by Pamela Sheldon Johns, John Rizzo (Photographer)
The traditional food products of Italy are world treasures. From aged balsamic vinegar to creamy buffalo-milk mozzarella, from Parmigiano-Reggiano to mellow extra-virgin olive oil, these classic ingredients, lovingly crafted for centuries, form the backbone of a great cuisine. Pamela Sheldon Johns’s Italian Food Artisans introduces readers to the men and women who, despite the press of modern industrialization, make these edible wonders today, while offering 50 simple but delicious recipes that use them. Readers interested in Italian food culture and those seeking accessible recipes for authentic Italian dishes will want this book.
Arranged by general topics such as condiments, breads, rice, and pasta, the book profiles the artisans in words and evocative color photos; recipes follow. We meet, for example, the Mori family of Tuscany, whose farm factory has produced extra-virgin olive oil for over two centuries. Recipes include the enticing Penne Santo, a cabbage, pancetta, and olive oil-topped bread, and Torta di Capezzana, a delicious olive oil cake, among others. We journey also to the tiny village of Piantella in Abruzzo, among other places, where Gianluigi Peduzzi oversees the pasta-making business started by his great-grandfather; recipes include Orechiette with Clams and Broccoli Rabe, and Shells Stuffed with Spinach and Ricotta in Asparagus Sauce. We also encounter makers of chestnut flower honey, chocolate, vin santo, and wild boar prosciutto, among other ingredients, and are given recipes for their use. A list of resources for finding the products both here and in Italy concludes the book, which, in its evocation of venerable traditions still practiced, is also heartening. It’s good to know the modern world, so geared to homogenization, still contains them.