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    by Francesca Di Meglio

    Nowadays you can't always tell the difference between advertisements, entertainment, or even educational materials. Rather than complain about that, I've been finding myself embracing this new world. One of the best examples for me has been Into the Heart of Italy, a Bertolli-sponsored Web show that has celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito and actors Dan Cortese and Marisa Tomei traveling through Tuscany to learn about Italian cuisine.

    Each day of their vacation, the trio has to prepare a meal literally from scratch. In the last episode I viewed, they had to find the most important egg expert in Italy to get eggs, which they find out they would use to make pasta. In another episode they have to search for a cheese shop and in yet another, they go searching for mushrooms. All the ingredients they track down are used to make what look like delicious, authentic Italian dishes.

    The website for the show offers a lot more than the webisodes. There is a contest you can enter to win your own Italian culinary vacation, meet the locals, who the trio encountered on their journey, get behind-the-scenes scoop and more. Italians and Italophiles will eat it all up. In the end, however, each webisode is inspired - ironically - by frozen Italian meals by Bertolli. The shows are about making fresh food, including traditional lasagna and their technically hocking frozen fast food.

    In any event, there are lots of fun moments that you'll appreciate - from getting to know Tomei's family who joins her and her friends in her family's ancestral town to DiSpirito's expertise in the kitchen and Cortese's flirtation with an Italian mamma. What's most special about this series is that you get a firsthand view of what Italian Americans who trace their roots often experience when they travel to Italy lots of family dinners in people's homes and restaurants.

    Italians are serious about their food and everyone seems to just know where to get the freshest ingredients. When DiSpirito, Tomei, and Cortese get their "egg" clue in one of the webisodes, the first person, they ask at the coffee bar is able to tell them where to locate the most important egg expert in Italy and how to get to his farm. The Italians who meet them teach them how to make fresh pasta, pick eggs from the coop, and go on a scavenger hunt for mushrooms.

    In the spirit of the Bertolli shows, rather than going out to buy those frozen meals that inspired each webisode, we should cook some fresh meals for ourselves. I realize that most of us don't have time to make pasta from scratch or seek out our own mushrooms. But you can purchase fresh, in-season produce and take the time to cook simple meals at home. It will be a turning corner for your health and your family life. To boot, it's a way for you to connect with your Italian ancestry.

    Di Meglio is the Guide to Newlyweds for About.com, and you can keep track of her career and life at the Two Worlds Web site.


    Article Published 4/25/2010

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