Food lovers know Stanley Tucci from the gastronomic epic, “Big Night,” which he both co-directed and starred in, as well as the admirable support he lent to “Julie & Julia” as Julia Child’s husband. But not many may be aware that he is as good in the kitchen as he presents himself on film. That’s the secret behind the recently released “The Tucci Cookbook” (Gallery Books, $35), which he wrote with family and friends, including Joan and Stan Tucci, Gianni Scappin and Mimi Taft. The accent, of course, is Italian, right down to the recipe for Timpano, which was the centerpiece of the magnificent dinner served in “Big Night.”
I relied on the book while creating an antipasti arrangement because I had seen his recipe for White Bean Antipasto, which is sort of a cross between a salad and a main dish. I’d made versions of this before, and each iteration is slightly different. This version appealed because it called for several items now in season, including red onions, basil and the always available rosemary. I admit I didn’t follow the recipe exactly as printed below, because it calls for quite a lot of rosemary, which, when used in excess, can become soapy to a few of us, in the same way cilantro can seem soapy to others. So, I cut way back on that. I also made the shrimp variation at the bottom.
As Tucci writes, “This dish is great served as an antipasto along with several other hors d’oeuvres — a selection of olives, roasted peppers, soppressata and Parmesan, or goat’s or sheep’s milk chceese — or as a lunch dish accompanied by a tossed green salad. Our favorite variation is the shrimp, presented on a bed of lettuce with a slice of focaccia on the side.”
We actually preferred it spread on slices of soppressata instead of bread, though it was so good that it worked no matter how you served it.
No matter how you serve it, with shrimp or as a vegan centerpiece, make sure the dish is served at room temperature. So, if you make it ahead of time, take it out of the refrigerator 25 minutes or so before you sit down to eat. And enjoy.
White Bean Antipasto
2 cups cooked (or canned, drained and rinsed) cannellini beans
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped red onion
2 (5-inch) sprigs fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves
In a serving bowl, toss the beans with the olive oil and red onions. Remove the rosemary leaves from the stems and add to the beans. Toss, then add the vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Toss again before adding the basil. Just before serving, toss the beans one more and test for seasoning.
Wine pairing: Sparkling, medium white and medium red
Variations: Add 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice to the recipe.
Add 1 medium-size ripe tomato cut into 1/2-inch pieces to the basic recipe.
Shrimp makes a delicious addition to this dish. Shell and devein 1/2 pound medium-size shrimp. Warm 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 garlic clove, quartered, in a sauté pan set over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the shrimp and cook, stirring frequently, until they turn pink, about 4 minutes. Remove the shrimp from the pan, reserving the garlic. Chop the shrimp into pieces slightly larger than the beans. Toss the shrimp with the beans, adding the reserved oil and garlic.
Makes 6 servings.
From “The Tucci Cookbook” by Stanley Tucci with Joan and Stan Tucci, Gianni Scappin and Mimi Taft