Cooking with Sophia Loren

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Next Tuesday (April 21st) TCM is celebrating the illustrious career of Sophia Loren with a tribute that includes three important TCM premieres beginning with the first U.S. television screening of HUMAN VOICE (La voce umana, 2014). This bittersweet 25-minute film is directed by Loren’s son Edoardo Ponti, and is based on the iconic Jean Cocteau play about a woman whose final telephone conversation with her lover reflects her despair over losing him. This is followed by THE GOLD OF NAPLES (L’oro di Napoli, 1954), an anthology that gave Loren one of her first starring roles; and the saucy comedy drama MARRIAGE ITALIAN STYLE (1964), made at the height of her reign as a leading screen goddess.

Some of my fondest childhood memories are the times I spent visiting with my Italian nonna or as I affectionately called her, “Nana.” Nana was my great grandmother who was born in the Piedmont region of Italy and arrived in America around 1915 when she was a young woman. Nana never learned how to speak fluid English and preferred her native tongue, which sounded like pure poetry to me. Unfortunately, this meant we couldn’t communicate very well due to my lack of Italian language skills but her warm eyes and welcoming smile spoke volumes. I can vividly remember watching Nana cook Italian meals for large family gatherings and the smells coming from her kitchen were always intoxicating. Although I didn’t know it at the time, my great grandmother was a culinary artist and she taught many of the women in my family how to cook.

My great grandmother passed away long before I became interested in cooking but I often wish she was still around to offer me some tips and advice. Instead, I’ve had to rely on cookbooks and cooking shows to learn the ins and outs of Italian cooking and I’ve recently found myself turning to the lovely Sophia Loren for advice. Loren is one of my favorite actresses and the curvaceous Italian beauty also happens to be an accomplished cook who wrote a number of successful cookbooks.

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According to numerous sources, Sophia Loren once famously quipped, “Everything you see I owe to spaghetti!” In recent years the actress has denied saying this and in retrospect the phrase was probably dreamed up by some quick-witted journalist but the words continue to be credited to Loren and this is undoubtedly due to her well-publicized affection for food. Besides writing cookbooks, Loren has played characters who cook (in THE GOLD OF NAPLES – premiering on TCM April 21st – Loren is a pizza maker!) and she’s often been photographed in the kitchen or while she’s enjoying a good meal. Loren seems to genuinely relish eating, which is unusual in the body conscious world of movies.

She might not owe her hourglass figure to pasta but her love for Italian food is apparent in her cooking recipes, which are surprisingly simple but rich in flavor. What follows are a small selection of some of my favorite recipes by Loren reprinted from a variety of credited sources that you can try at home. If you’re a Loren fan like myself or just enjoy Italian cooking, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Sophia Loren’s Recipes & Memories now in its third printing and published by Gremese. The book includes many of her family recipes as well as fascinating anecdotes about the actress’s life in Italy.

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Sophia Loren’s Spaghetti Con Pomodoro Crudo
* from Authors’ Famous Recipes and Reflections on Food by Diane E. Holloway

Serves 6

Ingredients:
1 and 1/2 pounds of spaghetti
2 pounds tomatoes, chopped
1/2 pound mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
2 medium red or Vidalia onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup pitted green olives, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons drained capers
1/4 cup minced Italian parsley
10-12 fresh oregano leaves chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
Salt
Freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Instructions:
Cook the pasta until al dente. While cooking, place tomatoes, mozzarella, onions, olives, capers, parsley, oregano, garlic, and salt and pepper in a serving bowl. Pour the oil over and toss gently.

When the pasta is ready, pour it into a colander and rinse under cold water quickly. Drain and add warm spaghetti to the bowl. Toss, serve and add cheese at the table.

According to Sophia Loren this recipe is “Cool and refreshing, excellent for summer. Serve with chilled white wine.”

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Sophia Loren’s Eggplant
* from a 1962 issue of Life Magazine

Serves 6

Ingredients:
2 medium eggplants
Olive oil
1 and 1/2 can Italian tomatoes
1 clove of garlic
1/2 pound grated Parmesan cheese
1 medium Mozzarella cheese
1 pound salami sliced

Instructions:
Peel eggplants & slice about a ½ inch thick. Cover with lightly salted water & soak for about 30 minutes. Dry them and then sauté in olive oil until light golden color.

