From PEOPLE Magazine Click to enlarge
One day British cook Nigella Lawson found herself inspired while watching an episode of MTV Cribs. "I saw Missy Elliott had the world's biggest fridge, and I thought, 'One day I've got to have that fridge!' " says Lawson, as she gestures toward the 7-ft.-tall Sub-Zero appliance at one end of her expansive London kitchen. "So it's called the Missy Elliott Memorial Fridge. It is so huge, but I love it."

In recent weeks, however, Lawson, 53, has barely been around to cook from the vast quantities of food stored inside (see box). Along with promoting her new Italian cookbook Nigellissima in the U.K. and preparing for a U.S. book tour, Lawson has been starring as a judge and mentor on ABC's new reality cooking competition The Taste, providing the compassionate counterpoint to Anthony Bourdain's acerbic wit. "When I'm doing my own shows, I have total control," she says, "but I felt drawn to do reality TV-and a little frightened." And a little exhausted. Given her whirlwind start to the new year, "I'd like to take a little time off and be a normal person at home and cook."

Back in London, Lawson and her husband of nine years, advertising mogul Charles Saatchi, 69, enforce rules in the kitchen for their children-Cosima, 19, and Bruno, 16 (their father was Lawson's late husband John Diamond, who died of cancer in '01), and Phoebe, 18 (Saatchi's daughter from a previous marriage). With food, "I have a strict no-contamination rule. I get furious if they've put crumbs in the butter or butter in the jam," says Lawson, who also bans electronics from the room. "I'm strict about no texting at the table." And if she's stumped about what to make for dinner, she has plenty of inspiration: Lawson owns nearly 5,000 cookbooks. "I haven't read every one," she says. "The nice thing about having so many is that you are endlessly discovering."

Lately, though, Lawson hasn't been indulging in too much. "I take everything in moderation," she says. But "I have a no-guilt policy. If I want to lie in bed and have a bar of chocolate, I don't think I'm going to turn into the world's biggest glob." Not that she's too concerned about her figure: She forbade execs to airbrush her stomach in ads for The Taste. "It would make me feel like I was being deceitful," she says. "I'm not a skinny person. There was a curvature, but it's not like you needed a wheelbarrow to prop it up!"

SICILIAN PASTA WITH TOMATOES, GARLIC & ALMONDS

Serves 6

1¼ lbs. fusilli

1¼ cups cherry or grape tomatoes

6 anchovy fillets

2 tbsp. golden raisins

2 cloves garlic, peeled

2 tbsp. capers, drained

1/3 cup whole, blanched almonds

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup basil leaves, torn

1. Cook fusilli in boiling salted water according to package directions.

2. While pasta is cooking, make the sauce by putting all the remaining ingredients, except basil, into a food processor. Process until you have a nubby-textured sauce. Just before draining the pasta, remove a cupful of pasta-cooking water and add 2 tbsp. of it down the funnel of the processor, pulsing as you go. Turn the drained pasta into a warm serving bowl. Pour the sauce on top, tossing to coat (add a little more pasta-cooking water if you need it) and strew with basil leaves.

  • Contributors:
  • With Simon Perry/London,
  • Michele Steuven/Los Angeles.