This is a stunning volume of 100 or so recipes and a mix of colour photographs and evocative black and white shots of the city and its people. Cucina Napoletana isn’t out to impress you with recipes from restaurants with crisp white tablecloths, although they are touched upon. Instead, this book gives you an impression of gutsy flavours and of no-frills inhabitants of a town that has had a “reputation” since Roman times.
Naples takes advantage of all the fine foods that Italy has to offer, but in particular the produce from the region surrounding the city. Its climate makes it ideal for growing tomatoes and chillies along with potatoes and peppers, and it has the benefit of the abundance of the sea. Meat dishes rely on pork and chicken rather than beef, which was historically out of the reach of most of the population.
The author Arturo Iengo has lived and worked in Naples for more than 30 years. Although not a native of Naples he has a passion for the area and its food. He presents dishes that are appropriate for both family meals and smart entertaining, and dishes that are both delicious as well as overflowing with healthful ingredients.
Naples is the home of Pizza – the thin-crust with toppings that complement rather than swamp the base – cooked to perfection in a wood-burning oven and consumed with a carafe of red wine and to the sound of a Puccini opera. Well, you probably won’t have the wood-burning oven but your pizza will still be better than any shop-bought varieties… or even those delivered by the lad on a moped. And you can always buy a CD of La Bohème. Arturo offers several pizzas including the most celebrated Margherita invented by pizza chef Raffaela Esposito in 1889, who named his creation in honour of Queen Margherita. Pizza Capperi, Olive e Acciughi is pizza garnished with capers, olives and anchovies. There is the ever-present mozzarella and tomato to offset the salty tang of the other ingredients, to produce a pizza that would be ideal with aperitifs.
Cucina Napoletana has numerous pasta dishes ranging from the cheap and cheerful but truly delicious Farfalle with Tuna and Peas to Spaghetti with Prawns, Squid and Clams. One of the quickest to prepare is Linguine with Pancetta and Tomato Sauce. It’s a traditional Easter dish in Naples although I am sure it will be a year-round favourite with those that love pasta dressed with few ingredients and little fuss.
Sfogliatelle Ricce are semolina and ricotta pastries that originated in the 1700s in the kitchens of the Croce di Lucca monastery. They were prepared for guests but in 1818 Pasquale Pintauro, a baker in Naples, baked the first ones commercially outside the walls of a religious establishment. This is a recipe for the more confident cook but the results will be worth the effort.
Cucina Napoletana is full of recipes that will tempt you, and photographs by Hannah Mornement show the Neapolitan character off to its quirky finest. “See Naples and die” is a phrase the origins of which are lost in the mists of time. Sounds like more of a threat than a promise, so consider “Eat Naples and live” as a more attractive alternative. You could certainly live very nicely on these dishes.
Author: Arturo Iengo
Published by: New Holland
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018