An Interview with Mary Ann Esposito of Ciao Italia

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For many years I’ve enjoyed watching Mary Ann Esposito on public television, whether she was cooking in her studio or taking her show on the road to Italy, I always admired her down to earth no fuss approach to cooking. Mary Ann consistantly proves that with just a few quality ingredients we can all prepare delicious Italian cuisine at home with out difficulty.

Mary Ann Esposito is the author of Ciao Italia Five Ingredient Favorite: Quick and Delicious Recipes from an Italian Kitchen, and the creator and host of the long running PBS series Ciao Italia, celebrating it’s 20th anniversary in 2010. She is also the author of eleven other successful cookbooks, including Ciao Italia Slow and Easy and Ciao Italia Pronto!

Her new book draws on the Italian culinary tradition of simplicity. Her recipes are quick, easy, and economical without sacrificing any flavor!

Recently Proud Italian Cook, ( that would be me) was given the opportunity to ask Mary Ann a few questions, hope you enjoy!

Can you share with us some of the food highlights that you and your family enjoyed together over the holiday season?

Every year I begin making cookies on Oct 12, the traditional Columbus Day; by Christmas I have MANY different kinds that are wrapped and given out to friends and strangers as well. I also make the traditional panettone bread that we serve on Christmas morning and we make over 500 ravioli between Thanksgiving and Christmas to serve as the first course on Christmas day. For Christmas Eve, I always do a buffet spread.

This year you’re celebrating 20 years of hosting your PBS series Ciao Italia, what has been the key to your success?

Approachabillity and connection with the audience and drawing them in by making food that is doable, authentic and good.

Can you walk us through a typical day in the life of Mary ann Esposito from start to finish?

Exercise early in the morning, eat a good breakfast, work in office on email and on shows coming up, film segments of the series, do voice overs, make personal appearences, (not every day), Spend time on writing next book, blogs, articles for magazines, etc. Prepare dinner; spend time with husband.

Who influenced you the most, early on in your career?

My mother, a dietician and two native born Italian grandmothers both in the food business. They were three wise and wonderful women who cooked extremely well.

What do you consider as your defining moment professionally?

The first airing of the series Ciao Italia on national public television

What is your absolute favorite comfort food?

Ice cream

Name some ingredients that you can’t live without.

Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, extra virgin olive oil, pasta, pancetta, garlic, lemons, and gutsy red wine.

What is the motto or advice that you try to live by?

Don’t settle for mediocrity in anything you do!

Flipping through her new book I instantly saw one recipe I wanted to try, Mary Ann’s,”Cotolette di Maiale al Pistacchio” which translates as “Pistacchio-Dusted Pork Chops“. I love pistacchios, and paired with the earthy flavor of fresh rosemary sounded like a perfect match to use together as a coating for chops. I got all my ingredients together and in no time it was on the table! The chops were crispy with an amazing flavor.
Ingredients are:

2 large eggs
1/4 cup of finely minced fresh rosemary leaves
Fine sea salt
Fresh ground black pepper
4 bone-in pork chops
1 cup of natural pistacchio nuts, shelled, ground to a powder. I used my food processor for this.
Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Lightly beat the eggs in a bowl with the rosemary, salt, and grinding of black pepper.
Dip each chop then coat with the pistacchio dust and set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a stovetop-to-oven saute pan large enough to hold the chops without crowding them. I used my heavy cast iron skillet above.
Brown the chops on both sides, then slide the pan into your oven and bake until internal temperature reaches 160 F.

* Note*: Don’t be in a hurry to brown the chops, allow them to cook sufficiently on one side before flipping them over.
They’re ready to turn when the outer edges begin to brown.

Buon Appetito!

Visit the official website of Ciao Italia with Mary Ann Esposito here, and also The Ciao Italia blog here.

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  3. Nice interview! I have never seen her shows but she sounds very disciplined and grounded; made me laugh her favorite comfort food is ice-cream! I know quite a few people who can’t not end the day with a bowl!
    Love that recipe with the pistachios. Yum

  4. Oh i love your blog !

  5. I love watching her show and Nick Stellino’s show. They are wonderful chefs with great passion for Italian cooking and great personalities.

