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Customer Review

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars OK but not great, 21 Jun. 2010
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This review is from: Patricia Wells' Trattoria: Simple and Robust Fare Inspired by the Small Family Restaurants of Italy (Paperback)
There isn't anything really wrong with this book but it just doesn't 'grab' me. The recipes are easy to prepare - a few are in fact are really too easy to require a recipe. For example there is a recipe for roasted rosemary potatoes - all of five ingredients if you include salt & pepper - which is so simple I would defy even a novice cook not to be able to make a reasonable stab at it without need of a recipe. There is also recipe for oven-roasted peppers in the same vein.

The book is pretty conventionally arranged and starts with a chapter covering antipasti & salads: walnut & pecorino salad, white bean salad with fresh sage & thyme, lemon & oregano tuna mousse, grilled zucchini with fresh thyme, marinated baby artichokes, very nice herb-infused savoury custards, fava (broad) bean & pecorino salad. Many of the dishes in this chapter could be accompaniments to main course dishes.

Next come vegetables such as asparagus with butter & parmesan, braised artichokes with garlic & parsley, deep fried zucchini flowers (for those who have never had these, deep fried courgette flowers are a real treat - they are not easy to find in the UK so I grow my own courgettes as much for the flowers as the fruits).

There is a very brief chapter on soups including Tuscan five bean soup, pasta & chickpea soup, roasted yellow pepper soup.

Pasta dishes have been divided into two sections - one for dried & one for fresh pasta. I am not sure why this distinction has been drawn. I would have preferred all the recipes in one group particularly as in reality good quality dried pasta is interchangeable with (in fact more often better than) shop bought fresh pasta and let's face it, how many of us have the time to make tagliatelle from scratch and then clean up the flour that seems to end up everywhere. Many of the recipes eg pasta alla puttanesca are the sort that you probably have already if you have other Italian or pasta cookery books but there are a few more interesting ones such as rigatoni with pecorino & two peppers (involving red pepper flakes - not sure how truly Italian this is - & ground black pepper). In the fresh pasta section recipes include tagliarini with lemon sauce, tagliatelle with rosemary infused butter, tagliatelle with tricolour peppers & basil, & citrus infused baked tagliatelle. Ironically, there isn't a recipe for stuffed pasta where I would make the pasta from scratch.

There is a short chapter on rice & polenta - again a small selection but it includes a couple of interesting recipes and two baked risotto dishes. Another short section covers breads & pizza. The fish section is surprisingly brief and includes mainly commonplace recipes. The poultry & meats chapter includes a good selection of main courses - chicken (but once again its the old standards which many people probably have several times already), rabbit with red peppers & polenta, cubed pork with garlic, spinach & chick peas, parmesan breaded lamb chops, rosemary roast pork, osso buco (the only veal dish which is somewhat surprising as veal is actually commonly used in Italy so I would have expected a few more offerings). There are a couple of beef recipes too. Elsewhere in the book she describes these as "more complicated" but these would only be complicated for the clueless novice.

There is a separate chapter on sauces & condiments including basic pasta sauces, parsley sauce, pesto, salsa verde, chicken stock, vegetable stock, olive spread & more.

The final chapter is desserts - many very simple (summer peaches & raspberries, baked peaches with amaretti), others the old standards (tiramisu, panna cotta) but there is a good torta di ricotta (an Italian cheesecake), and a few ice-creams & sorbets (including orange ice-cream, lemon granita, pineapple sorbet, and an unusual ricotta cheese gelato).

For me, although there isn't anything wrong with the book there isn't anything exciting or novel about it either. Perhaps I am being a little harsh, but given that there are plenty of Italian cookbooks out there, it would have been nice to find something new or distinctive rather than repeat standard Italian recipes which have been done better by others (most notably Marcella Hazan's comprehensive "Essentials of Italian Cooking"). If you don't have an Italian cookbook on your shelves and want something that is simple & easy to follow then you may find this of interest. On the other hand, if you already have several Italian cook books then this one is unlikely to add anything to what you already have.

On a practical note, although this book has been written by a American it does include US cup, lbs & ounces & metric measures within the body of the recipe which is a big improvement as many American cook books only include US measures with at best a conversion table at the beginning or the end of the book. Whilst the measuring system includes 'translations' for European systems, US terms are used in ingredient listing e.g. filet mignon instead of fillet steak, fava beans in stead of broad beans. There are no photos or illustrations.
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Location: Warwickshire, UK

Top Reviewer Ranking: 236