on November 2, 2006
My friend from Germany brought me a copy of this book in June of this year (I didn't even realize until recently that it's not out in the U.S. yet...)But if you love a delicious home-cooked Italian meal, this is one of the most accessible books out there. And the recipes I've tried make up beautifully. I love Jamie's commitment to fresh, local ingredients, his writing in each section and the layout of the book. So many great recipes (even a quick tiramisu!) and they are arranged with pics of the food, of Jamie, and of some really fabulous Italian cooks he met on his travels. from Antipasti to Street Food to Salads, Soups, Risotto, Main Courses and Dessert, it's got everything I need...I especially love the pizzas and the white risotto. I can't wait to watch the show on Travel Channel!
`jamie's italy' (sic) by `The Naked Chef', Jamie Oliver tops, for me, all of his earlier books, especially in that magical quality which only Oliver, of all the cookbook authors I've read, seems to have in abundance. That may be just a bit heavy on the hyperbole, since all the leading English culinary writers, the heirs of Elizabeth David, such as Nigel Slater, Nigella Lawson, and Tamasin Day-Lewis all seem to communicate a `joie de vivre' which seems to be rare to non-existent in even the best Yankee culinary writers. I'm especially delighted to see his nibs even give a bow to Elizabeth David in his dedication.
The book reaffirms my earlier comparison of Oliver and Robin Williams, versus lets say, Susan Spungen and Dan Aykroyd. While Aykroyd is a very talented comedian, Robin Williams is a force of nature. Similarly, while Ms. Spungen's first book will probably win a James Beard award (it is nominated), Oliver's books grab you by the heart and never let go from first page to last.
I will even go so far as to say Oliver's book is superior as a first Italian cookbook than the eminent Mario Batali, Lydia Bastianich, or certainly Giada De Laurentiis. In fact, this book validates my giving Giada's books only four stars, as a rather thin, albeit `easy' presentation of familiar Italian dishes.
The book is certainly an even more genuine and personal chronicle of experiences with Italian food than Mario Batali's `travelogue' book, `Simple Italian Food, Recipes from My Two Villages', not to mention the rather detached and sterile reporting of Italian regional cooking by Mary Ann Esposito of the PBS `Ciao, Italia' series. All recipes appear to have been personally discovered by Oliver `in vivo', mostly in southern Italy, including Sicily and the islands off Sicily.
All my gushing over Oliver's greathearted embrace of Italian life should not hide the facts that Oliver is a hugely talented chef AND the dishes he translates for us are almost all genuine originals. While one will always find strong family resemblences between the fish and pasta and crostini and brodo recipes in all Italian cookbooks, Oliver has managed to push the envelope just a bit further and track down recipes which are certainly unfamiliar to my eyes, which have seen at least 50 Italian and Italian-influenced cookbooks over the last three years. One of my favorites is the recipe for `sushi del chianti', a speciality of `celebrity butcher' Dario Ceccini, one of the stars of Bill Buford's book, `Heat'. This is a Tuscan steak tartare, done with chili, orange zest, and marjoram.
I am generally not a big fan of cookbook photography, but I make a huge exception for this volume. There is an equal measure of snaps made of prepared dishes and of his nibs chatting it up or mugging with the local populace. After having seen books filled personality-centered pics of, for example, Giada or Ted Allen, I'm pleased to find a book which does this self-serving practice right. And, Italian landscapes in the background and charming Italians in the foreground go a long way to making this book a pleasure to look at as well as a pleasure to read.
Yet another delight of this book is the subtle way in which Oliver slips in some bits of culinary wisdom, as when he describes his shrimp frittata, which fussy Jamie must have just so thick, but not too thick, and browned on top, but still creamy in the center. For all the times other culinary writers talk about cooking with love, Oliver seems to be one of the very few who can translate that into words which evoke his own experiences. The text in this book seems to have more substance and fewer gimmicks than his earlier books, but you still get the sense that he is dictating the text, which is then transcribed by a secretary or copy editor. There are also some pages of pure technique, as with the page of guidelines for making minestrone. But, there are no long tutorials on important techniques such as making pasta or sausage.
That doesn't mean there are no elaborate recipes. One excellent example is Jamie's `lasagne alla cacciatora', which uses a mix of up to five different meats, not unlike the more elaborate `ragu alla Bolognese'. It also uses your own freshly made pasta rather than something out of a box from Barilla.
While Jamie has been known to do some serious bread baking (see `Jamie's Kitchen'), there is little bread in this book, except for an excellent little recipe for pizza dough and the techniques for rolling and baking the pizzas, followed by eight combinations of toppings and a recipe for `fried pizza'.
