Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen

Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen

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by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich

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Lidia Bastianich, loved by millions of Americans for her good Italian cooking, gives us her most instructive and personal cookbook yet.

Focusing on the Italian-American kitchen—the cooking she encountered when she first came to America as a young adolescent—she pays homage to this “cuisine of adaptation born of necessity.” But she


Lidia Bastianich, loved by millions of Americans for her good Italian cooking, gives us her most instructive and personal cookbook yet.

Focusing on the Italian-American kitchen—the cooking she encountered when she first came to America as a young adolescent—she pays homage to this “cuisine of adaptation born of necessity.” But she transforms it subtly with her light, discriminating touch, using the authentic ingredients, not accessible to the early immigrants, which are all so readily available today. The aromatic flavors of fine Italian olive oil, imported Parmigiano-Reggiano and Gorgonzola dolce latte, fresh basil, oregano, and rosemary, sun-sweetened San Marzano tomatoes, prosciutto, and pancetta permeate the dishes she makes in her Italian-American kitchen today. And they will transform for you this time-honored cuisine, as you cook with Lidia, learning from her the many secret, sensuous touches that make her food superlative.

You’ll find recipes for Scampi alla Buonavia (the garlicky shrimp that became so popular when Lidia served the dish at her first restaurant, Buonavia), Clams Casino (with roasted peppers and good American bacon), Caesar Salad (shaved Parmigiano makes the difference), baked cannelloni (with roasted pork and mortadella), and lasagna (blanketed in her special Italian-American Meat Sauce).

But just as Lidia introduced new Italian regional dishes to her appreciative clientele in Queens in the seventies, so she dazzles us now with pasta dishes such as Bucatini with Chanterelles, Spring Peas, and Prosciutto, and Long Fusilli with Mussels, Saffron, and Zucchini. And she is a master at teaching us how to make our own ravioli, featherlight gnocchi, and genuine Neapolitan pizza.

The key to her delectable fish and meat cooking is the aromatic vegetables that so often form an integral part of the dish—sole with oregano, vidalias, and tomatoes; tenderloin with potatoes, peppers, and onions; sausages with bitter broccoli. Try her version of scallopine with sautéed lemon slices, garlic slivers, capers, and green olives—you’ll be hooked.

Soups are Lidia’s specialty, particularly hearty bean and pasta soups—meals in themselves. And you can top off a Lidia feast with traditional Italian-American favorites, such as a perfect Zabaglione or cannoli, or one of her own creations—Lemon Delight or Roasted Pears and Grapes.

Laced with stories about her experiences in America and her discoveries as a cook, this enchanting book is both a pleasure to read and a joy to cook from.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Bastianich, a restaurant owner with her own PBS cooking series, explains in wonderful detail the effects immigration had on Italian food here, and offers dozens of classic Italian-American recipes, from shrimp scampi to lobster fra Diavolo."
- Entertainment Weekly
The Barnes & Noble Review
If you want to know the true origins of spaghetti and meatballs or veal parmigiana, don't look to Italy, look to Queens. The early Italian immigrants invented these dishes and many other mainstays of Italian-American cooking, and they are the stars of Lidia Bastianich's book, companion to a new TV series.

In the '80s and '90s, dishes like lasagna and veal parmigiana were pooh-poohed by the Italian chefs who wanted us to know la vera cucina italiana, but they have always had an enthusiastic following. This book pays tribute to authentic Italian-American cuisine, a cuisine of adaptation, created in the boardinghouses and smaller restaurants, by immigrants who tried to re-create the flavors of home without the same ingredients.

As we learn in the preface, Lidia Mattichio Bastianich grew up on traditional Italian food in Istria, the part of Italy ceded to Yugoslavia after World War II. In 1958 her family emigrated to America, to Astoria, Queens, where Lidia worked in Italian-American restaurants and came to know and cook these dishes that were at once familiar and unknown. She and her husband then opened a restaurant, serving Italian-American food for ten years before they went on to open more upscale restaurants serving Italian regional cuisine.

Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen is also a companion book to her new 52-part public TV series. (Indeed, several pages helpfully give the episodes and their dishes in order of broadcast.) But this cookbook is organized traditionally, from antipasto to dessert, with gorgeous color photos of the finished dishes and black-and-white instructional photos that demonstrate, for example, how to unroll and stuff porchetta, or how to prepare shrimp scampi style.

