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101-Year-Old Italian Grandmother Shares Recipes in New Cookbook From Austin Authors

‘Heart-Shaped Tomatoes’ is available for preorder right now

A hand holding up a small white plate of gnocchi pasta in a green sauce above a serving bowl of the same pasta.
Gnocchi from Heart-Shaped Tomatoes.
Dimitri Staszewski
Erin Russell is associate editor of Eater Austin, a native Austinite, and a big fan of carbs.

In a new cookbook, Heart-Shaped Tomatoes, Austin-based photographer Dimitri Staszewski and brand strategist Madelyn Wigle share recipes and personal essays from Staszewski’s 101-year-old Italian grandmother, Elda Cristini. The book is available for preorder.

The book contains about 20 home-cooking recipes from Cristini, like lasagne, gnocchi, seafood pasta, saltimbocca alla romana. Staszewski was inspired to write the book after photographing Cristini making pasta at her home outside of Boston, Massachusetts. He started the book as a project for his family, but expanded the work as time went on. The book also contains personal essays written by Staszewski and Wigle on the themes of independence, generational knowledge, love, and family.

Cristini is from Caramanico Terme in the Abruzzo region of Italy and moved to the United States in 1953. Staszewski reports that she is excited and apprehensive about the book. “She rarely uses recipes so it was foreign to her to write everything down,” he told Eater Austin in an email. “She was nervous that the recipes aren’t elevated or fancy enough. But knowing how everyone else responds to her cooking, I had no doubt that people would be eager to make her recipes.”

(Staszewski said that Cristini doesn’t use social media, so he plans to show her all of the excited messages he has received from people about the book when he goes to visit her for Christmas.)

Staszewski is also selling prints from the book, which are also available for order online. He expects the books will ship in January.

An older woman wearing a pink-printed top with a red apron strap sitting in a kitchen.
Elda Cristini.
Dimitri Staszewski
A person rolling a little oval of pasta over a board with lines.
Rolling gnocchi.
Dimitri Staszewski
A bowl with open mussels and clams, red pasta, on a doily.
A seafood pasta dish.
Dimitri Staszewski
Two books showing a cover of Heart-Shaped Tomatoes and a picture of tomatoes and two other books opened to recipe pages.
Digital mock-ups of Heart-Shaped Tomatoes.
Heart-Shaped Tomatoes