Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

What's Cooking: Father of 6 Learned Italian Cooking from 'Maw-Maw'

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

What's Cooking: Father of 6 Learned Italian Cooking from 'Maw-Maw'

Article excerpt

Mario Ruggeri doesn't simply follow recipes when he cooks for his family. He's an intuitive cook who understands the importance of good ingredients. He's a thoughtful chef who meticulously hones his cooking techniques. He understands the importance of patience at the stove as well as the need for speed when a dish must come together quickly for optimum taste.

He's the main cook in his comfortable south city home where he and his wife, Kathy, raised six children. He also volunteers with the men's club at St. John the Baptist church, running the kitchen for special breakfasts and events where he's legendary for his lush scrambled eggs.

"As far back as I can remember I was in the kitchen with my grandmother, my maw-maw, and with my mother, too. Maw-maw didn't really want me there, but she let me stay and I learned from her," he says. "Sometimes, I'd ask her for a recipe and I'd think 'This quantity or that step isn't right.' I'd ask my mom and she agreed. Together, we'd try to figure out how Maw-maw really made the dish."

Today, Ruggeri freely shares his recipes with his family and his friends, but as his wife, Kathy, says, "Nobody can make his dishes as well. The magic is Mario can open the cabinets, pick out a few things and cook something on the spot everybody loves."

Tell us about the recipe you're sharing with us today. Chicken Daniel, which is named after my oldest son, is my recipe and a family favorite. You don't want to fry the chicken too long on this because it simmers in the broth. I like a thicker sauce you don't have to chase around your plate; this sauce stays with the chicken.

The holidays are right around the corner. What special dishes will you make? For Christmas, we make a stuffed pasta, cappelliti, which means little hat, similar to tortellini, but cooked and eaten in a rich broth. For New Year's Day, we make ravioli, some with traditional fillings and some I've created, like the chicken and asiago. Everything is made by hand. We'll make 120 dozen cappelliti and 150 dozen ravioli. We freeze them and eat them throughout the year.

Do you bake as well as cook? I started baking breads recently. So far my favorite is a bread with sun-dried tomatoes and onions. I recently got two panettone molds from my mother and I'll be making this traditional Italian fruit bread for the holidays. My youngest daughter, Grace, is the baker in the family. …

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