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Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy

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A Feast of 175 Regional Recipes

Written by Lidia Matticchio BastianichAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich ManualiAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Tanya Bastianich Manuali


List Price: $20.99


On Sale: October 20, 2009
Pages: 432 | ISBN: 978-0-307-27341-3
Published by : Knopf Knopf
Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy Cover

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In this inspiring new book, Lidia Bastianich awakens in us a new respect for food and for the people who produce it in the little-known parts of Italy that she explores. All of the recipes reflect the regions from which they spring, and in translating them to our home kitchens, Lidia passes on time-honored techniques and wonderful, uncomplicated recipes for dishes bursting with different regional flavors—the kind of elemental, good family cooking that is particularly appreciated today.

Penetrating the heart of Italy—starting at the north, working down to the tip, and ending in Sardinia—Lidia unearths a wealth of recipes:

From Trentino–Alto Adige: Delicious Dumplings with Speck (cured pork); apples accenting soup, pasta, salsa, and salad; local beer used to roast a chicken and to braise beef
From Lombardy: A world of rice—baked in a frittata, with lentils, with butternut squash, with gorgonzola, and the special treat of Risotto Milan-Style with Marrow and Saffron
From Valle d’Aosta: Polenta with Black Beans and Kale, and local fontina featured in fondue, in a roasted pepper salad, and embedded in veal chops
From Liguria: An array of Stuffed Vegetables, a bread salad, and elegant Veal Stuffed with a Mosaic of Vegetables
From Emilia-Romagna: An olive oil dough for making the traditional, versatile vegetable tart erbazzone, as well as the secrets of making tagliatelle and other pasta doughs, and an irresistible Veal Scaloppine Bolognese
From Le Marche: Farro with Roasted Pepper Sauce, Lamb Chunks with Olives, and Stuffed Quail in Parchment
From Umbria: A taste of the sweet Norcino black truffle, and seductive dishes such as Potato-Mushroom Cake with Braised Lentils, Sausages in the Skillet with Grapes, and Chocolate Bread Parfait
From Abruzzo: Fresh scrippelle (crêpe) ribbons baked with spinach or garnishing a soup, fresh pasta made with a “guitar,” Rabbit with Onions, and Lamb Chops with Olives
From Molise: Fried Ricotta; homemade cavatelli pasta in a variety of ways; Spaghetti with Calamari, Shrimp, and Scallops; and Braised Octopus
From Basilicata: Wedding Soup, Fiery Maccheroni, and Farro with Pork Ragù
From Calabria: Shepherd’s Rigatoni, steamed swordfish, and Almond Biscottini
From Sardinia: Flatbread Lasagna, two lovely eggplant dishes, and Roast Lobster with Bread Crumb Topping

This is just a sampling of the many delights Lidia has uncovered. All the recipes she shares with us in this rich feast of a book represent the work of the local people and friends with whom she made intimate contact—the farmers, shepherds, foragers, and artisans who produce local cheeses, meats, olive oils, and wines. And in addition, her daughter, Tanya, takes us on side trips in each of the twelve regions to share her love of the country and its art.


Frittata with Asparagus and Scallions




1 pound fresh, thin asparagus spears


4 ounces prosciutto or bacon, thick slices with ample fat (about 4 slices)


1/2 pound scallions


3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil


1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt, or more to taste


8 large eggs


Freshly ground black pepper to taste


Recommended Equipment:


A sturdy 12-inch nonstick skillet with a cover


A heat-proof rubber spatula


Serves 4 as a light meal or 6 as an appetizer


This is a different sort of frittata, not the neat golden round of well-set eggs that's probably most familiar. Here the eggs are in the skillet for barely a minute, just long enough to gather in soft, loose folds, filled with morsels of asparagus and shreds of prosciutto. In fact, when I make this frittata or the "dragged" eggsuova strapazzate, page 143I leave my eggs still wet and glistening so I can mop up the plate with a crust of country bread. That's the best part of all.


Snap off the tough bottom stubs of the asparagus, peel the bottom few inches of each spear, and cut them crosswise in 1 1/2-inch pieces. Slice prosciutto or bacon into strips, or lardoons, about 1 inch long and 1/3 inch wide. Trim the scallions, and cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces.


Pour the olive oil into the skillet, scatter in the lardoons, and set over medium heat. When the strips are sizzling and rendering fat, toss in the cut asparagus, and roll and toss them over a few times. Cover the skillet, and cook, still over moderate heat, shaking the pan occasionally, until the asparagus is slightly softened, 5 minutes or so.


