PM360 recently spoke to Carmine Attanasio, Associate Director, U.S. Marketing, Hematology/Multiple Myeloma at Bristol Myers Squibb, about learning to cook Italian style.
PM360: How did you first get started cooking?
Carmine Attanasio: My mom, Paula, is Sicilian and the kitchen is basically like a playroom for her. Oftentimes you can find her cooking a pot of gravy, which is basically what Italians call tomato sauce with meat. When I was a kid, I would go in there and just try to watch and absorb because she doesn’t follow any recipes—Italians just do a splash of this and a dash of that. Those were the same years my mom taught me how to dance while we were in the kitchen. Really, for our family, the kitchen was just where everything happened—it was where we ate, prayed, and learned about each other’s day.
Did you eventually learn the secrets of her gravy? Can you share any?
Yes, and now her gravy is my favorite thing to make. But when you asked if I can share any of her secrets, my mind quickly jumped to, “NO!” [Laughs] Those are really things I want to remain in my family and continue to pass along. However, I can share that my mother always told me whenever she cooks, the food is made with love. That really is key, especially for gravy. You have to take your time. Don’t rush. Savor it. Treat it like you love it. Talk to it, stir it, spend time with it. You really have to be there with it.
When you started cooking on your own, did you turn to any YouTube tutorials or cookbooks?
I don’t need a YouTube channel; I have a Paula channel. [Laughs] I just channel my mom and her energy. Like her, I don’t follow recipes. I just like to be creative, have fun with it, and taste along the way.
Are there any dishes you haven’t tried to make yet but want to attempt?
I want to stuff things. That’s fun to me. And Italians just like to stuff things. We have stuffed peppers, stuffed cannoli, stuffed shells. But what’s next to stuff? For me, it’s cabbage. However, cabbage is hard to work with. I tried it the other night and totally screwed it up, but I want to get it right. I also want to make galamod, or what some people call calamari, stuffed with sausage.
Do you have any cooking tips you can share?
First, cook with someone. My wife and I are in our first year of cooking together and it’s a lot of fun. Next, no matter what, spring for the extra-virgin olive oil—it’s worth it. Finally, find your favorite meal and focus on that. Breakfast foods are a great place to start. I love to make French toast because the taste brings me back to my childhood. Really, cooking just lends itself to a sense of peace, family, and home, which is something we could all use right now.