AUTHENTIC ITALIAN FOOD
Review by Barb & Ron Kroll
Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy
(Alfred A. Knopf) ISBN 978-0307267511 0307267512
This Italian cookbook is like an Italian cooking school combined with culinary tours of Italy. Lidia Matticchio Bastianich shows you how to cook authentic Italian food, using traditional Italian cooking techniques, ingredients and 175 regional recipes. She also brings you on personal tours of each region to meet cooks, bakers, farmers, cheesemakers and Italian winemakers.
Lidia's daughter, Tanya Bastianich Manuali, describes the cities, architecture, art, beaches and tourist attractions of the 12 regions of Italy: Trentino-Alto Adige, Lombardy, Valle d'Aosta, Liguria, Emilia-Romagna, Le Marche, Umbria, Abruzzo, Molise, Basilicata, Calabria and Sardinia.
Friendly and informative, this 411-page Italian cookbook and culinary tour guide makes you want to cook the delicious Italian recipes and visit the regions where they originated.
Lidia Bastianich introduces each chapter and recipe in Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy. For example, in the introduction to Sardinia, or Sardegna, the second largest island in the Mediterranean, Lidia talks about Sardinian food specialties, like bottarga (salted dry mullet roe) and malloreddus (semolina gnocchi).
She describes Sardinian cheeses, such as Fior Sardo and Pecorino Sardo (sweet sheep milk cheeses) and how Sardinian cheeses are used in dishes like miele di corbezzolo (fresh sheep milk ricotta with strawberry tree flower honey).
At Su Cologone, a country inn in Oliena, near Nuoro, Lidia Matticchio Bastianich brings you to a restaurant to taste flatbread lasagna, and includes the recipe. In Sardinia, eggplant is very popular, so Lidia provides several delicious Sardinian recipes for eggplant.
At Alghero, on the Costa Verde (west shore of Sardinia), Lidia introduces readers to lobster à la Catalana and myrtle liquor (liquore di mirto). Finally, she brings readers to the Pintapane Bakery in Oliena, Sardinia, to learn how they make pane carasau and carta di musica. Sardinians eat these thin, crispy disks of unleavened bread with cheese, cold cuts and soup.
Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy also includes information on regional Italian wineries. For example, Lidia Bastianich visits the Pedra Majore winery, run by the Isoni di Monti families, to sample I Graniti, Vermentino di Gallura white wine.
The 94 color photos in Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy depict regional scenery, recipes, cooking techniques and people. For example, the Sardinia chapter features images of the Costa Smeralda, drying provolone cheese, Pintapane Bakery workers in Oliena making pane carasau, flatbread lasagna and Anna Rosa Fancello of Oliena, who makes the best pane carasau.
Regional Italian cooking
A map, at the front of the book, locates the 12 regions of Italy featured in this regional Italian cookbook.
Each recipe lists recommended equipment. For example, Lidia Bastianich suggests a food processor, a heavy, deep skillet and an eight-quart pot for making strangozzi (long pasta strands) with tomato bacon sauce.
Each chapter of Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy concludes with a travel guide to the region. In the Sardinia chapter, for example, Tanya Manuali recommends that visitors see Sardinia's nuraghi stone structures, such as Su Nuraxi di Barumuni, which date back to before 1000 BC. Tanya also suggests Cabras and Codrongianos, for early Christian churches, Arbatax for its red rocks in the sea, Alghero, for coral jewelry and Neptune's Grotto, and Isola Piana, a nature preserve near the island of San Pietro in the Sulcis Archipelago.
A Sources section, at the back of the cookbook, lists Internet suppliers and websites, where readers can buy Italian ingredients like pane carasau, peperoncini, Taggiasca olives and Trofie pasta.
How to make Olio Santo
Sidebars add information about Italian foods and equipment used to cook them. Lidia Matticchio Bastianich, for example, tells you how to make Olio Santo with peperoncino (fresh or dried hot red chili peppers). Especially popular in Abruzzo, Olio Santo adds heat to soups, pastas and main dishes.
In another sidebar, Lidia explains why you need a chitarra (a frame with two sets of strings for cutting pasta dough) to make perfect maccheroni.
Sample Sardinian recipes
Sardinian food recipes include provolone turnovers (pardulas), cauliflower with olives and cherry tomatoes (cavolfiori alle olive), Gallurese bread and cabbage soup (zuppa Gallurese), baked eggplant with onions and fresh tomatoes (melanzane al forno), malloreddus with sausage tomato sauce (malloreddus con sugo di salsiccia e pomodoro), baked fregola casserole (fregola stufada) and semolina pudding with blueberry sauce (mazzafrissa).
- Trentino-Alto Adige
- Valle D'Aosta
- Le Marche
- General reference recipes
- Recipe finder by course
Lidia Matticchio Bastianich is the chef and owner of six restaurants and the author of five other Italian cookbooks: Lidia's Italy, Lidia's Family Table, Lidia's Italian American Kitchen, Lidia's Italian Table and La Cucina di Lidia.
Tanya Bastianich Manuali, her mother and Shelly Burgess operate Esperienze Italiane, which offers art tours and culinary tours of Italy.