'Italian chefs are naturals in the kitchen because from an early age the family tradition of cooking and eating together creates a passion for food, and life in general. Through this book I hope I can share some of my passion for Italian food. So get cooking these great but simple dishes!'
Published in hardback, as Foolproof Italian Cookery
, we find 40 recipes in 'Simple Italian Cookery', subtitled - 'Step by step to everyone's favourite Italian recipes'.
This review is for the 2005/BBC Books version.
It is worth noting that the recipes featured are the personal favourites of the Zilli family and may not have everything you might expect in a simple Italian cookery introduction, e.g. 'Lasagne' or 'Spaghetti Bolognese'. Although, having said that, the latter is basically covered by 'Rigatoni with Traditional Pork Bolognese', on a more detailed flick/read through - but not cross-indexed under 'Bolognese', in the index, which would be a useful enhancement, in my opinion.
From the introduction:-
.......'...Over the last 20 years, I have cooked certain recipes over and over again, in various restaurants and in my home. So I thought I would share some of my family favourites with you in this book. This book shows you how easy Italian cooking is, especially since it has become one of the world's most popular cuisines. Nowadays even English cooks enjoy preparing Italian food as we can see with Jamie Oliver and Delia Smith, two of my favourite television chefs.
Part of the attraction of Italian cooking is the simplicity of the ingredients, most of which are easy to find now that supermarkets stock a large selection of fresh and dried Italian produce. However it is always a good idea to visit an Italian deli for your essentials, such as good pasta, olives, Parmesan cheese and Pavesini biscuits to make your 'Tiramisu' much lighter .......'
....not surprisingly it is a superb recipe (although I do recommend the c 5 minutes of electric whisking!) and is one of the courses from the 'Simple Dinner Party for 6', from the featured menu suggestions. This particular menu I have fallen back on on many an occasion, with 'Roasted Vegetables with Goat's Cheese and Basil Oil' to start and 'Roast Chicken Mamma Mia Style', in between!
A bowl of 'Tagilatelle Carbonara' adorns the front cover of this paperback book which opens to 128 high quality shiny pages, split over main chapters:-
* Soups and Starters (pg24-45)
* Pasta and Rice (pg 48-69)
* Fish and Meat (pg72-105)
* Desserts (pg108-121)
along with an introduction, 'Ingredients and Equipment', a guide to menus and an index. The Content's List at the front also includes a list of all the recipes, in their applicable chapter order, for quick reference.
The section entitled 'Ingredients and Equipment' includes an informative description of the more mainstream Italian ingredients and that handy conversion table for weights, volume, measurements and oven temperatures which features in this series of books.
Each chapter opens with a two page spread, with the title on one side and a simple photograph of a relevant ingredient on the other.
Each recipe is well laid out with the title, an opening description, the number of servings, prep and cooking times (where applicable), the list(s) of ingredients and a numbered method. Most span two pages.....some more, such as 'Polenta with Wild and Field Mushrooms', which has 4 pages.
Superb colour photography throughout, from Jean Cazals, including step-by-steps, makes this a great book for beginners, but there are subtle embellishments which offer more experienced cooks something, too.
My other favourite recipes, to date, tried and tasted are:-
'Asparagus and Parma Ham Gratin', served with rocket - with a prep time of 20 minutes and a cooking time of just 8 minutes, and using my home-grown asparagus, which, as I write, is now finished for this year!
I also like 'Chicken Saltimbocca', the latter word translated as 'jump-in-the-mouth' - which does just that, in terms of flavour!
Although traditionally made with veal, Aldo rightly states that 'chicken breasts are a perfect substitute and will please everyone'. Served on a simple bed of sliced courgettes, this can be accompanied with a bowl of pasta ribbons or rice or a colourful salad, depending on the mood.
Other recipes include:-
Tuscan Bean Soup with Pasta
Minestrone of Rice and Vegetables
Fennel, Radicchio and Gorgonzola Salad
Penne Amatriciana with Fresh Tomatoes
Pumpkin and Jumbo Prawn Risotto
Seared Tuna Sicilian Style
Grilled Rump Steak Paillard
Roasted Lamb Fillets with Italian Gravy
Sausage and Borlotti casserole
Pannacotta with Fresh Berries
Littered throughout are helpful tips, variations and serving suggestions, such as:-
'Gnocchi are Italian potato dumplings, served like pasta. You should always try and make your own, as the taste is so much better than the vacuum-packed ones you can buy......The secret of making gnocchi at home is to use starchy, floury potatoes such as Kind Edwards and boil them in their skins to prevent excess water entering the potato flesh.......uncooked gnocchi freeze very well and can be cooked straight from the freezer........pesto Sauce makes the perfect partner for gnocchi; other sauces that would go well include the cherry tomato sauce (see page 48) and the saffron, prawn and salmon, served with linguine on page 50.'
A useful book which lies open on the kitchen counter, regardless of the page you are on!