Ciao and welcome to Mangia With Michele! I’m Michele Di Pietro, a cookbook author, food writer, menu and recipe developer, professional chef, culinary consultant, wannabe food photographer and former Certified Public Accountant. There is nothing I love more than feeding people, creating recipes and cooking for others. My goal is to provide you with lots of innovation, inspiration and nostalgia through my Italian and Italian-American-inspired recipes and stories from my kitchen to yours.
I’m a New Yorker with proud Jersey roots! Raised in an Italian American family in southern New Jersey, my culinary education began with a collection of relatives as teachers in a household where food and cooking were daily household activities. With both Sicilian and Abruzzese roots, I experienced distinctive, regional cuisines of Italy in an American setting while growing up and fell in love with the act of giving of myself through preparing food for others. On Sunday mornings, I could be found in the kitchen cooking eggs with my mom as young as age 5, and many an afternoon was spent with my grandmom making traditional Italian comfort foods, including fresh pasta, gnocchi, and homemade “gravy.”
Although I always loved to cook and often said as a little girl that I wanted to be a “chef” when I grew up, I was also very into academics and super-ambitious in the classroom. I headed southward for college and earned a B.S. in Business Administration from Georgetown University (Hoya Saxa!) and began my professional career as a Certified Public Accountant at a top New York City firm. But I eventually found my true calling as I worked and traveled in Europe, experiencing some of the world’s most delicious foods and a ubiquitous, strong culinary culture. I left the financial world for the professional kitchen, earned a degree in cooking school, and embarked on what was to become a deeply satisfying career and love affair with all things culinary. After years of working in the food industry as a cook, recipe and menu developer and, ultimately, as a culinary director at one of the world’s largest natural foods retailers, I decided to strike out on my own and started It’s All About The Food LLC, where I consult on culinary strategy, menu development, and more for an eclectic lineup of food businesses.
Throughout my busy professional culinary life, I’ve also always been an avid and enthusiastic home cook with strong ties to my Italian roots and am most happy and satisfied when cooking for–and breaking bread with–family and friends. It is these sentiments, along with my passion for sharing both food and travel experiences with others, that led me to create Mangia With Michele in 2017, the expression of my lifelong passion for Italian ingredients, foods, recipes, culture, and traditions. Through recipes, stories and my love of cooking, I aim to inspire others to enjoy and cook with the flavors of the Italian and Italian-American tables, often with a nod to nostalgia or an innovative twist and the beautiful ideas of “famiglia”–family of blood or by choice–togetherness and gathering at its core. My message is clear–food unites people and people unite over food.
I am a firm believer that the best way to get to know people is through food–ideally, around the kitchen table.
my food philosophy
I have always maintained that it is better to cook than to not cook. Foods made from scratch are often more nutritious, less expensive, taste better and more satisfying. However, I understand that this is easier for some than others, and it is important to not be afraid of ingredients and of “messing up” in the kitchen. So, do what feels right to you, and if that means taking inspiration from a recipe and changing it to make it your own, go for it!
For me, it has always been about using the best quality ingredients that you can find (and afford) and then not doing too much to them . . . letting their beauty, flavor and seasonality shine through and not be covered up by overly heavy or complicated preparations. Use ingredients and flavors that pair well with each other and that complement the uniqueness of each product. Build delicious dishes through a progression of proven techniques and balanced flavors, and don’t forget to taste along the way!
Also, eating with someone else is always better than eating alone. But, as M.F.K. Fisher pointed out, “Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.”
my cooking mantra
Family-Style, Innovation, Inspiration and Nostalgia are at the core of the recipes I share here on Mangia With Michele. I’m always aiming to keep things rustic and casual, interesting–whether through a twist on a classic dish or a nod to something very traditional and nostalgic–and always inspirational!
A few other really important cooking points for me:
- If you’re not sure, use the bigger pot, pan or bowl. There is nothing worse than cooking and prepping in something too small.
- Clean as you go! You will be much happier and cook more often if you do this. Trust me!
- Go with the flow! Mistakes will happen and not everything will work out. It’s ok. Don’t be afraid to mess up!
- If you think something is “missing” in the flavor of a dish, it is probably umami.
- Don’t overcook your pasta and don’t drain all of the pasta water!
- And finally, to take a page out of Julia Child’s book, “Never Apologize, Never Explain” . . . meaning that the most important thing about cooking is being with others and no one is going to (or should) care if the onions weren’t caramelized enough.