We chatted to Canadian-Italian chef, cookbook author and TV host David Rocco to learn about his passion for Italian cuisine, what dolce vita means to him and find out what he cooks for his toughest diners – his kids.
Q: What are your favourite Italian ingredients to cook with?
A: Good olive oil is like bread: the fresher the better, so invest in a quality bottle of the authentic stuff. I always have two types of extra-virgin olive oil on hand: a regular one for frying and a really good one for drizzling. I also use Parmigiano-Reggiano in almost everything: a sprinkle of it on top of simple spaghetti or risotto will really elevate the dish. In fact I don’t use butter in my risotto, I use Parmigiano-Reggiano to give it that creamy thickness.
Q: Explain your approach to food and cooking?
A: My cooking philosophy is Quanto Basta, which roughly translates to “as much as you need” or “as much as you want.” Don’t overthink it and don’t fuss over exact measurements: trust your instincts. It’s all by eye, touch and taste. Use your senses as a guide.
Q: Who is your biggest food influence?
A: Growing up, my family had a huge influence on my love of food. Now with all my travels, I’m constantly finding new inspirations and influences. Spending time in those family run Trattorias and connecting with the owners, you really learn to appreciate their emphasis on simplicity and authenticity.
Q: What are your top 3 Italian cooking tips?
A: • Use the best ingredients possible. If you’re working with fresh, seasonal ingredients, they’ll do all the work for you.
• Use really, really good Extra-Virgin Olive Oil. I finish off almost every dish with a nice drizzle: risotto, pasta or even steak. It completely elevates a dish.
• Less is more. It’s all about balance and respecting the ingredients. Don’t overpower a dish with a single ingredient.
Q: What dish do your kids ask you to cook the most?
A: The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. My kids love pasta: from bucatini all’amatriciana to spaghetti alla carbonara to pasta al tonno … they love it all!
David Rocco’s Spaghetti Caprese
1 lb (450 g) Spaghetti
2-3 tomatoes, chopped
8 oz (225 g) Fior di latte or Mozzarella di Bufala
Pinch of Salt
Chopped fresh oregano, optional
Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1. Begin cooking your spaghetti. Meanwhile, chop your tomatoes and your Fior di Latte – put them in a bowl together.
2. Assemble and season the ingredients as if you were making a Caprese salad. Add salt, basil and oregano. Add your olive oil and mix well.
3. When the pasta is al dente, drain well. Once it has cooled, toss it with your Caprese and enjoy.