"In Italy, the farm is never far away from the table. The best Italian dishes, even the sophisticated kind, tend to derive from simpler fare; and while there are plenty of world-class chefs in Italy today, the most respected and influential cook is always Mamma." This description, on the dust jacket of The Country Cooking of Italy by Colman Andrews, gives readers an idea of what they will find within the pages and the nearly 250 recipes of this immense, and tremendously beautiful, cookbook.
Andrews, co-founder of Saveur and author of numerous award-winning cookbooks has spent over 40 years traveling throughout Italy and falling in love with the food, history and culture. His experiences are recounted in chapter introductions and recipe headnotes throughout the book. While some dishes were first experienced in restaurants, many are as simple as grilled polenta with gorgonzola from a wine bar in Verona or braised goat with white beans from Liguria.
The book is divided into chapters by course or main ingredients: Antipasto, soup, dried pasta, fresh pasta, rice and polenta, fish, shellfish, poultry and rabbit, veal and beef, pork, lamb and goat, game, offal, salads and vegetables, and desserts each get a chapter, and within each chapter are recipes from all over Italy. There's trofie pasta from Liguria, wild boar steaks with juniper-currant sauce from the Alto Adige, Abruzzese lamb stew, piadina from Emilia-Romagna, and mussels from Sardinia.
There are page-long stories about the different shapes of pasta, Nathaniel Hawthorne's impressions of Italy, and various regional specialties like the foccacia from Recco and scampi from the Adriatic. Andrews debunks the story of Marco Polo bringing back pasta to Italy from China, explains the meaning behind the tradition of eating seven fish dishes at Christmas and writes about agriturismi accommodations around the country. Photographs throughout the book include everything from street scenes and grandmothers in the kitchen to various raw ingredients and composed dishes.
The recipes in The Country Cooking of Italy are generally straight-forward and most ingredients (save for some offal cuts and a few other ingredients) are readily available at the supermarket. In the introduction, Andrews suggests using only Italian dried pasta and San Marzano tomatoes imported from Italy. But you can even find those items at your neighborhood Safeway. And many dishes are one pot wonders. A large heavy pot, a spoon and an oven are all you need.
Colman Andrews will be in Seattle this weekend for two events:
Friday, February 24 at 6:30 p.m., at Cuoco, diners can enjoy a five-course menu inspired by the book, and hear Andrews discuss his travels. The $95.00 ticket price includes dinner, wine and a signed copy of the book. Tax and gratuity will be in addition.
Saturday, February 25 from 10-11 a.m., Andrews will be at Book Larder in Fremont for a free book signing.