Read an Excerpt
INTRODUCTION by Sara Moulton
As a kid growing up in New York City, I loved Italian food even before I knew it was Italian. Pizza, spaghetti and meatballs, and hero sandwiches arrived in the city so long ago that they were like the air we breathed.
And—big surprise—many of our favorite local restaurants were Italian. For everyday, we had our choice of several lovely spots on Irving Place, right in the neighborhood. If it was a special occasion, we’d go to Paone’s on East 34th Street. Presided over by Nicola Paone himself—a debonair Italian who opened his own restaurant after a successful international career as a singer and actor—Paone’s was proof of the appeal of Italian cuisine and its astonishing depth of flavor. Mushrooms, tomatoes, meat, cheese, garlic, onions: it’s hard to go wrong when ingredients like these are grown locally in such magnificent abundance. The Italians prize these ingredients, insist on their freshness and seasonality, and have cooked them with love and flair for millennia.
As the chef of Gourmet’s executive dining room, charged with delighting the magazine’s guests—usually a tableful of would-be advertisers—I turned again and again to the Gourmet’s Italian recipes, confident that nothing surpassed them when it came to creating the requisite feeling of expansive well-being.
And now, thanks to this book, you can perform exactly the same kind of magic at home. Gourmet Italian includes the best of the thousands of Italian and Italian-American recipes to grace the magazine’s pages over the decades. You will find quintessential recipes for classics with twists, such as lasagne Bolognese with spinach, sweet potato gnocchi with fried sage and chestnuts, truffled Taleggio and mushroom pizza, pork chop saltimbocca, and Sunday ragu. There are easy antipasti, little appetizer bites perfect for entertaining, slow-cooked mains, quick stovetop dishes (roasted or sautéed), and a cornucopia of vegetable sides. Topping it all off are a pair of my personal favorites: a perfect tiramisu and a caramel espresso float.
Whether you want to throw together a simple little weeknight dinner or prepare a memorable feast for special guests, you will find exactly what you want in Gourmet Italian. This book also includes a primer on Italian pantry items and Italian cheeses, as well as instructions for making fresh pasta and can’t-live-without pasta sauces to get you through the week. It also boasts a recipe for my favorite new secret ingredient: toasted bread crumbs, which add an addictive crunch to any dish.
So what are you waiting for? Between the covers of this book are the keys to la dolce vita.
A few recipes from the book:
Serves 6 | Active time: 20 minutes | Start to finish: 25 minutes
1 pound thin asparagus, trimmed
6 (½-inch-thick) slices sourdough bread, cut from middle of a halved 8- to 9-inch round loaf
1 large garlic clove, halved crosswise
Maldon sea salt
Coarsely ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon red-wine vinegar
2 cups baby arugula
2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
- Bring 1½ inches salted water to a boil in a 12-inch skillet, then add asparagus and cook over medium heat until just tender, 3 to 7 minutes. Drain asparagus in a colander and return to skillet off heat.
- Meanwhile, heat a lightly oiled large ridged grill pan over medium-high heat until hot and just beginning to smoke. Grill bread slices (in batches if necessary) until pale golden and grill marks appear, about 45 seconds to 1 minute per side. Lightly rub 1 side of each toast with cut side of a garlic half, then season with sea salt and pepper to taste and drizzle with oil (about 1 teaspoon per slice).
- Season asparagus with sea salt and pepper, then drizzle with vinegar and remaining tablespoon oil. Add arugula and toss gently to coat, then divide mixture among toasts along with prosciutto.
Makes 12 balls | Active time: 30 minutes | Start to finish: 30 minutes
3 cups chilled mushroom risotto (see recipe,
12 (½-inch) cubes mozzarella (about 1 ounce total)
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup fine dry bread crumbs (not seasoned)
About 8 cups vegetable oil for frying
- Roll chilled risotto into 12 (1½-inch) balls using wet hands. Poke a small hole in center of each ball and insert a cube of cheese, then re-form into a ball.
- Put flour, eggs, and bread crumbs in 3 separate bowls. Dredge 1 ball in flour, shaking off excess. Dip in egg,
letting excess drip off, then dredge in bread crumbs and transfer to a sheet of wax paper. Repeat with remaining balls.
- Heat 1½ to 2 inches oil in a 4- to 5-quart heavy pot until thermometer registers 360°F. Working in batches of 4, lower rice balls into oil with a slotted spoon and fry, turning occasionally, until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per batch. Transfer with slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Return oil to 360°F between batches.
- Let balls stand 2 minutes (for cheese to melt).
Serves 6 | Active time: 35 minutes | Start to finish: 2 hours
3 cups whole milk
¾ teaspoon salt
¾ cup semolina (3 ounces; sometimes labeled “semolina flour”)
3 large eggs
7 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
4½ tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2-inch round cookie cutter;
2-quart shallow baking dish
- Bring milk with ¾ teaspoon salt to a simmer in a 2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan over medium-low heat. Add semolina in a slow stream, whisking, then simmer, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, 12 minutes (mixture will be very stiff). Remove from heat and stir in eggs 1 at a time, then stir in 6 tablespoons cheese and 3 tablespoons butter. Spread into a ½-inch-thick slab on an oiled baking sheet using a lightly oiled rubber spatula, then chill, uncovered, until cool to the touch, about 10 minutes.
- Cut out rounds from gnocchi with cookie cutter dipped in cool water (incorporating scraps as you work) and gently transfer rounds (they will be very soft), slightly overlapping, to buttered baking dish. Chill gnocchi, uncovered, 1 hour.
- Ppreheat oven to 450°F, with racks in upper and lower thirds
Melt remaining 1½ tablespoons butter and brush over gnocchi, then sprinkle with remaining tablespoon cheese. Bake in upper third of oven 10 minutes, then switch dish to lower third of oven and continue to bake until gnocchi are slightly puffed and lightly browned, about 10 minutes more. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
COOKS’ NOTE: Unbaked gnocchi can be chilled up to 1 day, covered after 1 hour.