As you read through the antipasti recipes in the beginning of the book, you may be dismayed at the amount of deep fried carbs in some of the dishes including bread or pasta. Our Jamie saves the day when he announces that Italians have the third longest lifespan in the world, due to a great extent to their heavy diet of green vegetables. Sir Jamie serves up a whole world of greens in a simple method (Antipasti page 11) for preparing all sorts of leafy green goodies. This also has one of his better lessons on `cooking with love' where he warns us to `cook the greens with your full attention... then dress them as if they were a salad...'.
This book is simultaneously so authentic and so charming that it easily becomes my first choice for introducing someone to Italian cooking. If they are at all serious about it, they can move on to one of the better manuals from Hazan or Bastianich.
Now step right up to the top of this page and put in your order for this little gem!
on September 7, 2007
Right from the start, the look and feel of this book is enticing. It is a pleasingly heavy and sturdy cookbook that can take the punishment of being propped open on the kitchen bench while following a recipe. The pages of the book are littered with photographs, and enhance - in the most delightful way - the recipes. Closeups of prepared meals, lush Italian landscapes, and portraits of Jamie and assorted local folk performing their daily ministrations.
None of these things would amount to much, however, if the recipes did not deliver. The bonus is that they do more than just deliver. They inspire. This book has become - for me - a reliable *go-to* book for daily inspiration. I can go from boredom to captivated in less than 5 seconds and before I know it I have my mortar and pestle out and am transporting simple ingredients into a sensory masterpiece such as Jamie's pesto recipe (p132). It is simple, delicious and reliable, like just about everything else in his book.
There are numerous recipes that seem so modest that they are somewhat overlooked at first glance. The "pasta e ceci" (p76) is - for me -one of these recipes. I discovered this hidden bombshell on a day that I otherwise thought I had nothing in the cupboard to work with. This dish has now become a standard in our house.
Jamie Oliver is a delightful personality on the screen and he translates that enthusiasm into his recipes which are all delicious, solid, simple and - best of all - affordable. That's what makes this book perfect for a daily reference.
His devotion to his belief that there is a tasty homemade meal waiting to be cooked in any kitchen drives this cookbook. In it he will teach you to look at cupboard and fridge items with fresh eyes, infuse them with flavour in ingenious ways, and offer his culinary advice in such accessible fashion that the experience of attempting just one recipe from this book will make you - dare I say - a happier person.
Get it. You'll love it.
on May 24, 2008
In keeping with his philosophy that cooking should be about minimal preparation of the freshest seasonally available ingredients Jamie Oliver has given us a treatment of Italian cuisine that shows the reader how easy it is to create delicious authentic Italian dishes. His writing style is relaxed and funny, (if you've ever seen Jamie on television you'll hear his charming voice as you read), and the photographs are gorgeous. Most importantly, the reader comes away not only with a catalog of wonderful recipies, but an understanding of the basic principles of Italian cooking that will let the reader create his or her own Italian dishes using whatever is seasonally available at his or her own local market. I was able to do just that a few days after finishing the book. I took one of the book recipes for silk handkerchiefs with pesto and used fava beans, (which had just come into season), fresh thyme, and parmigiano reggiano instead of pesto. The result was one of the best meals I have ever cooked. Jamie Oliver gives you the confidence to modify his recipes according to the principles of Italian regional cooking, (or simply invent you own!), with wonderful results.
on January 12, 2008
How can I not recommend this book? It is one of the best of my vast Italian cookbook collection, of which I have over 1,000. Having been raised in an Italian and Sicilian home and having cooked in Italy's Piemonte and Sicily, plus owning an Italian restaurant at one time--also a culinary columnist for an Italian newspaper in California for eight years--I well know the soul of my people's cookery. I've ALWAYS felt, and written in my articles, that one had to be born to my kitchen, that a non-Italian couldn't grasp its essence, well I was proved wrong with Jamie's book JAMIE'S ITALY (and his TV cooking shows)... In this his latest book he has proved he is more connected to the heart of Italian cooking than most Italians. I've cooked about 15 recipes from JAMIE'S ITALY and not one has been a disappointment. Amoungst the many things I like about this newest book is that it is a good read, the recipes are authentic, well explained and not complicated... It is the cookery of the true ancient kitchen, nothing experimental, all well proved over the ages, all healthy. Thank you Jamie. Gian Banchero, Berkeley, California
on November 24, 2009
I am a US citizen of northern Italian heritage. I want to start learning the language, and learning to cook Italian. This book was recommend to me by a family member. I have briefly read parts of it, and have begun cooking some of the recipes.
1). I absolutely enjoy Jaime's style of writing. It is humorous and gives me a sense of the Italian people from whence he gets his recipes. He interacts with the common man (woman and child) to get his recipes and insight into the people.
2). Each recipe is discussed in depth including the cultural aspects of the town from which it is from. Different towns, different variations.
3). Jaime inserts his opinions about the food and the people he runs into. This greatly enrichs the understanding for me, of the particular dish.
All of the above helps me to have a greater appreciation for the food and of the Italians from whence the recipes came. It's not just a plate of chow. It is a little bit of a culinary adventure.