E.J.'s Vegetable Noodle Soup
In this nutrient-rich soup, the vegetables are cut very small and the flavors are simple. It's one of the first dishes Emeril Lagasse cooked for his sons, E.J. and Meril. "It's great for young kids," Lagasse says.
Sardinian Stuffed Eggplant
Efisio Farris says that his mother used only eggplants from the first pick of the season (le primizie) for this dish because of their supple texture and earthy-sweet flavor without a hint of bitterness. But if you don't have the primizie option, you should seek out firm, heavy eggplants with smooth, evenly colored skin. Check for ripeness by pressing them lightly; if this leaves an imprint, the eggplant is ready to use.
Jean-Georges Vongerichten is so fond of his wife Marja's ultrarich mac and cheese that it appears on his menu. Marja makes the dish with four cheeses, from creamy Monterey Jack to extra-sharp cheddar. The most unusual touch: the cubes of cream cheese that melt on top.
Haricot Vert Salad with Quail Eggs and Shrimp
Christophe Emé says this is the kind of food his mother, Maryvonne, used to make when he was growing up in the Loire valley. Everything came from their backyard: the beans, the shallots, the laitue (similar to Boston lettuce), the eggs. His mother even made vinegar for the dressing. Emé refines and updates the recipe by using quail eggs instead of hen eggs and substituting arugula for the lettuce. Maryvonne used peanut oil in the dressing, as is traditional in the Loire, but Emé opts for olive oil instead.
Lamb Chops and Ragù with Malloreddus
"I learned to make ragù from sausage or the bits of meat and fat left over from butchering animals, including the scraps and tough shoulder meat from pigs, wild boars and lamb," says Efisio Farris. "This recipe honors the technique I learned from my mother, Katerina." Farris tosses the ragù with the classic Sardinian pasta malloreddus, then serves it with succulent lamb chops.
Puff Pastry Apple Pie
Cathal Armstrong tells of how a family friend came over for lunch one day and marveled at the apple pie his mother, Angela, had made. When her husband, Gerry, asserted that it must have been the apples he grew that made the pie taste so good, the friend said, "Angela, you tell him pastry like that doesn't grow on trees." Since puff pastry can be tricky to prepare, this version of Angela's pie uses a high-quality, store-bought puff pastry.
Great-Grandmother Pearl's Angel Food Cake with Peaches
"My great-grandmother won so many blue ribbons with this cake," Katie Lee says. "I love to serve it with peaches, because the cake sops up the juices so nicely." It's tough to imagine beating the 16 egg whites by hand, as Pearl used to do, until the day this recipe won her a KitchenAid stand mixer.
Chestnut Soup with Grappa Cream
The first dish Fabio Trabocchi made for his family when he began cooking school was this pureed chestnut soup with a dollop of grappa cream. His father thought it was weird until he tasted it, Trabocchi says, and it has since become a family tradition.
Marilyn Batali's Blackberry Pie
While walking in Galicia with Gwyneth Paltrow, Mario Batali spotted a bush full of ripe blackberries, his "favorite fruit in life," and recalled filling the back of his parents' station wagon with buckets of blackberries when he was growing up in Seattle. After getting his mother, Marilyn, to e-mail him her recipe, Mario prepared this luscious pie.
This thick, creamy flan—Jose Garces's mother's recipe—is a staple in his household. Garces likes to serve it alongside a refreshing salad of melon and citrus.