has always made cooking great food look as pleasurable as eating it. Now in her newest book, "Lidia's a Pot, a Pan, and a Bowl: Simple Recipes for Perfect Meals: A Cookbook," she creates low-stress versions of Italian classics, like a one-pan chicken and eggplant parm.
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"This is how I cook," Bastianich says during a recent Zoom call. "I pull out a pot, and try to get everything in there. It's very Italian to put vegetables with proteins all together. Maybe at the most, add a pot of water for the pasta or for the starch. But otherwise, it's all in that one pot."
The whole book is full of relaxed seasonal dishes like cod and lentil salad, and skillet lasagna. But reading it, I zeroed in on the desserts, and a cookie that nods to one of the greatest confections ever invented — the cannoli. Plump with ricotta, Lidia's chocolate chip cookie is not the golden tollhouse cookie of your American dreams. This is a pillowy soft little bite that will remind you of your favorite Italian bakery, the kind of thing that ought to come in a box tied with a red string. "Sometimes I put in some lemon or orange," Bastianich says, and so I happily follow suit. The hit of lemon gives these a punchy freshness that plays well with chocolate. "Also," she says, "instead of chocolate chips, you can put candied orange or candied lemon and all of that in there. Really delicious."
Because I believe every chocolate chip cookie recipe should have way more chocolate, I have doubled Lidia's suggested amount of chips. If you are of a more restrained bent than I, use just one cup of chips.
I also like to bake my cookies to order so they're always warm and fresh, keeping the reserved dough in the fridge. You can do likewise here, or bake your cookies all at once if you are feeding a group.
Cannoli-ish chocolate chip ricotta cookies
Inspired by Lidia Bastianich's "Lidia's a Pot, a Pan, and a Bowl: Simple Recipes for Perfect Meals"
Makes 3 dozen, maybe more
1 stick of butter, softened
1 cup of granulated sugar
2 large eggs
8 ounces of fresh ricotta (Fresh is extraordinary, but I have made these with the supermarket stuff from the tub too with zero complaints.)
2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract (I think next time I'm going to swap in lemon extract for even more punch.)
2 teaspoons of baking powder
Pinch of sea salt
2 cups of mini chocolate chips (or regular sized if you can't find minis)
Confectioners sugar, for dusting (optional)
Lemon zest (optional)
- Preheat your oven to 350°F.
- Line two baking sheets with parchment.
- In a large bowl, cream your butter and sugar until airy and fluffy, about two minutes.
- Reduce mixer speed and add eggs, vanilla and ricotta.
- Add your flour, baking powder and salt and mix until just combined.
- Stir in your chips until combined.
- Scoop tablespoon sized drops of dough on your baking sheets, leaving space between the cookies to spread. If you are baking the whole amount, you will likely need to do this in two batches.
- If you wish, grate some fresh lemon peel on top of the cookies.
- Bake approximately 16 - 18 minutes, rotating your trays halfway through the baking. They should be browned on top and puffed. They will not get as brown as traditional chocolate chip cookies.
- Remove from oven, and cool on a wire rack. Serve dusted with a little confectioner's sugar.
More Lidia we love: