The Relative Who Inspired Rachael Ray's Love Of Italian Food

Food Network star Rachael Ray is half-Italian, and her pride in her heritage is evident in her cooking. Out of all the meals she's made over the years, the recipe that stands above the rest — and is even central to her marriage — is the classic Italian pasta carbonara. Ray has even created her own branded oval-shaped spaghetti pot to cook long noodles without having to break them jus for this dish (via E! News).

Over the past year, Ray has even lived out her dream of living in Italy as she and her husband, John Cusimano, have renovated a villa in Tuscany, complete with an Instagram-worthy Italian garden. In addition to the veggies and herbs she grows in her yard, the home is also surrounded by olive trees and vineyards and is quite the picturesque setting.

Ray's admiration for all things Italy began when she was a child, per NPR, and she has a particularly special Sicilian relative to thank for her love of Italian food.

How Rachael Ray's Sicilian grandfather influenced her cooking

In a lightning round-style Q&A at her magazine, "Rachael Ray In Season," the Food Network star answered questions about her go-to treats, favorite movies and books, and fond memories. She said her love of cooking — and Italian cuisine in particular — was inspired largely by her grandfather.

"My grandfather knew how to make everything, and fortunately he taught my mother," she said. "There are too many recipes to think of picking a favorite, but if I had to — stuffed artichokes, with tons of anchovies, bread crumbs, and cheese."

This isn't the first memory Ray has shared regarding how her grandfather instilled in her a love of Italian food, culture, and fish. The reason she credits her grandfather for her confidence is that, on the first day of school, she brought a sardine sandwich for lunch but came home in tears, embarrassed by kids who made fun of the fishy smell. Her grandfather offered the advice, "There's plenty in life that you have no control over that you will cry about. Certainly your vanity should never be one of them, you know?" Ray credits this adage with helping her remain humble yet self-assured in her culinary career. And in fact, per Daily Mail, Ray said her first meal in heaven would be something similar to her grandfather's roasted fish with tomatoes and wine.