Jersey Shore star Vinny Guadagnino returns to the small screen on January 31st with his own show on The Cooking Channel, Vinny and Ma Eat America. Now it’s all about gym, tan – and linguine! This new series follows Vinny as he embarks on a road trip with his Sicilian mom, Paola, to sample local eats all across America. Paola is the best cook in their family, but has never ventured outside of traditional Italian food, so Vinny hopes to broaden her culinary horizons on this unique adventure. The duo took time out from their travels to dish on their favorite dishes and share a few Italian cooking secrets with me!
Did you grow up cooking with your mom in the kitchen?
Vinny: I can’t say I did much cooking, but I was always in the kitchen waiting for the next meal. My mom really spoiled us with food and my taste buds became spoiled because of it. I think that is why I’m such a foodie today.
Food is usually at the heart of every family gathering. What dishes do you typically eat during a get-together at the Guadagnino household?
Vinny: I try to eat healthy during the week, but my big Sicilian family usually gets together every week for Sunday dinner (my cheat day). And whether there are 3 or 30 people there, there will be a feast on the table. We always start with Italian bread meats and cheeses. Then we move on to a pasta dish such as fettuccini alfredo, baked ziti, farfalle Bolognese, etc…After that it’s a free-for-all where anything could be on the table such as rice balls, meat balls, fried chicken cutlets, mashed potatoes, baked clams and more. Then we move on to fresh fruit to clean our pallet and finally end with Italian pastries and cake for dessert. My favorite is cannoli and tiramisu.
What is your favorite dish to prepare for a family dinner?
Paola: I love making my baked ziti. Even my mom and sisters who are in competition with me admit that I make it the best. I also love making homemade bread and pizza.
What’s the secret to cooking amazing Italian food?
Paola: Lots of love goes into my cooking. We still use our traditional family recipes from Sicily. You can’t get the same thing from any Italian restaurant.
What’s the best culinary tip your mother has given you?
Vinny: When you’re making pasta you should always save a little water on the side that the pasta was boiling in. This way when you need to make the pasta a little moister after you strain it and add sauce, you’re adding water that already has the flavor of the pasta.
Do you have a signature recipe that you like to make?
Vinny: When I was on Jersey Shore we learned how to make Tiramisu from a real chef from Tuscany. I actually kept the recipe with me and still love making it till this day. I even make a low carb version!
Was it hard to convince your mom to branch out and try new cuisines?
Vinny: It was extremely hard trying to get her to eat new things. My mom is very stuck in her ways. She immigrated from Sicily to Staten Island when she was 10 and never left or tried anything new. She’s never even had ranch dressing.
Have you enjoyed trying new foods and flavors? Were there any you’d like to eat again – or avoid at all costs in the future?
Paola: I was very hesitant to try new things. I’ve never really eaten outside of my home before. I wanted to kill my son many times on our road trip when he tried to make me eat certain things. I will say that I actually liked some of the sushi (the cooked sushi.) And my son makes fun of me because I enjoyed Ranch dressing for the first time. I will not be eating any more Rocky Mountain Oysters (bull testicles) or some of the other crazy things that I had to try.
Vinny and Ma Eat America premieres on The Cooking Channel on January 31st!