Book Review: Gennaro’s Easy Italian, Gennaro Contaldo

| 9 June , 2010 | Reply

Jane de Graaff, I Ate It All

You know you’re onto a winner when Jamie Oliver loves and endorses your stuff- and given this man is credited with teaching, nay, inspiring Jamie’s cooking, then who am I to argue with the legend?

So start flipping through the pages of Gennaro’s Easy Italian, cause kids- tonight we’re eating Italian.

This is an easy cookbook to love. It’s full of all those dishes that make Italian food such a universally recognised and celebrated cuisine. There are (of course) risotto and pasta recipes, all beautifully illustrated by vibrant, luscious and glistening photos- after all what’s Italian food without that final drizzle of extra virgin?

And as the name suggests, most of these dishes are easy. Not simple, not boring, not dumbed down, just easy. Easy to follow, easy to understand, and easy to turn out in any humble kitchen.

But despite the plethora of easily recognisable dishes in these glossy pages, there were a couple of things that really stood out as I pondered what to try. For a start there’s an excellent kids section- full of sweet treats and exciting food that they can help to make, but they will also love to eat afterwards. Gennaro obviously loves his family and all the kids that this comprises. These dishes are also developed and presented with an eye to nutrition. Which is a good thing considering that the nutrition happens to be buried and flavour and fun. Wonderful examples are risotto alle fragole (strawberry risotto) and muffin al mais (savoury sweet corn muffins).

But it’s the dishes that allow us to move beyond pasta and rice that I love best in this book. And it’s the image on the front cover that has become one of my favourite recent dishes to serve up for a hearty feed with friends. Tucked into the main courses section you’ll find crespelle con ricotta e rucola (baked filled savoury pancakes) and believe me, they are a treat. Better yet they are a bit of a gem when you tell people that Italian is on the menu and they are expecting spaghetti or some other tried and true standard.

These beautifully thin and buttery pancakes are filled with parmesan, ricotta and finely chopped rocket, then baked (with extra parmesan on top) and served with a lovely rich, reduced tomato sauce. They’re not only pretty quick and simple to turn out, they are sensational on a cold night and look like they took a lot more work than you actually put in. With melting ricotta threatening to ooze out the side, they taste creamy and sublime.

They also make truly great leftovers for lunch the next day, believe me. I make extras just to be sure of a follow-up feed.

We were also pretty taken by the dolce d’amalfi (lemon and almond cake) in the cakes and biscuits chapter.
Don’t be fooled as the sunny little picture stares up at you- if you like lemon, this dolce packs a zesty punch and in my opinion beats a chocolate cake hands down but being a citrus lover I’ll admit that I am a little biased.

This moist and zingy cake is a whisk-it-together-and-let-the-oven-do-the-rest kind of affair. Making it a perfect cake to whip up for dinner guests and serve hot out of the tin with a powdering of icing sugar for desert. It’s gone straight to the front of myrelaxed entertaining folder.

Recipes tried:

Crespelle- recipe pg. 86

Lemon Cake- recipe pg. 120

Simply put, this is just a lovely cookbook. Full of fresh ideas for turning great fresh produce into dinners that everyone will love. Let’s face it, there aren’t that many people out there who can say point blank that they don’t like Italian food, and with recipes like these on hand, it’s easy to see why.

Now I wonder if there’s any crespelle left.

Available now: Booktopia RRP$65.00


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