The Country Cooking of Italy

by Colman Andrews

The Country Cooking of Italy

Hardcover, 392 pages, Chronicle Books Llc, List Price: $50 | purchase

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Book Summary

Colman Andrews draws on more than 40 years of experience traveling and eating in Italy in this collection of 230 delectable recipes. Photographs by Christopher Hirsheimer.

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With only 10 spots on this list, I ended up splitting one between two fine cookbooks — The Country Cooking of Italy and Lidia's Italy in America (below) — because while both deal in some fashion with the Italian culinary experience, they are otherwise almost polar opposites. Country Cooking is probably the most authentic book you'll find in the enormous rustic-Italian field this year. It's a showcase for slow food at its source, the type of cooking in

Note: Book excerpts are provided by the publisher and may contain language some find offensive.

Recipe: 'Pasta e Fagioli'

Pasta e fagioli — literally "pasta and beans" — is another dish found in regional variations all over Italy. Italian Americans like to call it "pasta fazool," an approximation of the Neapolitan dialect term for it. A version made with broad noodles in Ferrara, in Emilia-Romagna, bears the delightful name sguazabarbuz. It may be argued whether pasta e fagioli is a soup or a pasta dish. I would be on the side of the former, at least in the present case, because it is liquid enough to be eaten with a spoon. This is a standard recipe for the dish.

Serves 4 to 6

1 3/4 cups/375 grams dried borlotti (cranberry) beans, soaked overnight in water to cover

2 ounces or 60 grams pancetta, minced

1 onion, minced

1 small stalk celery, minced

3 sprigs Italian parsley, minced

2 tablespoons tomato paste, homemade or commercial

3 garlic cloves, 1 minced, 2 crushed

1 sprig rosemary

1 1/2 cups/360 milliliters extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling (optional)

3 sage leaves

Salt and pepper

1/2 pound/250 grams fresh fettuccine, cut into 1/2-inch/1.25-centimeter pieces

Drain the beans and put them into a large pot. Add the pancetta, onion, celery, parsley, tomato paste, minced garlic, rosemary, 1 cup/240 milliliters of the oil, and 6 cups/1.5 liters water. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low, and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the beans are very soft, about 2 1/2 hours.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1/2 cup/120 milliliters oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add the crushed garlic and the sage and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 5 minutes. Remove and discard the garlic and sage, and set the oil aside.

Remove and discard the rosemary sprig, then transfer half of the soup to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Return the puree to the pot and stir well. Stir in the reserved flavored oil and season with salt and pepper.

Bring the soup to a slow boil over medium-high heat. Stir in the pasta, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook uncovered, stirring frequently, until the pasta is cooked, about 15 minutes longer.

Drizzle more oil over the top of the soup, if you like, then serve in warmed soup plates.

From Country Cooking of Italy by Colman Andrews. Copyright 2011 by Colman Andrews. Reprinted by permission of Chronicle Books.

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