When I was a child, I dreamt of being adopted by an Italian family. I loved their accents, the way they sounded like they were shouting at everything when in fact they were carrying on a normal conversation, I loved how they always called me Bella and of course, their food.
Fast forward to my first year of high school where I spent the summer travelling around Europe with my family. Italy was my favourite of the ten countries we visited that summer, and this time I had dreams of marrying a vespa driving, cappucino drinking, dark eyed Italian as my ticket to that Italian family.
Through the years, I figured the only way to get my Italian family was to amass an unusually large number of Italian cookbooks. So when I told my husband that I had a copy of John Lanzafame’s Family Italian cookbook to review, he said what any practical husband would say “Don’t you have enough Italian cookbooks already?!”
So here in my hands was an Italian cookbook from that Italian family I never had but always dreamed of having.
So to answer my husband’s question whether I have enough Italian cookbooks? There’s always room for one more, especially when it’s inspired by Mum’s cooking.
John Lanzafame is a restauranteur, celebrity chef and a one time world pizza champion. He was also a member of the Australian Culinary Olympic Team that competed in Germany in 2008. His first book, Pizza Modo Mio (Pizza My Way) was a collection of recipes featuring both traditional and pizza recipes he has added his own twist to. Today he owns and runs Lanzafame Trattoria in Woolloomooloo and serves classic Italian dishes with a menu that changes based on fresh and seasonal produce available. His second cookbook is a reflection of this and goes back to the inspiration for most of his cooking style.
This book was incredibly important for me to write. It’s a collection of mum’s recipes , simple, gutsy and phenomenal meals that she’s cooked for many, many years. He says. So here we have a collection of 130 traditional recipes mostly handed down from his Mum and which he has given a bit of a modern touch.
The book is divided into nine sections
Assaggini which is the Italian version of real fast food. These are small dishes served before any party or can be pre-dinner bites. A number of these dishes can be made ahead of time in large quantities, stored in the fridge and consumed as needed. My eyes are drawn towards the fried sweet black olives and a simple dish of baked ricotta. There is also an interesting recipe for porcini mushroom panna cotta, a dish he has clearly modernized.
Antipasti or small plates for sharing. Lanzafame says Italians love to graze and Italians usually start a meal with antipasti and these are left of the table from the beginning to the end of the meal. This section covers more traditional dishes like Gamberi all’aglio (Garlic Prawns), carpaccios, to a rustic Olive and Sardine focaccia.
Insalate – In the Lanzafame household, many of the salads that were made would consist of any leftovers lightened up with a dressing (think osso bucco salad) – a testament to Italian resourcefulness.
Brodi, Polenta e Risotti covers more of the hearty Italian comfort food. One would almost assume the strong influence of his mother in these dishes as soups are made with affordable ingredients (think lentils, chickpeas and potatoes), there is also a beautiful chicken and polenta casserole and a taleggio and mushroom risotto.
Pasta (and gnocchi) – which includes a section on how to make it. If you are not inclined to make your own pasta, fret not as there are also recipes that use dry pasta as well.
Piatti Unici or one pot wonders feature one pot to cook in, eat in and clean from meals. Truly a mother’s invention don’t you think? There are classic dishes here like chicken parmigiana, veal marsala and chicken cacciatore.
La Griglia is a section about smoking and grilling that is dedicated to Lanzafame’s father who was a farmer. Some of the dishes include grilled prawns, slow roasted pork rack, and a whole snapper in crazy water – perfect for that Sunday family barbecue.
Dolci (Sweets) – Lanzafame admits that pastry is not his strong point. Don’t believe him! While his dishes are complex at all – they are drool worthy. For example, Tiramisu, Italian Trifle, Torta di Formaggio and Bigne Al Cioccolato (Chocolate Puffs) My only complaint? Not enough of them!
The last part of the covers some basic recipes used throughout the book including sauces and stocks.
Fettuccine alla carbonara
- 500 grams fettuccine pasta (there is a recipe in the book for this, alternatively, you can use dried pasta)
- 6 egg yolks
- 100 grams finely grated parmesan, plus extra to serve
- 150 grams pancetta, thinly sliced
- Place the egg yolks and parmesan in a small bowl. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and lightly beat with a fork. Set aside.
- Place the pancetta in a large non stick frying pan over medium heat and cook until crisp, then remove pan from the heat.
- Just before the pancetta is ready, cook the fettuccine in a large saucepan of salted boiling water for 2 minutes or until the pasta is ready (longer for dried pasta). Drain and reserve 2 tablespoons of the cooking water.
- Add the fettuccine to the frying pan, toss to coat, then add the reserved cooking water, Stir in the egg yolk mixture and toss to combine well. Serve immediately, sprinkled with extra parmesan.
Recipe from Family Italian by John Lanzafame published by Murdoch Books RRP $45.00
Thank you to Murdoch Books for supplying me with a review copy.