Most helpful positive review
74 of 74 people found the following review helpful
Northern Italian Cuisine from the PBS show
on December 5, 2003
This companion to a PBS series presented by Ms. Bastianich includes over 200 authentically Italian recipes. I believe the value in purchasing this book depends a lot on how many cookbooks of Italian cuisine you already have. There is a fair amount of overlap with Ms. B's first book, `Al Cucina di Lidia'. For example, in the PBS title, there is a recipe for rabbit, `Coniglio al Balsamico' which features balsamic vinegar and sage, while in the earlier book, there is a similar recipe, `Coniglio alla salvia' featuring balsamic vinegar and sage. Both are braises, cooking for about 45 minutes. Both books also include recipes for sauerkraut and pork. The overlap may be less than 10 percent and Ms. B. does cite her book as a reference, along with ten (10) other titles, about half of which are in Italian. It is just important to realize this in weighing the value of the book.
Based on the incidence of recipes for strudel, fresh pasta, polenta, and risotto, I would say the book concentrates on the cuisine of northern Italy, which is totally expected, as Ms. B was born and raised on the Istrian peninsula, east of Trieste. The chapters and number of recipes in each are:
Appetizers: 21, many of bruschetta and including prosciutto
Soups: 22, including an essay on how to make a good minestre.
Fresh Pasta: 16, including an essay on pasta making and several recipes including game meats
Dry Pasta: 14, including essay on tomatoes and sauces
Rice: 11 recipes, almost all for risotto
Gnocchi: 11 recipes, many with game meat
Polenta: 9 recipes, mostly regional specialities
Vegetables: 20, including lessons on prepping artichokes and favas
Game and Chicken: Rabbit and boar and venison, oh my
Meat: 19, including recipes for sauces
Fish and Shellfish: 17, including general tips on handling bivalves and crustaceans
Sweets: 22, including Strudel and Zabaglione.
If you have no Italian cookbooks or only cookbooks covering the hard pasta / tomato ridden Neapolitan cuisine or really need a book for game recipes, you could do no better than this volume. If you absolutely must have every cookbook by a major Italian cookbook author, this will be a worthy addition to your collection. If you have Ms. B's third book on Italian-American cuisine, this will be a very good compliment, as I expect no overlap there. If you really enjoyed the PBS series for which this book is a companion, then I highly recommend it.
But, if you already own a few of the other hundreds of Italian cookbooks, I suggest you at least browse the book before signing up. There may be more overlap than is worth you money. I will still give it the highest rating, because on its own merits, it is a very good book.