Italian cookbooks

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Gennaro’s Italian Home Cooking

Gennaro Contaldo, Headline, £20

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Simplicity is a virtue in Italian home cooking – as is kitchen parsimony, with an emphasis on inexpensive ingredients such as pasta, pulses and seasonal vegetables.

This book, by Gennaro Contaldo, the man recognised as Jamie Oliver’s early mentor of Italian cooking, slots right into the current need for budget-conscious cooking. Yes, there are hundreds of Italian cookery books out there, but we were more impressed with the tempting recipes in this tome than with Contaldo’s links with celebrity.

Recipes such as savoury escarole and smoked mozzarella pie, or braised oxtail with celery, hold plenty of appeal. There are some impressive-looking party pieces too, such as roast pork with mustard, apple and speck, which serves 12.

Yet it’s the recipes that can be whipped up from a few tins and packets from the store cupboard that we’ll be experimenting with this winter: dishes such as chickpeas in anchovy sauce; cannellini bean and polenta bake; or risotto with chestnuts, sausage and porcini.

This is the kind of food that’s served in Italian families but all too rarely in Italian restaurants in the UK. There’s also a great recipe for tuna preserved under oil that dates from the time before tinned tuna was available on every supermarket shelf.

The book plays up the big Italian family theme in a way that’s slightly clichéd, but you can ignore the family portraits and concentrate on the recipes - you’ll be in for some pleasant surprises that go way beyond the usual pasta and Parma ham.

Susan Low

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