One of L.A.’s best Italian chefs is making cooking at home a breeze—and a good deed, too.
On Monday Pizzana’s Daniele Uditi launched the first of seven digital cookbooks, each a streamlined handful of recipes complete with tutorial videos, and each raising funds for an organization in need.
“I wanted to give something back to people,” says Uditi, who’ll be donating a portion of his first e-book to World Central Kitchen’s efforts to feed and support the restaurant industry. “I don’t have that much money to give to charity, but I do have knowledge, so I created a book so people can buy it and give some of the profits to the charity.”
The new series, which marks the first cookbook effort from one of the city’s top pizzaioli, might cover topics such as fresh handmade pastas, making and preserving sauces, or how to whip up traditional Italian holiday recipes. Each book will always be $15 to download and might benefit initiatives that help feed children, fight cancer, or aid the struggling restaurant community.
The first topic? Sourdough and its many forms (including, yes, pizza). And Daniele Uditi knows a thing or two about sourdough starter.
When the chef made his way to the U.S. he took great care in transporting the tiny bottle of his aunt’s criscito, a starter sourced from her bakery in Caserta, Italy: He smuggled the fermentation in a hermetic jar, then swaddled it in plastic, then aluminum, then fabric—scarves, shirts, towels—before hiding it at the bottom of his luggage. Thankfully for pizza fans in L.A., it survived the journey. “I wrapped it up like a packet of secrets,” he laughs.
Now, thanks to his new Ricettario series, we can try our hand at recreating it at home. “Each pizza that I do at Pizzana has a piece of my family history over there,” Uditi says. “This starter that I did the recipe [for] in the book is a very close version of that one.”
The new book includes the know-how to start and keep your sourdough starter thriving—a blessed second chance for those of us who tried and failed to make sourdough in 2020—and Uditi’s first volume also includes ways to transform that starter into pizza dough, loaves of bread, fluffy focaccia (a more homemade version of his instant-yeast recipe), sandwich rolls, pancakes, and even a savory take on cinnamon rolls, here made into cacio e pepe “roses.”
Each volume comes edited by journalist, podcaster and Italian-food aficionado Paul Feinstein, whose editorial guidance also included the perfect extra for the digital age: video tutorials for home cooks. “I wish all cookbooks had a QR code so you could see it on a video,” he says, “so instead of doing a print version we’re doing it as digital, and we filmed [Uditi] doing the most difficult, complicated steps like how to shape the sourdough into balls and how to stretch your pizza dough. If anything is confusing, there’s a video to help you along.”
Every Ricettario volume will get released on Uditi’s personal website and include eight to 13 recipes specifically designed for simplicity, clarity and, above all, deliciousness.
“I developed these recipes specifically for people to be able to make it at home and also to have very good products, starting from the bread, which I think was the most challenging one,” says Uditi. “I made it very, very, very easy for people to not be afraid of sourdough. And because we are still in a pandemic and people want to make these things at home, I feel this is the right time to do it.”
To make things even more streamlined for the home chef, Uditi also included hyperlinks within the e-book that point to ingredients, kitchen appliances, and, in the case of his sourdough volume, a spreadsheet that formulates hydration.
If we’re all going to be spending time at home in 2021, and we most undoubtedly are, then at least the Ricettario cookbook series is giving us new tools for tackling sourdough—and just about everything else—in the kitchen this time around.
Volume one of Daniele Uditi’s Ricettario can be downloaded for $15. Formats include general PDF, Kindle, iPad and iPhone.
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