Scatter the scallion pieces in the pan, season with a couple pinches of salt, and toss the vegetables and lardoons together. Cover the skillet, and cook, shaking the pan and stirring occasionally, until the scallions and asparagus are soft and moist, 7 or 8 minutes more. Meanwhile, beat the eggs thoroughly with the remaining salt and generous grinds of black pepper.


When the vegetables are steaming in their moisture, uncover the skillet, raise the heat, and cook, tossing, for a minute or so, until the water has evaporated and the asparagus and scallions seem about to color.


Quickly spread them out in the pan, and pour the eggs over at once. Immediately begin folding the eggs over with the spatula, clearing the sides and skillet bottom continuously, so the eggs flow and coagulate around the vegetables and lardoons.


When all the eggs are cooked in big soft curds—in barely a minute—take the skillet off the heat. Tumble the frittata over a few more times to keep it loose and moist. Spoon portions onto warm plates, and serve hot and steaming.


Dry Fettuccine with Squash and Cauliflower
Bavette con Zucca e Cavolo
Serves 6

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 plump garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
1 small onion, thinly sliced (1 cup)
3 cups butternut squash cut in ½-inch cubes
3 cups cauliflower cut in small (about 1-inch) florets
4 tablespoons small capers, drained
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt, or to taste, plus more for cooking pasta
1/2 teaspoon peperoncino flakes, or to taste
2 cups canned Italian plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, crushed by hand
1 pound dry fettucine or bavette
1 cup freshly grated pecorino

Recommended Equipment
A heavy-bottomed skillet or sauté pan, 14-inch diameter, with a cover
A large pot, 8-quart capacity or larger, with a cover, for cooking the pasta

Dry Fettuccine with Squash and Cauliflower
Bavette con Zucca e Cavolo

   1. Pour the olive oil into the big skillet, and set over medium-high heat.

   2. Scatter in the sliced garlic, and let it start sizzling.

   3. Stir in the onion slices, and cook for a couple of minutes, to wilt.

   4. Spill in all the cut squash and cauliflower pieces, scatter the capers, salt, and peperoncino on top, and with tongs toss all together for a minute or so.

   5. Pour a cup of water into the skillet, cover tightly, and steam the vegetables for 2 to 3 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally.

   6. Pour in the crushed tomatoes along with a cup of water sloshed in the tomato cans. Stir well and cover; when the tomato juices are boiling, adjust the heat to keep them bubbling gently. Cook covered for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

   7. When the vegetables are softened, uncover and continue cooking to reduce the pan juices to a good consistency for dressing the pasta, about 5 minutes. Adjust the seasoning to taste, and keep at a low simmer.

   8. While the sauce is cooking, heat salted pasta-cooking water to a rolling boil (at least 6 quarts water and a tablespoon salt).

   9. Drop in the fettuccine or bavette, and cook until barely al dente.

   10. Lift them from the water, drain for a moment, then drop into the simmering vegetables. Toss and cook all together for a couple of minutes over moderate heat. Moisten the dish with pasta water if it seems dry; cook rapidly to reduce the juices if they're splashing in the skillet.

   11. When the pasta is perfectly cooked and robed with sauce, turn off the heat. Sprinkle over it the grated cheese, toss into the pasta, and serve.


Lidia Matticchio Bastianich|Author Q&A

About Lidia Matticchio Bastianich

Lidia Matticchio Bastianich - Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy

Photo © Marcus Nilsson

Lidia Matticchio Bastianich is the author of seven previous books, five of which have been accompanied by nationally syndicated public television series. She is the owner of the New York City restaurant Felidia, among others, and she gives lectures on Italian cuisine throughout the country. She lives on Long Island, New York.

 Lidia Bastianich is represented by Random House Speakers Bureau (http://www.rhspeakers.com).

Author Q&A

Q: We have been learning from you through your cookbooks and your Public Television series for almost a decade now. What new recipes, tips, and lessons do you have to share in LIDIA’S ITALY? Did you learn anything new while creating this book and the series?
There is so much in the Italian culinary tradition, that it amazes me. Every time I go back to Italy and visit another corner, I learn dozens upon dozens of recipes. And today's consumer is ever more educated about food. Cookbook readers want to be challenged by a recipe, and hence recipes that were once considered too traditional, such as "Bigoli" pasta from the Veneto or "Antico Peposo" braised beef with crushed peppercorns, from Maremma, are sought out today.

