This is a chunky well-proportioned volume which does indeed focus on rustic Italian food, although good Italian food is mostly rustic anyway. All those classic dishes we crave are the kinds of things that have been commonplace in regular homes along the length of the boot of Italy for generations. If you want a smart and contemporary meal then present small portions of these same dishes on a square plate and buy a metre-long pepper mill to irritate your guests.
Yes, rustic dishes, but they have been given a bit of polish by the addition of wine pairing suggestions. Don’t just offer a bottle of cheap Chianti but rather choose a wine that will actually enhance the food. OK, so you might not be tempted to make a lampshade out of the suggested bottle, but surely it’s more important to impress with your culinary skills rather than your aptitude for handicrafts.
Domenica Marchetti is an American of Italian descent so the selection of recipes might be somewhat different from that you would likely find in a UK-biased cookbook; but that does give this book greater appeal. You’ll discover new ideas and inspiration just by looking at the index – accessible ingredients that take advantage of the changing seasons.
Antipasti are small starters or can be enjoyed as nibbles with drinks. Crostini con Piselli e Menta – toast with sweet pea puree and mint – is simple to prepare and you can use frozen peas as the base. Eat these as soon as they are ready to prevent the bread from going soggy. The Italian speck gives a savoury counterpoint to the bright green peas.
Panzanella – Tuscan bread salad with capers – is a classic. It’s an ideal summer one-plate dish and uses that not-quite-so-fresh bread, although it’s honestly worth buying or making some country bread especially for this salad. No need to be a slave to the recipe: add your own array of vegetables and a few interesting leaves and make this dish your own. A great light lunch with a glass of a crisp white wine.
Meatloaf is an international comfort food, it seems. Polpettine alla Fiorentina – Florentine meatloaf with pecorino and wine – is the Italian version of the ever-popular staple. It has what I for one consider the best proportions and combination of meats: equal parts of veal, pork and beef which, when well seasoned, tastes more like sausage than ordinary mince. Serve this with one of my favourite wines, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.
Rustic Italian – simple, authentic recipes for everyday cooking is practical. We are all noticing that our shopping bills are larger than ever, but we still want to feed our families with the best we can afford, and it’s always fun to be able to entertain with meals that are attractive and delicious. There are some recipes here to impress both family and friends without taking out a mortgage.
Rustic Italian – simple, authentic recipes for everyday cooking
Author: Domenica Marchetti
Published by: Apple Press
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018