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VINE VOICEon 9 November 2009
Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )|Verified Purchase
At first glance, this cookbook appears like most others - Italian cooking is so common these days that it's hard to stand out. However, once you've looked closer at this book, the differences stand out. Firstly, the point which caused me to take off a star - it's quite oddly illustrated. Easy Tasty Italian is littered with odd pictures - like the first section with a picture of a girl in a balldress smoking, labelled 'it's not pretty being easy' or the pictorial image of a naked girl on a steak, or the image of Laura pouring pasta into a collander, looking more made-up and photogenic than anyone realistically should in the kitchen. Realistically, it's not a detractor if you don't mind that kind of thing but for some reason it annoyed me.

Anyway, onto the real bulk of the review - the recipes. Laura takes care to introduce each section and provides a handy section at the start letting you know what you should have in your kitchen. She also gives tips on how to add a certain bang to recipes, and Italian secrets on how to make recipes taste really good.

I'll be honest - they do. I did her mushroom risotto with marscapone, and it was absolutely one of the best things I've eaten for a long time. It just tasted amazing, and Laura's long description of how to cook the risotto to perfection really helped. However, common problems do manifest themselves - there is rarely a 'total cooking time' shown, and it doesn't always state how many people the recipes serve. The pictures are gorgeous and really make you want to cook them. It's *very* Italian, and you feel really authentic cooking them - whilst you'll be familiar with the concept, the recipes usually add something which you wouldn't normally think of, be that in terms of ingredients, process or an extra twist.

If you like Italian cooking and have yet to get really adventurous, give it a look.
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on 18 October 2012
I've bought 5 copies of Easy Tasty Italian (1 for me, the rest for friends). I'm a fan of Laura Santtini's work (obviously) and although it's no longer the new book on the block, it's become one of my go-to resources. I've used it time and time again and can't understand anyone that says it's not easy. A few of the ingredients aren't in your average supermarket but if you're savvy enough to use Amazon, you're smart enough to order these ones online. You'll be rewarded with some impressive plates of food. A favourite is the leg over lamb recipe, in fact the whole slow cooking section is great and the sections on rubs and pastes can help make the plainest of dinners interesting.

It's also an irreverent book, and that's refreshing.
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on 14 June 2017
Great book,if you like Italian.
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VINE VOICEon 11 November 2009
Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
There's actually a very good cookbook fighting to get out here from under the weight of an excruciatingly irritating manner and overly chi-chi style.

The irritating manner can be demonstrated by the example of Santtini's discussion of the umami flavour. She christens the use of umami in Italian cooking as "U-Mamma!" (sic), which coinage she then proceeds to use at frequent intervals throughout the rest of the book.

It's not exactly authentic traditional Italian; ingredients used include Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, barberries, pomegranates, sumac, chemoula, Szechuan pepper, soy sauce, green tea and so on and so forth. A number of recipes even include edible gold or silver leaf (like the "vark" of Moghul cooking); sensibly the small print on the copyright page says "This is a suggestion and not a recommendation, and the use and consumption of such metals is at your own risk. Neither the author nor the publisher accept any liability for any illness, harm or injury arising from the use or consumption of such metals". Moghul emperors wanted to demonstrate their wealth but I'm not sure that I would want to eat such heavy metals.

One of the best parts of the book is the section with numerous recipes for various flavoured mayonnaises, pestos, salsas and relishes, trifolati, flavoured butters, marinades, rubs, pastes, "elixirs" (oils and sauces), crumbs and stuffings and so on, many of which are used in the later recipes.

This is a book packed with ideas and sophisticated flavours, and will be of immense use not just for Italian food lovers. Just a pity about the style.
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on 17 October 2009
Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I've always liked Italian food, and this is the first book I've owned specific to it.

I opened it and immediately had to borrow some reading glasses because the type is small and the content quite densely packed. It feels like the book was designed to be 30cm by 21cm by instead of the actual 25cm by 18cm. This loses it a star, alas.

However, once I started reading it I was drawn in. The style is light, friendly and very entertaining, full of gentle humour and irony, it could almost be a novel except the recipes are very real and recognisable, and often with an extra dimension that seems obvious when there but I would never have thought of.

