This month we sat down with Jan D’Atri. Jan has tons of experience sharing her expertise in the kitchen as she is an Emmy-award winning television host and producer, radio talk show host, food writer, web video content creator and cookbook author. Jan is also a huge pasta lover and shared with us how she came to love cooking, her favorite pasta trick, and what inspires her to create a new recipe. Read on for all this and more.
1. Can you tell us a bit about how you got into cooking?
I grew up surrounded by giant sheet pans and 60 quart stock pots and massive whisks. The kitchen of my family’s gourmet Italian restaurant in Lake Tahoe was my playground. D’Atri’s Italian Restaurant was the hot spot for celebrities in the 1950’s and 1960’s like Nat King Cole, Harry Belafonte and Louis Prima and Clark Gable. But that wasn’t what drew me to food. It was years later when I realized that cooking is the greatest therapy on the planet. I mean, think about it. It’s the only room in your home that brings all of the senses alive; taste, touch, smell and sound! I’d be in my kitchen 24 hours a day if I could.
2. What inspires you to create a new recipe?
Well, my inspiration is different today than it was a few years ago. Today, people want simple, fresh, uncomplicated, accessible and affordable meals. Since my mission is to help families have a great experience in the kitchen, my goal is to not only seek out easy recipes and cooking methods, but to test and re-test recipes so that I make sure that I work out the kinks so that cooks don’t have to. Wouldn’t you rather find out from someone you trust that your steak is not going to sear during Sheet Pan Cooking unless you get the pan screaming hot first? I love sharing shortcuts and simple tips that really, really work!
3. Tell us about what pasta means to you.
Pasta. There probably isn’t a more comfort food in existence. Pasta was always our Primo Piatto – the dish every dinner started with. I was fortunate enough to enjoy pasta from a chef Momma who was born in Venice, Italy.
But now, I have another wonderful connection to pasta! I’m from Arizona, the state that now grows most of the wheat that Italy buys to make their pasta! Pasta is in my DNA!
4. You’ve mentioned that your mother is from Venice and we see you sometimes cook together! How has her Italian background influenced your cooking?
Momma has had three great cooking influences on me. First and maybe most important, she taught me the secret to a great cooking experience; prep, prep and prep. If you don’t have all of your items prepped and in front of you, you’re going to get frustrated because you’ve just discovered that you don’t have that bulb of garlic that you thought you had. When you get into the mindset of having things prepped, your cooking experience is a joy!
Second, Momma is of the philosophy that you don’t need a lot of ingredients, but they must be good ingredients. That really is the essence of Italian cooking–simple, fresh, not overly seasoned. Let the quality ingredients tell the story.
Third, being Italian is communal. The kitchen is where we mend broken hearts, celebrate milestones, gather and cherish one another. The kitchen is where memories are made and shared–and most important–passed along to the next generation. My Momma shared techniques and recipes from her own mom. Had we not had that conversation while cooking, those golden memories would have been lost forever.
4. Finally, can you share one of your favorite pasta recipes with us?
I’m going to really surprise you here. While I have many great pasta dishes to share, the one that seems to be the pasta of today is the amazing One Pot Pasta Wonder. Anyone can do it. Kid’s love to make it. It’s simple and it ALWAYS turns out great. You simply put all of your ingredients in one Dutch Oven or large pot, (including raw spaghetti) and in 15 minutes you have a fantastic pasta dish! It truly is a wonder!
About Jan D’Atri
Jan D’Atri is an Emmy-award winning television host and producer, radio talk show host, food writer, web video content creator and cookbook author. She is the longest running female on-air television personality in Arizona. She who currently co-hosts and is the food and lifestyle contributor for Arizona Midday on KPNX Channel 12.
She has maintained two parallel careers for nearly 40 years, both in television and in the food industry. Jan has owned two restaurants and a gourmet food company in Arizona and created an exclusive line of Italian Biscotti for QVC. Her cooking columns have appeared in print for more than 14 years and most recently she has created the social media cooking video series, The One Minute Kitchen© and The One Minute Kid’s Kidchen©, surpassing one half a million views. Jan’s passions are cooking and fly-fishing. She lives in Scottsdale, Arizona with her husband John and their 24 adopted pets including her beloved brood of chickens.