Italy holds a special place in my heart, so I'm always looking for ways to bring a touch of Italy to my kitchen.
Tasting Rome: Fresh Flavours & Forgotten Recipes from an Ancient City by Katie Parla and Kristina Gill is an elegant cookbook that not only looks great, but is packed with scrumptious Italian recipes.
The book opens with a quick lesson in Roman history, to transport you back to ancient times, which is fitting as the recipes within the book are a combination of traditional dishes as well as contemporary innovations, each of which tells a story of the local flavours where they originated.
Getting started - It's all about the prep
Like any good cook knows, preparation is key, so the book outlines exactly what you need in terms of kitchen equipment and ingredients, so you can easily prepare all of the dishes within the book.
It comes as no surprise that pasta is a staple ingredient found in any Italian's cupboard. They recommend that you buy the highest quality pasta you can afford and also keep sea salt, Pecorino Romano and Peperoncino to hand. Some of the other recommended staples were a bit on the more obscure side (fennel pollen or guanciale anyone?), but they provided recommended alternatives should one not be able to source them.
I love that that the book has been done in 'the spirit of Roman cooking, which doesn't get bogged down with precise ingredient amounts or proportions, except when baking', as this closely mirrors my own style of cooking, which is a bit 'throw it all in and hope for the best' - with flair, of course!
Sections within the book
Snacks, starters and street food
Here you'll find tasty little morsels that are perfect for aperitvo (the Italian ritual of pre-dinner drinks and snacks).
Classics and variations
From Carbonara to gnocci, here you'll find tried and true recipes that have withstood the test of time.
This section features an assortment of recipes inspired by the Roman Jews, who comprise a small percentage of the population (13,000 in a city of 4 million inhabitants). This standout cuisine focuses on 'intense flavours cultivated from paltry resources'.
Inspired by the butchers that used to cut animals into prestigious cuts for nobles, beaurucrats and soldiers and leeft the remaining off cuts (offal) for the lower-class Romans, here you'll find dishes such as Spaghetti with Chicken Innards to Sweetbreads (the thymus glands of veal and lambs) with Marsala Wine.
Rome is abundant with fresh produce and here you'll find a selection of gorgeous dishes where vegetables are the star ingredient.
Bread and Pizza
Italy isn't carb shy. Here you'll find a selection of baking recipes that aren't too complicated for baking novices.
Sweets and Drinks
From sorbetto to gelatto, you'll find everything you need to finish your meal with a touch of sweetness. Our favourite dessert was the sheep's milk ricotta cheesecake, which was divine!
Overall, this is a great book for any Italian food enthusiast who is keen to learn how to prepare delicious, traditional Italian recipes.
Tasting Rome: Fresh Flavours & Forgotten Recipes from an Ancient City is published by Clarkson Potter / Publishers, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC, New York.
Available from Amazon.co.uk for £19.99 (hardcover).
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