This is part of my Summer Reads 2018 series where I’ll be reviewing a series of “not just cookbooks”.
When you think “Italian food” what comes to mind? Probably pizza, pasta, gelato, truffles, olive oil, cannoli – the list goes on and on. But do you know the origins of all these foods and dishes and what regions they hail from? It makes for a fascinating read (and honestly, if history in school had included the history of food, I’d have paid much more attention!).
Elizabeth Minchilli, bestselling author of Eating Rome, continues her exploration of Italian food by venturing outside the capital to take us on a tour around Italy through its iconic dishes and ingredients in Eating My Way Through Italy: Heading off the Main Roads to Discover the Hidden Treasures of the Italian Table.
From the publisher:
A cultural and culinary celebration of everything that makes Italian cuisine great, from Rome’s resident gastronomic expert.
After a lifetime of living and eating in Rome, Elizabeth Minchilli is an expert on the city’s cuisine. While she’s proud to share everything she knows about Rome, she now wants to show her devoted readers that the rest of Italy is a culinary treasure trove just waiting to be explored. Far from being a monolithic gastronomic culture, each region of Italy offers its own specialties. While fava beans mean one thing in Rome, they mean an entirely different thing in Puglia. Risotto in a Roman trattoria? Don’t even consider it. Visit Venice and not eat cichetti? Unthinkable. Eating My Way Through Italy, celebrates the differences in the world’s favorite cuisine.
Divided geographically, Eating My Way Through Italy looks at all the different aspects of Italian food culture. Whether it’s pizza in Naples, deep fried calamari in Venice, anchovies in Amalfi, an elegant dinner in Milan, gathering and cooking capers on Pantelleria, or hunting for truffles in Umbria each chapter includes, not just anecdotes, personal stories and practical advice, but also recipes that explore the cultural and historical references that make these subjects timeless.
For anyone who follows Elizabeth on her blog Elizabeth Minchilli in Rome, read her previous book Eating Rome, or used her brilliant phone app Eat Italy to dine well, Eating My Way Through Italy, is a must.
Minchilli’s book will appeal to those interested in knowing the story behind their favourite Italian dishes or ingredients, the armchair traveller (though it will have you wanting to book a flight immediately) and also those who are planning a trip to Italy. The book includes chapters on 16 different regions and the dishes or ingredients which are specific to them, it’s a true gourmand’s guide to Italy. Minchilli says: “You can use [the book] as a blueprint, following my trail of breadcrumbs, or – as I hope you do – follow your own appetite to meals yet unknown.”
Here are a few things I learned as I virtually ate my way through Italy with Minchilli.
1. The rules about what can be labelled true Aceto Balsamico Traditional di Modena and how it’s made.
2. Rules for enjoying balsamic vinegar (hint: it’s not something to dip you bread in!)
3. The difference between Tortelloni and Tortelli (and, in fact, there’s a handy guide to deciphering a menu full of different types of stuffed pasta)
4. Five of Minchilli’s favourite dishes in Milan and where to enjoy them.
5. The rules for making real Parmigiano Reggiano, how it’s made and how to make sure you’re buying the real thing.
6. How to enjoy Parmigiano Reggiano (hint: grating is ok as long as you do it just before you need it but you should break, rather than cut, chunks!)
7. All about the process of truffle hunting (where to hunt and eat them in Umbria) and how to make the most of fresh truffles (hint truffle butter is a better choice than truffle oil for flavouring dishes)
8. How to buy, store and use olive oil (and also a little bit about Minchilli’s own olive oil producing story from her few olive trees)
9. What makes a true Neapolitan pizzaiolo, a little primer about pizza toppings and some suggestions for enjoying pizza in Naples
10. All about the difference between regular commercial dried pasta and artisinally-produced dried pasta (hint: dried pasta can be amazing!)
11. How to enjoy fish, Italian-style (hopefully you’re ok with looking your meal in the eye!)
12. How to preserve tomatoes – make tomato paste (and some ideas for using it up!)
13. How to enjoy granita (surprise – it’s good for breakfast with a side of brioche!)
14. How capers are grown and preserved as well as some hints for buying, storing and cooking with capers.
15. The best time or visiting Rome (hint: not the summer) as well as ideas for getting out of the city to enjoy the water (it’s closer than you think!)
A thoroughly enjoyable read – part cookbook (there are recipes at the end of each chapter), part memoir and part guidebook, this is one for everyone who loves food who’s visited, or who dreams of visiting Italy.
Please note: This post contains product links from Amazon and The Book Depository which are affiliate links, meaning if you click over and purchase something, I will receive a very small percentage of the purchase price (at no extra cost to you). Thank you in advance!
Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher. I was not asked to review this book, nor am I receiving compensation for doing do. All opinions my own.
MY BOOK! In the French kitchen with kids is out now! Click here for order details!