Melissa Haertsch

Pozzuto, DiPietro, Nicoletti…Haertsch? How did that Swiss person get in here? Through the kitchen door! Although I did not grow up in the Italian food tradition, my own cooking has always depended on the same things that make Italian cuisine great—fresh ingredients, simple combinations, people you love around the table. And now that I have discovered Italian food, I can’t get enough of the wonderful recipes. I live in the Endless Mountains, where I have a big kitchen garden, and I like to forage for wild foods, so I have some great ingredients to inspire me when I feed my family and friends.

Your Quote on Food, Cooking, Eating, or Italian Food
From Cicero, the great Roman orator: If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.

Your Favorite Recipe
This is tough. I have favorite recipes for every month of the year, depending on what’s in season or growing out on the mountain. But maybe my very favorite is Wild Mushroom Risotto, which I make every fall. The mushrooms and thyme seared in olive oil and combined with the creamy rice and mushroom stock—it’s just transcendent. It’s different every year because it depends on which mushrooms happen to fruit, but I had a wild mushroom risotto one October in Scotland, and it literally changed my life.

Most Underrated/Mis-understood Ingredient
Beans. So delicious! So various! So easy! And if you eat them every week, your body gets really good at digesting them.

Your Best Kitchen Tip
Cakes never fail: you can cut anything into cubes and drizzle it with sauce, and it looks like you did it on purpose. And if it’s really bad, you can always make trifle.

If you were a food or dish, what would you be?
I would be home-made pasta. Because I believe in making the most of what you’ve got, and how else can you feed an entire family on 2 eggs and a cup and a half of flour? It’s a miracle on a par with the loaves and the fishes. Plus it would be great to be kneaded!

Pantry or Fridge Must Have
In the pantry, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, canned San Marzano tomatoes and multiple types of beans. In the fridge, Pecorino Romano and cream.

Some of your earliest memories of cooking
I didn’t really learn to cook until I became a vegetarian when I was 24. But I’ve always liked to eat! Before my sister and cousins and I were big enough to see onto the Sunday dinner table, I would sneak one hand up onto the tablecloth and slide it along until I felt the dish of olives. Then we would all stand under the table and eat olives as fast as we could until we got caught.

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