Linda grew up in a large Italian family, was the eldest of seven children, and always helped at mealtimes. She submitted a recipe for rice balls, a family favorite.
Linda grew up in a large Italian family, was the eldest of seven children, and always helped at mealtimes. At her mother’s side in the kitchen, she learned the importance of hard work and being resourceful. Her cookbook submission is a recipe for rice balls that’s been passed down from her grandmother and mother.
How did you become interested in cooking?
I’m the eldest of seven children. I was my mother’s right-hand girl. When she took a part-time job, I was the ‘house mom’ when she worked.
Mom made everything by hand, and she was very resourceful. We were a large Italian family. We always had spaghetti on Wednesdays and Sundays. That’s when I learned to cook. I also took home economics in junior high and high school.
How did you learn to cook?
It was hands-on with my mom. She was a disciplined woman. When I first learned to measure, if I did it wrong, I started over again. She was strict but loving.
I was her assistant and partner in crime. We even learned to drive together at the same time. She taught me early on that to make a home run, you had to be the one who started the wheels turning in the mornings. My grandmother taught me how to make homemade spaghetti.
Tell us a little about the dish you submitted.
My grandmother, and then my mom, made simple rice balls. You can eat them as an appetizer, meal, or snack. You boil the rice, add a binder, roll them up, and fry. You can also add a cube of cheese inside or make them into patties. It’s quick, simple, and nutritious.
What are spices or ingredients that you can’t do without?
I find that my biggest go-to ingredients are oregano, parsley, basil, garlic, and cumin. I also use turmeric and vanilla.
What is the one cooking tip you have received that you will never forget?
Mom would always say, “Never run out of eggs. You can always do something with eggs.”
What’s the importance of sharing a meal around the table?
People like to celebrate although many do it only a few times a year. I’m rooted in family. Growing up, there were nine of us around the table. We had to be home by 5 pm every night. Then we ate and exchanged how our day went. Mealtime was a celebratory time. It’s the present, and it’s a gift to be together with those you love.
What advice do you have for people just learning to cook?
Take control of what goes into your body. Diversify and try new things by including color, vitamins, and nutritious fish. Make double portions and freeze the extra. Use fresh ingredients.
Have you ever taught anyone to cook?
I taught my boys and my granddaughter to cook. Now I am showing my granddaughter how to use a pasta machine. Over Christmas, she wanted to make unicorn cocoa, and I was able to find purple cocoa. It’s good to share information and keep passing it on. I’m making a cookbook for her.