It was more than 10 years ago that my husband and I traveled throughout Italy. Ever since, we have longed to return having fallen in love with the beauty, the people and the food of the different regions we visited. Italy From the Source transported me back to Italy, its people and the beautiful food they prepare with local ingredients and a true passion for what they create. Just as when I reviewed the cookbook Flavors of Aloha and wanted to return to Hawaii immediately, this time I wanted to jump on a plane and resume our odyssey throughout the four regions of Italy.
Rather than being divided into courses, the book is divided into regions; Northeast, Northwest, Central and Southern Italy. It also includes a section of basic recipes for pasta, soffritto and broth. At the beginning of each section there is a map of the region showing where each recipe originates. The recipes are those prepared by chefs at their restaurants and agriturisimos. They are traditional to the area using ingredients that grow or are produced locally. The photography is stunning and the stories of the history, the products grown and the chefs who prepare their food with unadulterated love and devotion are fascinating. In Northeast Italy I read about Tortellini in Brodo, Risotto Al Radicchio Di Treviso E Prosecco, Tagliatelle Al Ragu (more on this recipe later), and Tiramisu. From Northwest Italy I visually dined on Osso Bucco, Polenta Valdostana, Risotto Alla Milanese and Panettone. Central Italy introduced me to Francesina (Tuscan Steak Salad), Carbonara and Gnocchi Con Sugo Di Spuntature Di Maiale (Gnocchi in a pork ribs sauce). Last to visit on this Italian culinary journey was the South. Here one can dine on Pasta Alla Norma, Spaghetti Alle Vongole, Cannoli and Sorbet Di Limone. One of my favorite stories is of 70 year old Teresa Rossi, the chef of la Carbonara in Rome. The restaurant was established in 1906 and Teresa keeps to a strict traditional Roman weekly menu: Thursdays is gnocchi day, Friday baccala and Saturday tripe. She makes all the gnocchi by hand and uses a traditional chopped pork recipe inherited from her hometown of Ciociario, Italy.
I read the book page by page, from beginning to end, longing to have these beautiful ingredients at my disposal so I could recreate them myself. There in lies the one problem with this cookbook. Many of the ingredients can only be procured in the regions that they are produced. Some of the recipes offer tips for substitutions but many do not. One is forced to become a food voyeur. All of the recipes include a picture of the finished product. Some of the recipes offer tips, wine pairings or a cook’s glossary. The ingredients are listed to the left. One drawback is that the measurements are in grams and liters or pounds and ounces. This can be remedied with a kitchen scale and good measuring pitchers. The directions in the cookbook are step by step and clear.
I did earmark more than 20 recipes that I can recreate from the book. One of them is Tagliatelle Al Ragu which I prepared. The ingredients for this dish are simple. Hanger or skirt steak, pancetta, soffritto (a mixture of onions, carrots and celery finely chopped), red wine, tomato puree, nutmeg, parmesan and of course tagliatelle or pappardelle. It is important to chop everything very finely (this takes time) and to cook it slowly. Allow yourself 4 to 5 hours from beginning to end. As the recipe suggests, it is even better the second day. This was truly a delicious and comforting meal.
Next on my list to try are Osso Bucco and Carbonara and after that? Maybe a trip to Italy is in my future! Italy From the Source cookbook would be a great addition to any Italian food lovers library.
Where to Buy:
Italy From the Source
Authentic recipes from the people that know them best
Written by Sarah Barrell
Photographs by Susan Wright
Published by Lonely Planet
This cookbook review is a guest post by Christine Bartell, a retired school teacher and food lover based in central Oregon. Top photo courtesy of Christine Bartell. Lonely Planet supplied her with Italy From the Source for review purposes. All opinions are her own.