A Taste of Italy: 100 Traditional, Homestyle Recipes
Sterling Epicure, 2017
I have a confession to make – I don’t have cable, and therefore haven’t watched the Food Network in almost 10 years. (This is for the best, I used to yell at the chefs something terrible.) What this means in this case is that Damiano Carrara’s reputation does not precede him. I am not biased to view his cookbook in light of his television appearances, but purely on the book itself.
And this is a great book. In the massive sub-genre of rustic Italian cookbooks, this one makes me want to cook. (There’s currently more than a dozen post-its flagging pages I want to refer to or recipes I want to try.) However, for all of the promises of traditional rustic recipes, Carrara is pretty modern in his approach. A pototo-less Gnocchi? Yes, and it looks amazing. Vegetarian lasagna? Also looking like a dish I want to dig into.
Recipes are gleaned from all over the country, with a bit from every region. Many dishes are really simple and elegant, such as a straight-up roast beef, or a simple salad with sauteed chicken.
Of course there’s pizza, with instructions for dough and a pile of recipes for toppings that all look amazing, from the basic Margarita, to the Pizza Caprese covered in vegetables.
Carrara runs a chain of Italian pastry shops in the Los Angeles area and you can tell, because the dessert section is where this book really shines. Offering a variety of basic recipes for elements such as Genoise sponge or choux pastry, most of Carrara’s recipes are an assembly of these pieces to create a selection of Italian classics such as Tiramisu and Ricotta Pie. There’s also a section of delicious-looking gelatos.
Throughout the book, recipes are clearly laid out with numbered steps and good-sized text. This is a book that readers can (and will want to) cook from.
I don’t know Damiano Carrara from Emeril but I’d cook his recipes any day.