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I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti: A Chat with Giulia Melucci
Credit: I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti

With a personality bubbling over like a pot of spaghetti, Giulia Melucci's memoir of "food and failed relationships" invites you into her kitchen, offers you a glass of wine and a plate of pasta, and relays her hilarious and sometimes heartbreaking quest to find Mr. Right. Anyone who has ever experienced a failed relationship, a bad first date, an awkward family meeting, and of course, a good meal, will relate to one (or more) of Giulia's tales. With chapter titles like From Sex and the City to Nun and Single-Girl Suppers to recipes like No Nookie Gnocchi and Pear Cake for Friends with Benefits, you're in for a treat as you experience love's voyage through the sassy and witty eyes of this Italian romantic.

How has writing your first book changed your life?
It has made me happy and given me a sense of accomplishment. I always felt that I should be writing but I never was quite sure what. Having worked in publishing for many years, I've helped writers, and even dated some, but I never was a writer myself until now. How long did it take you to write the book? It took a year to write and then a month to test the recipes. The month of September was filled with dinner parties for my friends to taste the recipes.

It seems like many people are revealing themselves these days through memoirs and blogs. What/who inspired you to write a memoir versus a fiction novel? Was it difficult to write about yourself?
The day after a very difficult breakup, I started writing about my experiences with that particular man (Lachlan). He was a writer himself and encouraged me to write a "cookery book" because he appreciated my love of food. Once I wrote about my relationship with him, I kept going back to previous relationships weaving in stories of other men I've dated along the way. It wasn't until I remembered a certain situation with one man and a cake that I got the idea to intersperse my recipes throughout the book.

Most of your recipes use simple ingredients to make elegant meals for two. Do you have any advice for the novice cook wanting to replicate your recipes?
It is not necessary to buy the most expensive ingredients like premium extra virgin olive oils and gourmet fresh pasta to enjoy a meal. I love to use fresh ingredients when possible but what's most important is to just do whatever makes it easy for you to get in the kitchen and cook. I think it's important for people to cook for themselves. It's really so easy.

What are your favorite recipes in the book?
First-Date Butterflies (see recipe below)
Bucatini Amatriciana with MP3 File-Sharing Technology
Orthopedic Cod

If we looked in your pantry, what would we find?
Definitely pasta, as well as the necessary ingredients to make a homemade sauce. Right now, I also have some polenta, rice, coffee, Italian tuna, a can of baby clams, and of course, coffee. I also have fresh herbs growing on my window sill.

You host quite a few dinner parties in the book. What is your best advice for other hostesses?
Keep people out of the kitchen while you are working. I like to plan ahead and prepare what I can before my guests arrive so I don't feel rushed and no one has to wait too long to eat. If everything is as close to ready as possible and the kitchen is relatively clean, then I can enjoy a glass of wine and visit with my friends.

What is your favorite kitchen gadget?
I just got a pasta maker so it is currently my favorite. I used it the other night to make spaghetti and missed the part in the instructions about throwing out the first batch of pasta (something about particles from the manufacturing...). I guess I got some extra iron!

Can we expect a second book anytime soon?
I hope so. I'm hoping that one day I will be able to write the about the man I will one day marry! If that doesn't happen, then I may have to just write a fictional novel with a happy ending!

First-Date Butterflies

2 cups (about 4 ounces) farfalle
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ medium onion, chopped
Pinch red hot pepper flakes
1 (6-ounce) can tuna packed in olive oil (essential!): Progresso or any brand imported from Italy will do nicely, but I even use Bumble Bee's version, and it's fine!
1 tablespoon capers
¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons dry white wine
Splash olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
Freshly ground pepper

Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. This sauce is so quick and easy, you can make it while the pasta is cooking. When the water is boiling rapidly, add a large dose of salt and the pasta, then cover the pot until the water is boiling rapidly again. Uncover the pot and give it a few good stirs.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat, add the onion and hot pepper, and sauté until translucent, about 2 minutes. Open the can of tuna and drain as much of the oil as possible (I do this by pressing the disengaged top of the can against the tuna over the sink with as much force as I can muster). Add the tuna to the onions, then the capers, the salt, and the wine. Lower heat and cook until the pasta is ready.

Drain the pasta and add it to the skillet with the tuna, add a splash of olive oil, the chopped parsley, and a few grindings of black pepper.

Serves 2, or 1, with enough for lunch the next day.

Reprinted with permission from Grand Central Publishing

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