Shortcut Sausage Meatballs
Sicilian Pasta with
Tomatoes, Garlic & Almonds
Italian Roast Chicken
with Bell Peppers
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Bestselling author and food celebrity "domestic goddess" Nigella Lawson's first Italian cookbook--with 120 simple, fast recipes, from pasta to dessert, and beautiful full-color photographs--that celebrates the ease, straightforwardness, and authenticity of Italian cuisine.
Nigella, who studied Italian at Oxford, indulges her personal passion for Italy, where she lived, worked, and cooked when she was in her 20s, before she was a busy TV star, wife, and mom. Nigellissima inspires readers to bring the spirit of Italy into the kitchen--without needing to source inaccessible ingredients or totally restock the pantry--with Nigella's quick and easy recipes and simple techniques that will elevate everyday eating into no-fuss feasts. More...
Meringue Gelato Cake
with Chocolate Sauce
Eggs in Purgatory
An Excerpt from the Introduction by Nigella Lawson:
It was when I was sixteen or seventeen that I decided to be Italian. Not that it was a conscious decision; nor was it even part of the teenage armory of pretension--the battered Penguin Modern Classic stuffed conspicuously into a basket, the Anello & Davide tap shoes,
the cult of the Rotring pen filled with dark brown ink--of the time. No: I simply felt drawn to it, to Italy. While doing other A-Levels (the British equivalent of high school examinations) I did a crash course in Italian and, before I knew it, I’d applied to read Italian at university. I did an entrance test in French and German--in the olden days you still sometimes had to do this--with a plea to swap French for Italian. Certain universities then, and I would guess
still now, took a slightly condescending view toward the Romance languages: at Oxford, the authorities saw no reason why Spanish, Italian, or Portuguese couldn’t be studied at degree
level from scratch; if you knew Latin and French, they blithely assumed you were pretty well there, anyway.
At my interview, I talked of spending my gap year in Italy, and it came to pass that I did. I think I may have implied that my destination was along the lines of a stint at the British
Council in Florence. And Florence was, indeed, where I went--at first--not as a student of culture, but as a chambermaid. I’d sworn to do anything to earn a living except clean restrooms, so of course that’s what I ended up doing. But I did learn Italian--after a fashion. A year or so on, in a translation class at university--we had been given the task of rendering, orally, a piece of the History of Western Philosophy, or some such--my tutor said to me,
“That’s fine grammatically, Nigella, but I’m sure Bertrand Russell wouldn’t have sounded like a Florentine greengrocer!
[Recipe (left) is for Chocolate Pasta with Pecans and Caramel.]
I wish I sounded like a Florentine greengrocer now; I am afraid my Italian these days has the halted stammer of any smitten British tourist. But if I don’t spend as much time in Italy as I’d like, I bring as much of Italy as I can into my kitchen. And that is what this book is about...
...In that family-run pensione in Florence where I worked as a chambermaid, I spent a lot of time with Nonna--the paternal grandmother, straight from Central Casting--in the kitchen.
She didn’t teach me to cook, but I learned from her. Actually, I cooked already but, being a child of the time in general, and of my Francophile parents in particular, my way in the kitchen was profoundly influenced by France and its cuisine. In that tiny little kitchen in Florence, I learned about pasta and how the sauce that dresses it must not swamp; I learned to cook meat on the stove top, and to make the simplest, scantest gravies with deglazed pan
juices; I learned about verdura, cooked soft and served at room temperature, so unlike the crunchy vegetables that were strictly comme il faut in France-festishizing Britain at the time.
I learned a lot more besides. I had very little money (chambermaiding is hardly lucrative, and a schoolfriend and I were sharing the position and hence also the accommodation and the wages) so eating out was limited. I mean, we did eat out a lot, but that mostly
involved stretching a carafe of wine, a basket of that unsalted Tuscan bread, and a bowl of tortellini in brodo over an entire evening; luckily, when you’re nineteen and female in Italy,
you can pretty well get away with anything. When we ate in the evenings in our room with a view (squished together on a window ledge overlooking the Duomo) we could just afford between us a bottle of wine, a loaf of bread, 2 pounds of tomatoes, and some olive oil. And
when our wages didn’t stretch to wine, we drank the vodka and gin we’d bought duty-free on the way over, spritzed with dissolvable aspirin from our medicine bag; mixers, costing more
than wine, were beyond our budget.