This is possibly one of the better books I have read recently, and it is a cookery book! Once one is accustomed to the cramped layout it does make sense, and the method of how to use it is clear. I'd been spoiled by recently reading Simon Hopkinson's The Vegetarian Option which is a perfect model of how best to present the information, but this Laura Santtini book scores more highly for the content.

The explanation of how Umami works is crystal clear, and makes perfect sense. I've been cooking for fifty years and how could I have missed this? Seeing it applied explains why all my favourites taste so good. And then there are a whole load of new recipes and ideas. The pictures of the finished dishes are mouth watering and I hope I can emulate them. In a word then? 'Wonderful!'

I can't wait to work my way through it all. Recommended!

Addendum 19 Nov 2009.
We had tried five random recipes before I wrote the review, all standards, to see if her methods worked better than the way we normally did them. Her methods worked well so I wrote the review.

Since then, we've selected maybe another ten of the recipes from different parts of the book, ignoring the gold etc sillies which I think are jokes aimed at the pretentious. So far, all the so-called 'odd' ingredients were easily found locally, mostly in WR and some in a few little delicatessens an Italian friend pointed me at. All have worked better than we expected, and so we (four cooks in this house) will be continuing our random journey of enjoyment through the book.
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on 11 August 2014
A fairly good cookbook let down by a terrible layout, bland photography (it really isn't inspirational in any way) and a really annoying use of U-mamma! There is some decent stuff in here but I doubt it'd be the first book anyone would come back to...
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VINE VOICETOP 500 REVIEWERon 16 December 2009
Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
 From first impressions, Laura Santtini's beautifully presented Italian cookbook 'Easy Tasty Italian' appears to be a very elegant and contemporary looking book, with a cunning secret of a cheat's guide lurking behind its glossy pages. Indeed, Simon Wheeler's pristine photography that appears for almost every recipe, really manages to capture the true essence of the book. This is a cookbook for people who are either keen (and somewhat knowledgeable) cooks, or for those who plan to pull out all the stops and impress someone with some quality Italian dining.

The book attempts to take the reader on a trip through the culinary history of each of the dishes and their respective key ingredients. This is not only an interesting little insight into the individual dishes (if you so choose to learn a little more than how to cook each dish), but also allows the cook to recite these snippets of information during the meal afterwards, as a way of further impressing their audience.

The vast majority of the dishes are (what we are at least led to believe) very authentic and traditional Italian dishes, with a contemporary angle to the cooking to simplify the process somewhat. The ingredients are hardly 'everyday ingredients', but then this book isn't really about everyday cooking (despite the constant references to 'everyday food' both on the cover and repeatedly in the book itself).

Here is a basic breakdown of the book's contents:

THE TOOLS OF TRANSFORMATION
- Kitchen equipment
- Typical Italian larder
- The umami larder
- The alchemic larder

BASIC PROCEDURES & PREPARATIONS
- Whipping it up (basic mayonnaise)
- Hey pesto! (basic basil pesto)
- Chopping & changing (basic salsas & relishes)
- The kindest cut (basic trifolati)
- Compound interest (basic compound butters)
- Love me tender (basic marinades)
- Rubbing it in (basic rubs)
- Food bling (edible noble metals)
- Tasty pastes (basic flavouring pastes)
- Elixers & potion notions (basic savoury & sweet sauces)
- Crumbs of comfort (basic breadcrumbs for coatings & suffings)

AIR 'I WAS RAW'
- 10 Easy tasty antipasti
- Rich & thin (carpaccio)
- Ceviche & tartare
- Seren-dip-ity (basic dips)

WATER 'I WAS COOKED'
- Soups
- Pasta
- Tomato sauces exposed
- The top 10 classic pasta sauces of all times
- Risotto
- Poaching
- Bagno-maria

FIRE 'I WAS BURNED'
- Grilling
- Frying
- In umido top stews
- Baking & roasting

EARTH 'I AM TASTY'
- Slow cooking
- The top 10 Italian vegetable dishes

AFTER THE MEAL
- 12 Quick & easy desserts
- Spirit & ether: the fifth element

All in all, the book delivers some truly tasty and diverse dishes that although the secrets behind their cooking have been revealed and dissected somewhat, still remain slightly out of the reach of the average cook on an everyday basis. However, for those seeking to up-skill their culinary talents, or put the time and effort in to create a truly impressive and authentic dish, then this book delivers this in abundance.

