Manuela Mazzocco was born and raised in Venice and is currently living in Los Angeles, California, with her husband and her two kids. She’s a recipe developer, photographer, creator of the blog and YouTube Channel Cooking with Manuela where she shares her passion for food (Italian but not only) by recipes very easy to recreate. She is the author of The Complete Italian Cookbook.
Here is our interview.
HOW WAS YOUR PASSION FOR COOKING BORN?
My passion for cooking was born many years ago, when I was in my twenties, after I had left my belove Venice to start a new adventure in the U.S.A., together with my brand-new husband and with the essential to survive: two bags full of non-stick pans, a coffee pot (that could not be missed!), and a huge cookbook I had borrowed from my mother-in-law, which I haven’t returned, yet. That book contained anything possible about food and cooking techniques. After the first years in Chicago and then in Madison, Wisconsin, it was extremely clear to me that to taste Italian food ̶ the authentic one! ̶ I had to make it. That’s when everything started. I rolled up my sleeves, fastened my apron, and I put all of myself in the pages of the big Italian cookbook.
WHY THE NAME COOKING WITH MANUELA?
My blog Cooking with Manuela started some years ago, from a conversation with my friends while we were discussing something easy and quick to cook for dinner. I’ve always loved talking about dishes and recipes, giving ideas and suggestion. So, why not? Writing and sharing my passion for cooking… with a lot more people! Cooking with Manuela is an invitation to cook with me. A collection of recipes step by step, easy to follow. It’s an inspiration to cook and create something delicious.
HOW IS ITALIAN CUISINE PERCEIVED IN CALIFORNIA?
In California, as in the whole country, Italian cuisine is very loved. It is considered a prestigious and high-quality cuisine. It’s something people want to learn, imitate and eat. Unfortunately, in many cases you could find “fake” ingredients, products or dishes ̶ vaguely Italian things, “americanized” to the point that they’re not anymore recognizable. As an example, Italian dressing for salad, Cesar salad that has little Italian, marinara sauce which is nothing but a tomato sauce with too much garlic and spices but nothing marine, or fettuccine Alfredo, which no one in Italian knows… not even Alfredo!
This is one of the goals of my blog: promoting Italian culture and cuisine, in the most authentic way possible; proving that it’s popular cuisine, made by traditions, simple tastes, healthy ingredients and easy techniques. I must say that after all I feel lucky to live in California, because, especially in Los Angeles, you can find products imported from Italy and authentic Italian restaurants, where you can eat very well, run by Italians who came to the US to chase the American dream.
WHICH IS THE MOST POPULAR ITALIAN DISH IN CALIFORNIA?
The list is very long and it’s difficult to pick one. Pizza and pasta are obviously the most known classic Italian dishes. In Italian restaurants here you can always find other dishes such as buschette, fried squid, and fish soup. Tiramisù and gelato cannot be missed!
WHICH ARE THE PRODUCTS AND DISHES OF AMERICAN CUISINE YOU LIKE THE MOST AND WOULD SUGGEST ALL ITALIANS TO TRY?
It’s not so easy defining what’s really American cuisine, because as the USA history, it comes from a mix of different cultures and tastes, of cooking contribution coming from people all over the world.
It took me quite a lot, but after several years I have learnt to cook and appreciate the typical Thanksgiving’s feast, with the huge roasted turkey, surrounded by various sides, such as stuffing, corn bread, mashed potato made with caramelised sweet potatoes, and the most loved (or hated) blueberry sauce. I would say that despite it is to try at least once in your life, it isn’t my favourite American dish.
I am greedy, so my must-try are fluffy pancakes with a bit of maple syrup during Sunday brunch; the famous New York cheesecake (2000 calories in a slice are worth it, trust me), muffins, simple to make and eat for breakfast or as a snack in the afternoon. And let’s not forget the classic apple pie, just like the one made by Mother Goose I used to see in comics when I was a child.
YOU ARE THE AUTHOR OF THE COMPLETE ITALIAN COOKBOOK, TELL US ABOUT IT…
Since when I started running my blog, it has always been my dream and it is definitely the most exciting thing that has happened to me in 2020! After half a year of intensive work, last year, in April my first cookbook was released ̶ a collection of 110 Italian recipes, my favourite ones, the classic, traditional and probably most known in America.
As the blog, in the book I share my knowledge and passion for Italian food, I stress the simplicity of Italian cuisine, but also the richness of flavours and the variety of recipes that are peculiar of each region. I try to inspire and show readers that with just a bit of time and passion, anyone can create these dishes in their kitchen.
YOU ARE FROM VENICE. WHICH IS THE DISH YOU HOLD IN YOUR HEART?
Maybe it’s because Carnival has just gone, but frittelle like the one that are made in Venice are difficult to recreate!
NEW PROJECTS COMING FOR YOU BLOG COOKING WITH MANUELA?
At the moment I have no specific project in mind for the blog. But I am always looking for new ideas, recipes and collaborations with brands, especially Italian ones.
WHAT’S YOUR SECRET DREAM?
Publishing a cookbook has always been my secret dream… so maybe it would take a second book! Or, maybe, why not? I’m in Los Angeles, the city where everything is possible and where stars are born: maybe my very own cooking program on TV. Sooner or later, who knows!