So, of course, it made sense to be in the kitchen, eating with Nonna. This was strictly prohibited by her son, but he and his wife--Ugo and Gabriella--were often at their farm in the country, and her grandson, Leonardo, was at school, so Nonna would invite me in for company, unaware that she was teaching me how to cook. She taught by example and involvement, the only way any of us really learn anything important. Thus, she drew me in, and from then on, I never wanted to be anywhere else.
But the recipes that follow are not those that issued from Nonna’s kitchen: they are what I cook and, more important, how I cook, in mine. I’ve often joked that I pretend to myself that I’m Italian, but actually it is just that, a joke--against myself, more than anything--and I feel strongly that it is essential for me, in or out of the kitchen, to be authentic. What I am is an Englishwoman who has lived in Italy, who loves Italian food, and has been inspired and
influenced by that: my food and the way I cook demonstrate as much.
Sicilian Pasta with Tomatoes, Garlic & Almonds
I have com e across more than one version of “pesto Trapanese,” the Sicilian pasta sauce from Trapani that differs from the more popularly known Genoese variety in a number of ways. Chief of these is that almonds, not pine nuts, are ground into the mix--a divergence whose origins (in common with a lot of Sicilian food) owe much to Arabic cooking. Giorgio Locatelli, the London-based Italian chef and restaurateur, uses mint as his herb of choice for this; others go, as they more usually do up north, for basil; some use nothing more than tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil. The recipe below is rather more baroque in its sweep, which seems entirely right for a dish that is inspired by Sicily.
Throughout Italy, eaters do not grate Parmesan over pasta sauces that contain fish (or are very garlicky), so you should consider cheese here doubly ill-advised, unless you wish to substitute 1⁄4 cup grated pecorino for the anchovies.
I like to use fusilli lunghi, which are like long golden ringlets (or, less poetically, telephone cords…) but, if you can’t find them, simply substitute regulation-size fusilli (or indeed any pasta of your choice).
Since the sauce is unheated, it would be wise to warm the serving bowl first but, having said that, I absolutely adore eating this Sicilian pasta cold, should any be left over. It is so easy to make and, being both simple and spectacular, is first on my list for a pasta dish to serve when you have people round
1 1/4 pounds fusilli lunghi or other pasta of your choice
salt for pasta water, to taste
8 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes
6 anchovy fillets
2 tablespoons golden raisins
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1/3 cup skinned almonds
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil leaves from small bunch basil (approx. 1 cup, packed), to serve
Put abundant water on to boil for the pasta, waiting for it to come to a boil before salting it. Add the pasta and cook following the package instructions, though start checking it a good 2 minutes before it’s meant to be ready.
While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce by putting all the remaining ingredients, bar the basil, into a processor and blitzing until you have a nubbly-textured sauce.
Just before draining the pasta, remove a cupful of pasta-cooking water and add 2 tablespoonfuls of it down the funnel of the processor, pulsing as you go.
Tip the drained pasta into your warmed serving bowl. Pour and scrape the sauce on top, tossing to coat (add a little more pasta-cooking water if you need it) and strew with basil leaves.
Copyright © 2013 by Nigella Lawson. Reprinted from Nigellissima: Easy Italian-Inspired Recipes with permission from Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House, Inc.
Also by Nigella Lawson:
NIGELLA LAWSON is the bestselling author of eight cookbooks, including Nigella Kitchen, Nigella Express, and Nigella Bites, which together with her television shows on the Food Network and her iPhone apps have made her a household name around the world. She is also a contributor to The Oxford Companion to Italian Literature. Nigella lives in London with her family.
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