In another pan, cook tomatoes & garlic in tablespoon of olive oil on low heat to sauce consistency.

In oiled baking dish put layer of eggplant, tomato sauce, Parmesan, slices of mozzarella and salami. Repeat layers until baking dish is full ending with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Serve hot or cold.

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Linguine con Salsa Sophia
* from Dish: Memories, Recipes and Delicious Bites by Marion Kane

Serves: 4-6

Ingredients:
1 pound linguine (or spaghetti)
2 cups Italian parsley leaves (fresh basil is also an option)
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts
3-4 anchovy fillets (I suggest chopping before using)
10-12 black olives, pitted & roughly chopped
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1 small onion, chopped
1/3 – 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper or paprika

Instructions:
With large mortar and pestle (or food processor) combine parsley, onion, garlic, pine nuts, anchovies, olives and capers. Gradually pour in oil while continuing to pound or process until mixture forms a thick paste-like sauce.

In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook pasta about 8 minutes or until al dente, drain.

Place lightly oiled skillet over medium heat. Add pasta and cook, tossing for less than a minute. Just until it is dry & begins to brown. Transfer pasta to large serving bowl. Toss with sauce & dusting of pepper.

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Sophia Loren’s Polpette di Carne (Meatballs)
*from Sophia Loren’s Recipes & Memories

Serves 4-5

Ingredients:
1/2 pound fresh bread crumbs
1 cup milk
1 pound ground beef or veal (personally I prefer ground turkey)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano cheese
2 large eggs
Handful of minced Italian parsley
Salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 cup dried bread crumbs
Olive oil

Instructions:
Place the bread crumbs in a bowl with milk and let them soak for about 30 min. Squeeze out extra milk and combine bread crumbs (save about 3 tablespoons of your bread crumb mixture for later use) with meat, cheese, eggs and parsley. Add salt and pepper to taste; stir or use your hands to produce a smooth, uniform mixture.

Form the mixture into small meatballs, and then roll them in extra bread crumbs.

Heat just enough olive oil in a sauté pan to cover the bottom. When the oil is hot, add the meatballs and cook over medium heat, turning the meatballs to color them golden brown all over. Add additional oil in small amounts as needed.

Remove the meatballs to paper towels to drain. Serve hot.

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Sophia Loren’s Crema Pasticciera
*from Sophia Loren’s Recipes & Memories

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:
2 cups milk
1 and ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
6 egg yolks
1 scant cup sugar
4 tablespoons sifted all-purpose flour

Instructions:
In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring milk just to the boiling point, add the vanilla and remove from heat. In a large bowl beat the egg yolks together with the sugar until the mixture is a pale yellow color, then whisk in the flour. Continuing to whisk, very slowly pour the hot milk into the egg mixture.

Pour the mixture back into the saucepan, and stirring constantly, bring it slowly close to the boiling point but do not let it boil, or the eggs will curdle and you will have a lumpy sauce. Remove from heat, cool briefly, then place a piece of wax paper on the surface of the sauce to prevent a skin from forming. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until ready to use.

According to Sophia Loren, “This custard sauce is delicious on a fruit tart, alongside a simple cake or as a lovely accompaniment to fresh fruit.

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“The main thing to be doing is to nourish yourself and each other. I’m not just talking about food but about marriage, motherhood, movies, relationships, retirement, everything. And you have to work at every single thing. Life is work. Without ever realizing it, you’re working at life every single day.”
- Sophia Loren, quote from from Getting Along Famously: A Celebration of Friendship by Melissa Hellstern

4 Responses Cooking with Sophia Loren
Posted By swac44 : April 16, 2015 2:10 pm

I swear I’m drooling only because of the food. OK, mostly because of the food.

Posted By AL : April 17, 2015 9:50 pm

A W E S O M E ! ! !

Posted By Jane H. : April 19, 2015 2:04 am

Not exactly on-topic, but I couldn’t help but be struck by the image of the red-headed Loren in the blue tiled kitchen and how much her pose resembles the well-known poster for “Attack of the 50-Foot Woman!” I’m sure it’s just a coincidence, but I thought it quite amusing.

Posted By John Pasmore : February 8, 2016 2:08 am

Having only very recently seen Vittorio De Sica’s film “Two Women”, I am further amazed by this lady’s incredible abilities – a very talented cook and a fantastic actress, especially in this film I mention. A must see if you can find it.

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