Q: As we learned in your previous cookbook, Lidia’s Family Table, your entire family is involved in creating meals. But what was it like to collaborate with your daughter Tanya to write LIDIA’S ITALY?
For me to share and collaborate with my children is the greatest reward as a mother and a business woman. To have my children follow my passion and build upon it with their knowledge, spirit and passion affirms to me that they understand and appreciate my art and passion and want to carry on the tradition. My daughter’s passion for and knowledge of Italian art history is a natural compliment to Italian food and life. It is Italy!

Q: Italians are very proud of their home regions and the heritage of their region. You’ve brought the traditions of many different regions together in this cookbook — what trends are present throughout the peninsula? Are there key distinctions among the regions?
There is a universal appreciation of traditional regional cuisine, in every region of Italy, the longing for "La Cucina Della Nonna" or grandma’s cooking. Having said that, the current trend is to support artisan food makers. People in Italy will travel in search of the best cheese mongers, pasta makers, olive oil producers and pay top prices for such quality.

Q: How are the culinary traditions you describe in the book influenced by surrounding cultures?
Italy is a small, long peninsula with many borders through which various influences filtered into the Italian culinary culture, from the Slavic influence in the northeast to the Germanic influence to the north and the French in the west. The coasts of Italy received many passing visitors, and with them their flavors–Greek, Arab, Moorish, which can still be tasted in today’s southern Italian cuisine.

Q: How did you start cooking and when did you know it was your calling?
I always loved being around food. I loved preparing and cooking it, as well as growing and producing it. As a child, I helped my grandma Rosa tend her garden, feed the animals and prepare the vegetables, eggs and cheeses to sell at market. I would also stay by her side when she cooked, helping her knead bread and make pasta and gnocchi. For me, touching and preparing food always felt good. I can still recall the silkiness of the pasta dough she made and strive for that texture when I make pasta at home and at my restaurants. Being introduced to food at a very young age, and carrying these culinary traditions with me, I’m sure had a great deal to do with my chosen profession.

Q: How did your life change when your family moved from Italy to New York City?
It was a jolting change of gears from a tranquil, pastoral setting to the urban rhythms of a big city. For me, it was very exciting and challenging, but I was always nostalgic for my grandma and the friends I left behind. As Istria became part of communist Yugoslavia and the iron curtain went down, we were not allowed to leave or migrate and one member of the family had to remain in Istria as a hostage to ensure that the family would return. But my mother and father had a plan. My mother, brother Franco, and I went back to Italy, supposedly to visit the part of the family that was left in Italy. My father, who remained, escaped past the border during the night while being shot at, to join us in Trieste. I was heart broken because I did not have the chance to say good-bye to grandma and my friends.

Q: You opened your first restaurant at the age of 24. What was it like when you started out?
I knew I loved food and cooking and that people enjoyed what I cooked, but at that early age I didn't have the knowledge and wasn't savvy enough to run a restaurant. But sometimes passion pushes us to forge beyond our expectations. I was very excited, and I felt challenged. I recall being amazed that there were lines of people waiting to eat my food. I was thrilled that I could share the food of my heritage with complete strangers and that they would enjoy and appreciate it. Over time, a bond developed, and I am still amazed at the trust and loyalty my clients have for me. I’m lucky. I have been cooking professionally for over thirty years, and some of my first customers still visit with me at my restaurants today.

Q: In the cookbook, you talk a lot about your family. How has the energy and stimulation that you have received from your family shaped your culinary heritage and business?
My family sustains me. They are the basis of my being and the source of my strength. Their love and support gives me the will to work, to create, to move mountains. In the Italian culture, family is the very essence and center of our existence. I was very lucky to have my mother by my side from the first day I opened my restaurant. She was there to help me work, to help me raise my children, and to see me through rough periods. She still lives with us, and in turn I am blessed that my two children and their families are very close to me. We work together in what is now a family business of restaurants, wines, sauces, cookbooks and television.

Q: Besides being a chef, you are a business woman, running several successful restaurants in the US, owning the Bastianich wineries in Italy, and creating products like sauces. Was this a natural progression for you?
My business growth has had a natural evolution. The next step and next investment is always rooted in the security and knowledge of the past. Every opportunity has come from an existing business reality.

Q: What is your favorite dish?
I do not have one favorite dish. That is like asking me which is my favorite child. I love them all the same, but for different reasons, and at different times. But if I were stranded on a deserted island, give me pasta for the rest of my life and I would be happy.

Q: What’s next for you?
I hope to continue on my path of sharing and educating Italian culture with my restaurants, a new book and series, possibly a children's cookbook and TV series, expanding my food line "Lidia's Flavors of Italy" and working with my foundation and other charities to make the world a better place for all where hunger does not exist.

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