  6. How perfect to have you and Mary Ann in the same place talking about Italian food. Taking a cooking vacation to Italy is one of the best things that you can do and I love seeing Mary Ann teaching in Italy on her show. I took a month long cooking/language class in 2005. I lived with an Italian family and the experience was life changing. That experience and travel tips (restaurants, recipes, hotel info) can all be found at my blog: Isn’t it great to blog about Italy and share our experiences with each other? Thanks for keeping your blog so interesting.

  7. Nice interview Marie! I’ve always enjoyed watching Mary Ann’s TV show and I have a few of her cookbooks and also read her blog 🙂

    I’ve made this recipe using halibut instead of pork –adjusting the cooking time, of course. It was fabulous!

  8. Oh Marie! I adored the interview! I love Mary Ann Esposito and her TV show seems to have disappeared from the St.Paul airwaves. But I do have many of her books.
    You know, she tells wonderful tales with her recipes – and I actually fashioned a play from one of her tales…. and it was produced!

  9. An enlightening interview. Thank you.

  10. What a wonderful interview – she’s a fab ambassador for Italian food. I want to let her know that her neighbors up north in Toronto avidly watch her on Buffalo PBS.

    Maryann is from Buffalo, NY!

  11. I am sooo in love w/your blog.

    *adds pistachios to grocery list*


    Great interview too!

  12. Great recipe. More to the point, I appreciate the interview; I share many of Mary Anne’s sentiments. I particularly liked her list of ingredients she can’t live without – almost without exception (I’d choose prosciutto over pancetta) – they match my own. Thanks!

  13. Great interview and I love the pork chop recipe – how interesting. I’ll have to try it – I love pistachios.

  14. Fantastic interview! I liked the questions you asked. It was interesting to know what she prepared for her own holiday dinner and the foods she cannot live without. Those pork chops look so good! I’ve never used pistachios as a breading before. Now I’ve got another recipe to add to my “to make” list.

  15. Great interview. The book sounds like it’s worth getting. What a great opportunity for you.

    Those chops look fantastic. I must try them!

  16. What a nice interview! The cook sure looks great 🙂

  17. I love her show. My mom and I use to watch her. Really enjoyed the interview and that recipe looks really good.

  18. Great interview. She is also one of my favorites. I’ll be getting this book for sure to add to my collection. Thanks!

  19. I used to love watching Mary Ann but haven’t seen her in years – I thought they’d discontinued her show. These pork chops look great!

  20. lucky you to get to chat a bit with her. I ADORE watching her, and she does have that approachability on TV. I couldn’t agree more with her list of foods she can’t live without. Great read, thanks so much for sharing!Mi sono divertito così tanto!

  21. brava to you Marie for getting and conducting a great interview. And for making those pistachio crusted pork chops – and photographing them so beautifully. They look like they came straight out of a magazine.

  22. A fabulous interview and a delicious dish all in one.

  23. This is so amazing that you get to know the celebrity cook a little better and those pork chops look absolutely delish!!!

  24. Wow! Well done, Marie. I’ve watched Ms. Esposito’s Ciao Italia for a long time and it was so fun that you could do this with her. Really wonderful recipe, too.

  25. I have loved Mary Ann since I was a kid, and will never forget her Chicago accent!
    I am going to try the pork chops this week. Love nut crusted anything.

  26. Great interview Marie! I agree wholeheartedly with Mary Ann’s list of ingredients that she can’t live without. Oh, and I love the combination of pork and fresh rosemary – the pistachios are a bonus!

  27. How wonderful! Mary Ann has always been a favorite of mine. Her sweet personality comes through and she is one great cook. Thanks for sharing a little more of her.

  28. Great interview. No wonder Mary Ann is successful, 3 generations of Italian women to follow! Those chops look fabulous, exquisite photo!

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