The Chiappa sisters grew up in Wales in the heart of a close-knit Italian community where food was always at the centre of family and social gatherings. Whether searching for porcini in the hills near their parents' home, making pasta with the whole family, or sharing food at the annual Welsh-Italian summer picnic, they have been immersed in the Italian way of cooking all their lives. Here they share their cherished family recipes, including all the pasta dishes featured in their Channel 4 series.
"This book by Diane Seed completely changed how I approach pasta. Before, I just assumed that the more ingredients stuffed into a sauce the better it had to be. Also, if you cooked those ingredients for a long, long time, it'd get better after each passing minute. But Diane Seed taught me restraint and economy. It's all about taking a few ingredients, mostly vegetables, and letting them shine. Cook them too long and they lose their essence. I'd always heard that there were hundreds of kinds of pasta, but this book taught me that there are just as many sauces. Favorite recipe: Spaghetti Alla Boscaiola, which you can find on Serious Eats here."—Nick Kindelsperger, Chicago Editor and Dinner Tonight columnist
Il timballo del gattopardo – Sicilian pie; pastry dough baked with a filling of penne rigata, Parmesan, and bound a sauce of ham, chicken, liver, onion, carrot, truffles, diced hard-boiled egg and seasoned with clove, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Gattopardo (the Serval) makes reference to the arms of the Lampedusa family and Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s well-known novel Il Gattopardo, not the contents of the dish.
“How we cling to our myths, we English”. The year is 1963, and in the intro to the first Penguin edition of this venerable tome, David is describing the disdain with which her countrymen viewed the culinary cultures of both France and Italy when she set about writing it, in 1954. Research for the book elicited in her a potent sense of discovery, and incredulity: “How wrong they had been, from Mrs Beeton down to my own contemporaries. Where had they been looking? Had they been looking at all?” Given the entrenched supremacy of Italian cookery on our contemporary menus – and the ubiquity of this book on our kitchen shelves – it borders on surreal to think there was a time, pre-David, when we might have been so collectively deluded. The four books that follow here can each be described as definitive, and best-selling, but one suspects they’d be neither, in this country, were it not for Elizabeth David and her ability to find gold, and, with such compulsion, to share it.
"The books that guide you in your very first steps of learning to cook, that help you overcome fears and fall in love with the process, always earn a special place on the shelf. So it is with Cucina Rustica, the book that taught me that a recipe called Spaghetti with Oil and Garlic (the very first Dinner Tonight column I wrote) could be the most delicious thing in the world, and that most recipes would probably improve if you took out a few ingredients. This is a general lesson of Italian cooking that has informed the way I choose recipes. Yet while Cucina Rustica's recipes suggest simplicity, they are pitched perfectly between approachable and challenging. So I've never been bored cooking from it.
Perhaps one of the simplest dishes in the book, but the one I revisit the most, is the whipped sheep's milk ricotta. You can make this in your sleep. Just whip up the ricotta with some good whole milk and it becomes ethereally fluffy. Accented with sea salt, fresh herbs, and olive oil, it's ready to be slathered all over crusty bread. I serve this at just about every party I have. Another favorite is this cauliflower with brown butter, pear, sage, and hazelnuts. It has to be one of the best ways to eat cauliflower. "—Erin Zimmer, National Managing Editor
Mario Batali has stated his belief that, for Italians, the best cooking is done at home, not in restaurants. This cookbook is full of recipes that can be prepared at home. It heavily emphasizes pasta, which Mario believes holds the most importance in Italian cooking. Other chapters include meats, fish, and vegetables. The simplicity of the recipes makes this book good for beginners.
I'm going to have to go with the classic Silver Spoon book. Yes, it's got a lot of problems—the recipes are maddeningly under-detailed and under-tested. The instructions rely on vague timings instead of specific visual cues (how do I know my Coda Di Rospo Con Salsa D'Acciughe looks the way it's supposed to after baking for 30 minutes? What if my half lemon has less juice than yours?). There aren't a whole lot of pretty pictures, nice illustrations, or clear instructions on how to select ingredients, implement techniques, or any of the other details that make for a great, informative cookbook. What it does have, on the other hand, is a ludicrously comprehensive index (over 3,000 recipes) that spans throughout Italy. I'd never rely on it for a usable recipe, but as a database for ideas and as an encyclopedia on Italian dishes, it can't be beat."—J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, Chief Creative Officer