Louis Lombardi has another love in his life: food!
The former Sopranos actor, who recently signed on to be part of Clint Eastwood's Jersey Boys adaptation, has a new line of Italian food offerings under his belt. The Lombardi Gourmet line features handcrafted sauces, pastas and olive oil along with a variety of Italian olives.
We recently chatted with Louis about his foodie favorites, must-have pizzas and tips for getting the family involved on dinner night.
Here's what he shared:
What are your favorite things to cook for fall?
One of my favorite things I make now is spaghetti squash. I will make it two to three times a week. I use my Lombardi garlic or Lombardi rosemary olive oil for flavor and dice up fresh tomatoes and anchovies and a half of cup of white wine and simmer. I don't use a sauce and you don't even know the difference. I have to flavor it while it cooks. When it's done, you scrape it out.
I also make chicken meatballs and take these from my recipe my mom's and grandmother's recipes and revised them to make them healthier. Instead of frying chicken, I bake the meatballs using panko and cornmeal breadcrumbs. I use cilantro, mushrooms and Lombardi garlic olive oil and the mushrooms keep them moist. I bake them with sautéed garlic and onions. Before I put them in the oven, I roll them in panko and it substitutes the crispiness of the fried foods but it isn't fried. I do it to trick myself and other people. It is almost an illusion. I make them all the time and keep them in the fridge. You can use them with the spaghetti squash or with buns or on a pizza.
What are some of your favorite pizzas you create?
I make like 50 different pizzas. Truffle oil crusted, barbeque chicken. I will make breakfast pizzas with tater tots, ham, sausage and instead of sauce I use melted cheese, butter and garlic. You can eat them anytime. I make Taco Pizza and a grilled cheese pizza with ham, bacon and tomato.
What other foods do you love to make?
I make everything from sushi to everything, so many things I love cooking. I go to the farmer's market and get my herb of the week. I really love cilantro or pesto or basil. I will grill chicken breasts—buy them, grill them and chop them up and use dill and low fat mayo with that.
What is something you might take to a party?
I will make baby purple potato salad. I use Lombardi olives, and purple potatoes, dill and low fat mayo. It is unbelievable. I use the dark olives with purple potatoes, half cup of light mayo, cup of olives. I [add] fresh dill, boil the potatoes, cut them up [with] a little pepper to mix it up and put in fridge for twenty minutes—oh my god, it is one of the best little side dishes ever. I am constantly creating. It is like acting—I don't follow recipes. I look in the refrigerator and figure out what to make.
Are there any other dishes you like to cook?
I love stuffed pork chops. I halve them and put cheese in the middle, whatever cheese you want and seal them like a pinch with a fork. They are delicious.
Do you have any pro tips for cooking a meal for the family?
Not everyone likes the same thing. Use the ingredients that your kids and family like. I put in whatever I feel like. I think families get intimidated by recipes. I think you should use what you like and enjoy eating. They get so stressed on the recipe and they don't need to do this. Create what you like and your family likes and enjoy that is what is most important.
It's not a science and it's not about recreating the wheel. Try and have your kids get involved. A big part of my new product line is trying to bring the family back to the dinner table. We don't have that anymore. When I was growing up, my mom would cook for 20 of us and we would fight, laugh and cry at the dinner table. That is the way we grew up and we came together there.
How do you bring families together around the table? Especially around school time?
Just make it fun and talk and do stuff together. When I was growing up, we would fight, laugh, share and mediate at the dinner table. It was the therapy session. We would fight, yell and kiss and be a family again and sit there for hours. It's not like today where everyone wants to run and go get on Facebook or the phones.
How can you cook quickly and healthy at home?
Be prepared. Cook on the weekends for the next week. I will make my meatballs and bake them and put them in the fridge and they stay good for the week. I try to change it up every week. On Sundays, I try to make two or three different things so I don't get bored of the same things during the week. I use seasonal herbs and it kicks it up so much. I make my pizza shells in my oven all the time.
Do you have a playlist to listen to while cooking?
I have Direct TV so I put on the soul music and 70s. I put them on and leave it and sit in my kitchen for hours. When it is over, I am miserable. Acting is my love and so is cooking. I could stay in the kitchen for 10 hours and sometimes I do.
Tell us more about the new product line.
Everything is from Italy. I love the Vodka sauce. I use that on pizza with shrimp or chicken—oh my god! I tested all of the products for months and cooked with them and I picked the ones I liked and would be happy using. We altered some of the recipes. I took me a while to pick the stuff I liked and I gave some input into them. Our sauces are amazing. They are going to blow people out. They are some of the best I've ever eaten. The Lombardi olives are great. People were flipping out over them. My daughter is crazy about them—she just sits there and eats them.
Have you ever cooked for any celebs?
I used to watch my mom and grandmom cook and it became a major part of my life. I used to cook for LeAnn Rimes back in the day and all of my other buddies—Michael Rapaport. A bunch of us guys would sit around and I would show them how to cook. LeAnn loved Chicken Parmesan. I used to cook it for her and leave leftovers. That was about 15 years ago.
What are your favorite foods?
Chicken Parmesan is my favorite and pizza. I grew up eating them.
Louis' new product line launched last week can be found at www.lombardiusa.com.
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