Laura Santtini (or the book's publishers) seems to be aiming for the wrong target audience with this book. It's stylish look and audacious contents are for a braver cook than those seeking everyday cuisine. But taken for what it should be, it really is an insightful and inspiring cookbook delivering a litany of hints and tips to add a bit more pizzazz to a traditional Italian dish.
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VINE VOICEon 20 October 2009
Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Laura Santtini is not a chef. Her publisher describes her as a writer who cooks, but do not let that put you off since her gastronomic pedigree is first class. She learned Italian cuisine from her Venetian Italian grandmother and her parents who ran the Santini Italian restaurant in high society Belgravia in London. Laura is half Italian, a quarter Persian, part Anglo-Irish with a pinch of Sephardic Jew, and both her writing style and her culinary appetite reflects most of those subtle influences. She writes well, always lucidly, insightful, highly practical, enthusiastic, with traces of humour. Her grandmother traditionally may have had to begin cooking preparations before 6 am in the morning in order to meet the high expectations of her menfolk for lunch, but Laura demystifies Italian cuisine sufficiently to achieve the same result within a fraction of that time, and so the "Easy" part of the book title is well justified. The "Tasty" epithet is accomplished by her use of what she calls "flavour bombs", transforming simple dishes into unforgettable experiences. Her main flavour bombs are fragments of chicken stuck to the bottom of the roasting tray, salty anchovy melted in tomato, creamy combinations of pancetta and Parmesan in a carbonara, and especially umami, the fifth sense of taste, which is neither sweet nor sour, neither salty nor bitter, and is related to the naturally found glutamates, salts of amino glutamic acids bound with proteins, and some ribonucleotides, present in, and exploited by her, in many foods typical of Italian cuisine. Her umami tend to be Parmigiano Reggiano, prosciutto crudo, porcini mushrooms, white truffles, balsamic vinegar, and a carrot-onion-celery soffritto which she makes the base of much of her Italian cookery.

The book begins with a list and brief discussion of the kitchen equipment and utensils found in a typical Italian kitchen, next the foods, ingredients, and seasonings which would be stored in a typical Italian larder, including many familiar sounding names such as spaghetti and polenta, gorgonzola, mascarpone, and mozzarella, pistachios, pesto, olives and passata, as well as the less well known borlotti, fava and cannellini beans; capellini, penne and rigatoni pastas; bresaola and cotechino meats; juniper berries, myrtle and clams in brine, to name just a few. She adds an alchemic larder consisting of hibiscus and jasmine flowers, barberries and sour black cherries, roasted almonds, orange and rose waters, cardamom and Scappi spice mixture and many more. You slowly begin to realize this is a cookery book that is out of the ordinary.

There are well over 200 recipes, with variations, in the book arranged in sections: creating ones own mayonnaise, pesto, salsa rossa, courgette trifolata, red wine marinades, the aromatic massaging of meats by wet rubbing or dry marinading, parmesan and prosciutto pastes, elixir black chocolate, and elaborate breadcrumb stuffings. The book reveals many of the secrets of her family Italian restaurant including ten antipasti or starters using scallops, mushrooms and asparagus among others. The book then explores the conjuring of carpaccio, ceviche, tartare, and ricotta and the creation of specially flavoured butters. There is a section on Italian soups, the architecture of pasta, tomato sauces, as well as 10 classic pasta sauces. Naturally there is a extensive study of risotto. The art of Italian grilling and poaching is explained with beef, lamb, venison, quail and swordfish examples. More familiar meat dishes include steak, veal and chicken as well as mocha chilli pork spare ribs. Fish recipes include monkfish kebabs, roasted sea bream, and sea bass with grappa. For those with a vegetarian preference there are 10 classic Italian vegetable dishes. Finally there are recipes for 12 quick Italian desserts, including Sophia Loren's Ricotta condita, finishing with a recipe for how to make the classic Venetian cocktail: sgroppino.

