Diversity, innovation and food: an Italian’s guide to leftovers

By Louise Jeckells

20 March 2020

3 minute read

Harmony Week is held each year from 15 – 21 March. It’s a week for us to celebrate this diversity and the positive impact it has on our people. This is one of the many types of diversity we value at CSIRO. Diversity of people means diversity of thought and that leads to diversity of ideas. That’s where innovation really happens.

Our team of 5000+ people reflects the multicultural society we have in Australia. Around 45 per cent of our people are born outside of Australia, representing around 134 countries. We also work around the globe with three overseas sites. And last year we collaborated with 375 international corporations.

Most of us know a good way to share your cultural heritage is through food. So, today we’re looking to an Italian to share her traditions on leftovers.

Pia Gava on Masterchef

Pia Gava was on MasterChef in 2017.

Advice from a MasterChef

Pia Gava works in our commercial contracts team. She was also a contestant on MasterChef in 2017. She wants more people to think like the Italians when it comes to cooking.

“We can learn from the way our ancestors looked at food. Everything had a purpose or even an extended life,” Pia said.

“When I was a child, I would watch my mum create leftovers from every meal. Risotto became arancini balls, potatoes to croquettes, even pasta had a second chance as pasta bake.

“When my dad would create his own homemade tomato sauce or wine, mum would take part of the ingredients to make jam or something deliciously pickled.

“If there was any food waste then it went back into mulch and into the garden,” she said.

Liven up those leftovers

Pia recalls her time on MasterChef and treats the exercise like a mystery box challenge. She wants you to try to do the same.

“First, look in your pantry and fridge. How many times do you throw out those sad looking carrots you don’t know what to do with?”

“Things can always be reused. Like my parents, I’m teaching my family to live with zero waste.

Meatballs by Pia Gava

Pia recommends finely chopping or shredding small vegetable leftovers and adding them to a pasta sauce, meatballs, risotto or a soup.

Pia’s tips

  1. Go back to basics! Move away from ‘I need everything now’ and instead use that bag of lentils you’ve had in your pantry for a while.
  2. If there are any leftovers like small pieces of zucchini, eggplant, celery etc, these can be finely chopped or shredded and added to a pasta sauce, meatballs, risotto or a soup.
  3. When preparing food, always have a bowl near your chopping board. Put all fruit and vegetable scraps into the bowl. When you finish one delicious dish, go into the leftover bowl and see what else can be created. If there’s leftover fruit, add it to a cake or filling for a pastry dessert. Even onion peel can be oven dried and turned into onion powder.
  4. Cook in bulk and freeze – like a true Italian!

Sharing our different cultural backgrounds helps us learn so much about each other. Diversity is a key driver of innovation and celebrating our cultural differences is one way we can help build a workplace that thrives.