Meet Maria Grazia Di Lauro (below), luxury-hotel owner and life-long Italian resident. Her gorgeous family run hotel, Masseria Potenti, is nestled among sun-drenched olive groves and, each evening, Maria lovingly cooks mouth-watering Puglian dinners, which she enjoys with her guests. If you’re hosting a dinner party this Summer, let her sunny spirit inspire you to feast like a local.
FIVE MINUTES WITH MARIA…
1. How did you learn to cook, and what does it mean to you?
I learned to cook from my grandmother, who helped me bake my first loaf of bread at the age of five. I believe when you cook, you give yourself to others, so you must think of your guests and take care of them with your heart – just like you would your family.
2. When it comes to cooking and hosting, is there any advice your parents or grandparents gave you that you still use today?
They taught me the true meaning of hospitality. My grandmother always says every recipe has its own secret ingredient – and this special ingredient is love for your guest. No recipe will be memorable if you don’t cook with passion.
3. What’s your favourite family recipe?
Classic homemade bread. I love it because you need patience to make wonderful dough and you can change the method and shape to suit your mood.
Win a bespoke illustration of your favourite family recipe by entering our Summer competition.
4. Can you tell us what the Mediterranean diet is?
For us locals, it’s more than just a diet; it’s a real lifestyle that takes place around the table with family. Meals become a magical time where you share not only the food but importantly the daily adventures of everyone around it.
5. Why are you so passionate about feeding others?
Good food is my way to get closer to people; it’s a way to reach their hearts, a way to spend time with them, talking about their lives, stories and dreams. When I share my story and culture with guests, and also get to listen to theirs, I feel truly enriched.
6. What do you think is the best way to feed large groups?
I love using long tables – even if they don’t know each other – because the food will create a connection. That’s why I like setting up tables where my guests can share large bowls of salads or pasta dishes, as the act of sharing food allows you to meet and make new friends.
7. Where do you source the ingredients for your dishes?
The philosophy behind my kitchen is to respect its history. In the past, Masserias had to be totally self-sufficient, meaning everything served on the table was produced on its land. Today, my restaurant still has a field-to-fork approach and, to celebrate traditional Pugliese cuisine, we collect all our ingredients from our surrounding fields and local farms.
8. What are three of your favourite ingredients?
I can never be without extra-virgin olive oil (we produce it in the Masseria and it’s gorgeous in salads), my aromatised salt (we make it in the Summer with aromatic herbs) and my chilli-pepper marmalade (it’s delicious with fresh cheese, ricotta and burrata).
Discover Maria’s favourite Pugliese recipes to make the arrival of Summer taste even better.