An Interview with Mary Ann Esposito of Ciao Italia

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.