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I love Italian food. I have a few books such as Jamie’s Italy, the two River Cafe Cookbooks by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers and Perfect Pasta by Anne Willan, but my favourite books to look at with longing are The Love of Italian Cooking by Mary Reynolds and The Heritage of Italian Cooking by Lorenza De’Medici.
What I like, apart from the recipes and colour photos is the description of the various regions of Italy, highlighting their traditions and specialities, from Sicily and Sardinia moving north through the country to Piemonte in the north-west corner.
One of my favourite recipes in this book is Minestrone Alla Casalinga in the chapter on Lombardy, a large region that includes most of the Italian lakes. It stretches from the Alps in the north to the valley of the River Po in the south. It takes hours to make, plus the time overnight to soak the haricot beans and is very filling. If you click on the photo below you may be able to see the recipe, but if not here are the ingredients – haricot beans, onion, garlic, bacon rashers, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, turnip, celery, cabbage, macaroni pieces or small pasta (shells, stars etc), fresh marjoram and parsley, pepper and water.
Saute the onions, garlic and bacon for a few minutes, add water, tomatoes (skinned, seeded and chopped) and marjoram and parsley and simmer for 2 hours uncovered. Add the other ingredients – carrots (diced) first for 10 minutes then everything else sliced, diced or shredded and cook until tender. Stir in grated parmesan to taste.
I’ve made it without the bacon and with different vegetables, according to what I have at the time – I suppose then you could call it Minestrone Alla Margherita or Margaret’s Minestrone.
The Heritage of Italian Cooking is also out of print, but used copies are available. It is a most beautiful book, lavishly illustrated with not only photos of fantastic food, but also Italian Renaissance paintings of banquets, illuminated manuscripts, still-life, harvest-time and rural scenes. There are recipes from Renaissance menus, old diaries and Italian cookbooks – traditional and modern recipes. It really is a sumptuous display of Italian food. A lovely book just to look at and read and also to inspire me to cook.
It’s arranged by type of dish, including chapters ranging from Antipasti and Pasta to Desserts, Breads and Menus. Here are a few photos from the book:
What am I cooking today? Even after looking at all this Italian food, I have to admit that later I’ll be cooking British roast beef with yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes and sprouts.