Meet Buckwheat Queen, An Allrecipes Cook to Follow

Get to know Melanie Giovenzana (aka Buckwheat Queen), an international Allrecipes Allstar, who lives in Italy and loves her immersion into Italian culture and cuisine.

Allrecipes Allstar Buckwheat Queen
Photo: Allrecipes Magazine

Why I Love Cooking: When I moved to Italy, I really began to enjoy cooking. Here, it's a way to heal and care for people. I love that!

About me: I'm a proud Texan who has lived in Italy since 1997. I'm a mom to three beautiful girls, stepmother to four wonderful kids, and wife of Giuseppe Giovenzana, a former fighter pilot in the Italian Air Force and recently retired airline captain. I've been lucky enough to live throughout Italy—Milan, Rome, Cervinia in the Italian Alps, and most recently we have retired to Sardinia. I love experiencing new cultures and the foods that define them.

My day job: Casalinga (that's Italian for housewife), wife and mom, and finder of all things lost.

Side gigs: Part-time aviation-English instructor/examiner and aeronautical technical writer. I quit working full time in 2015 to take care of my family.

Allrecipes Allstar Buckwheat Queen on a motorcycle ride around Lake Como
"The twisting roads around Lake Como are perfect for motorcycles.". Buckwheat Queen

Some insights about Italian food:

  • The simplicity of Italian food and the genuineness of the ingredients are the most underestimated.
  • How Italian food is eaten: Italian food takes time to prepare. It is eaten at the table with family and/or friends. Think "slow food."
  • Outside of Italy, I see pizza and pastas. But pasta is just the beginning! Italian meals are served in two to four courses, depending on how much you eat. They start with a primo, or first course (a pasta, gnocchi, or risotto); secondo (some sort of protein); and contorno, or side dish (a vegetable or salad). The foods in Italy aren't overly seasoned either.
  • La pastasciutta (pasta with tomato sauce) is pasta with a simple mix of fresh or canned tomatoes, garlic, basil, and a pinch of salt.
  • Pizza should only have puréed tomatoes without any seasoning at all. With meats and fish, there is no condiment other than raw oil, lemon, and parsley. Italian steak is served by itself; there is no sauce.
  • Also, Italians weigh ingredients and don't go by volume. And they love their bread. Each city has its specialty, but it's eaten at a certain time and with certain foods. They never eat pasta with bread in their hands or near their plate.

Kitchen tool I can't live without: I would be grumpy—very grumpy—without my handheld immersion blender. I use it to make smoothies, soups, sauces, hummus, and pretty much anything that needs puréeing.

I love cooking from scratch. At left, that's me making gluten-free ravioli (with real pumpkin).
"I love cooking from scratch. That's me making gluten-free ravioli (with real pumpkin).". Allrecipes Magazine

Rare talent no one will pay me for: I seem to be really good at cleaning up after people, which in my house is a talent only I possess.

If I had a superpower, it would be: To heal people.

My closest thing to an actual superpower: I can find anything in the house that is deemed lost by anyone else.

A fact few people know about me: I flew the Lunar Excursion Module simulation at the NASA Ames Research Center at California's Moffett Field in 2007. It's a simulation of the spacecraft that astronauts used to land on the moon. (I flew, but didn't land so well.) Touching and flying equipment like the astronauts used was profound and left a lasting impression on me.

My kitchen: It's not big enough for my imagination.

Who I cook for: Husband Giuseppe; my daughters, Meagan (age 22), Ashley (20), and Eloise (19); and me.

"Meagan, me, Ashley, and Eloise on a hike in Cervinia."
Buckwheat Queen

Best cook I know: My sister Toni. She bakes, which is something I find difficult. She makes it look so easy. I admire her for her family get-togethers like Thanksgiving and Christmas, and her perfect roast turkey. She has been my inspiration in the kitchen and in life. She's the one you run to in a crisis.

Food obsession: Tacos. I would do some seriously shady stuff for a real taco. I'll sometimes cook a traditional Italian meal for my family and then make myself tacos.

Food discovery that changed my life: I found out in 2010 that I have celiac disease. This changed everything for me. I started making everything from scratch because it was almost impossible to eat in restaurants or find foods in the store that weren't contaminated with gluten in some way. On our trips, I prepare our meals so we don't have to eat in restaurants. Nowadays, in Italy, there are many restaurants that cook for people with allergies and food intolerance, but outside Italy, few restaurants will accept cooking for people with serious allergies or dietary restrictions.

In my fridge right now: One-third of it is fresh veggies. In the cheese drawer, you'll find Grana Padano, Fontina, Pecorino, and ricotta salata. Three arancini are waiting to be air-fried (part of a recipe I'm developing). Also, homemade everything: jam, tomato sauce, mustard, soup, soy milk, and yogurt.

Best advice I ever got: "Keep it simple. No need to go crazy with spices, condiments, salt, and butter."

Follow Buckwheat Queen on Allrecipes. See more Allrecipes Cooks to Follow.

*Allstars are Allrecipes superfans, a select group of our most passionate and actively engaged community members. Find out how to become an Allrecipes Allstar.

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