Physically the book is high quality, of good size and format, arranged with text on one page and with a full-size photographic illustration on the opposite page. Most of the photographs are of the completed dishes but a few bizarrely illustrate the ingredients instead. Some illustrations seem designed for humour, such as Garibaldi's statue with a busker, and Elvis kissing tenderly and true. The illustrations are not the greatest feature of the book, rather it is the inspired text and the quality of the recipes which achieve that. This is a book that explains the traditions of Italian cookery but daringly takes them to another level by means of the writer's unique creativity and innovation. Absorb the contents of the book and you could well open your own authentic Italian restaurant, or more probably dine and entertain your guests with a sublime Italian diner party.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 17 December 2009
Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I'm not sure how 'The Bookseller' could describe this as "the perfect girlfriend present" - I am a woman and some of the non-food photos in this book I find to be rather unsavory! Such as french kissing with tongues obviously showing and a picture of a man in underpants right at the back. Those pictures actually detract from the cookbook side and for that reason I would not gift this to anyone and certainly not a woman.

As other reviewers have noted, I think in trying desperately to make this book different, it has dumbed the book right down unfortunately.

However, the actual food content of the book is very, very good and that's why despite the above I have given it 4 stars.

Quality food photographs are essential in the cookbooks I enjoy, Easy Tasty Italian does not disappoint in this respect. The food photographs are wonderfully seductive and tasteful. I just wish there were more food photographs instead of the other, silly pictures.

As for the recipes themselves, easy is debatable because for a start there are some very specialist items which many people will find a challenge to get hold of. There are some easy recipes but I wouldn't say they are representative of the book. Only 12 deserts and I have a sweet tooth so this is not a big enough selection for me personally but the ones included do look very appealing. But plenty of meat, fish and pasta recipes which will appeal to those who are looking for a bit of Italian flavour.

So far this has been one of those 'coffee table books' for us but there are several recipes I am planning to try including antipasti and risottos so will hopefully update my review at some point.
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on 21 November 2009
Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
As a lover of Italian food, it is easy to fall into the trap of cooking mainly pasta dishes. Also having visited the country a number of times I knew there was more to Italian cooking than just pizza and pasta. This book initially seemed a good choice as I'm not exactly an expert in the kitchen.

It starts off with a bit of background on the author, followed by Section 1 which gives a list of basic utensils and essential larder ingredients. Most of the ingredients are readily available but when I got to the dried flowers and precious metals (!!!) I began to think that maybe I had made a big mistake. It then goes on to list a number of basic techniques and recipes that are the basis for many of the dishes e.g. pesto sauce, carpaccio sauce, chocolate elixir, etc.

Section 2 is where the real cooking begins. Initially there are number of starter dishes which incorporate mainly raw ingredients e.g. salads, variations on the basic carpaccio sauce, dips, etc. Next we move on to soups, pasta dishes, risottos, pasta sauces, poaching, grilling, frying, stews, baking, roasting, slow cooking, vegetable dishes and finally desserts. There isn't exactly a vast range of ideas but instead you start with a basic ingredient such as a sauce and then create a number of variations on a theme. I love risotto so I immediately headed for that section. There I found 8 or so variations ranging from Strawberry Risotto to Sausage and Tomato Risotto. The strawberry wasn't to my taste but the others I tried were very good.

If you want to impress someone then this book will give you a host of ideas. The dishes not only look good but are really delicious. I think the gold leaf added to drizzling oil is probably a bit over the top but there are some superb recipes which I think give you a real idea of creative Italian cooking. We have only tried a handful but most of them were excellent especially the lamb and seafood dishes.

I would have to say that the title of the book is somewhat deceptive. Tasty....yes, Italian....yes, Easy....not exactly. If you're looking for quick and easy ideas then it's probably best to look else where. I would still recommend this book though to anyone who is adventurous with their cooking. It's definitely worth the effort.
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