All your favorite dishes from this ethnic cuisine are here -- pizza, sausage and peppers, penne alla vodka, lobster Fra Diavolo with spaghettini, spiedini, fritto misto, baked cannelloni, and lasagna -- but they are given that extra Bastianich touch. It's a good reason to celebrate this slice of Americana. (Ginger Curwen)

Publishers Weekly
Correction: The opening sentence for Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen (Oct. 1) should have read: "Despite the slightly misleading title.... readers will be charmed." Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Before Bastianich opened Felidia, an upscale New York City restaurant known for its unusual regional dishes from her native Istria (once part of Italy, now in Croatia), she and her husband had two popular Italian American restaurants in Queens. So Italian American food is not the departure some fans of her more recent restaurants might assume. At Buonavia, her first restaurant, she was determined to serve "the best" Italian American food she could, and in her new book, companion to a 52-part PBS series, that is just what she presents: her Baked Clams Oreganata, for example, are prepared with Sicilian or Greek oregano, and she adds diced tomatoes for "freshness"; her manicotti is made with crespelle (crepes) for lightness, though she offers a fresh pasta variation too. Bastianich has a warm, engaging style, and she's a teacher as well as a chef: throughout, she provides thoughtful head-notes and sidebars along with useful boxes on cooking with wine, "resting" soup, and other such practicalities. John and Galina Mariani's The Italian-American Cookbook (LJ 10/15/00) explores the same subject, but Bastianich's book offers a more sophisticated and more personal approach. Highly recommended. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
New Edition
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8.50(w) x 9.50(h) x 1.35(d)

Read an Excerpt

from Chapter 1


Among the many things Italians brought with them to this country is their love for antipasti-those little bites to nibble on before the meal. An antipasto can be as simple as prosciutto e melone, affetati (an assortment of sliced, cured meats), or a lemony seafood salad. Or it can take up the better part of a table with a display of vegetables that are grilled, pickled, tossed in vinaigrette, broiled to golden brown, or fried; fish that has been cured, preserved in oil or salt, tossed in a salad, or made into a terrine; as well as all kinds of cured meats, cheeses, legumes, salads, and crostate (savory pastries). Whether simple or elaborate, an antipasto is meant to stimulate the taste buds and start the gastric juices flowing with an assortment of flavors, textures, colors, and aromas.

At home antipasti were usually made up of food that could be found in the cupboard-cured, marinated, smoked, dried, or otherwise preserved foods and meats, and an assortment of dried or aged cheeses. In Italian-American restaurants of the 1970s and '80s, "antipasto" meant a plate of prosciutto, salami, cacciatorini, cheese, roasted peppers and all kinds of vegetables-artichokes, giardiniera, pickled mushrooms, assorted olives, beans-tuna in oil, anchovies, and hard-boiled eggs. All this would be dressed with some virgin olive oil and wine vinegar. Today, antipasti include a whole repertoire of hot preparations and salads in addition to these traditional favorites.

It is easier than ever to present an authentic family-style antipasto at home, because it is easier to get traditional products imported from Italy. Prosciutto, whether from Parma or the type of prosciutto known as San Daniele, from Friuli-is the king of any antipasto assortment and can now be found across the United States, as can many imported Italian cheeses, cured fish, and vegetables. The surest way to capture the flavors, colors, and textures of a culture is by using authentic products. If you take a bite of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese or taste a drop of aceto balsamico tradizionale, there is no doubt in your mind, or on your palate, that you are eating Italian. Use that to your advantage and search out these authentic products, which will bring your table that much closer to Italy. And remember that cooking techniques are also important to the authenticity of a dish. In this chapter I share with you some of the antipasti that have become my favorites.

This appetizer was very popular at my first restaurant, Buonavia, which opened in 1971. It was a time when lots and lots of chopped garlic was used in Italian-American cooking. If you like a milder garlic flavor, use crushed or sliced garlic cloves instead, and remove them from the dish before you serve it.

Scampi Appetizer "Alla Buonavia"

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for finishing dish
3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1 pound extra-large (about 25 to the pound) shrimp, completely shelled, deveined, and cut crosswise into 3
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/2 teaspoon crushed hot red pepper
6 slices Italian bread (about 1/4 inch thick and 2 1/2 inches wide), toasted and kept warm
1 lemon, cut into slices
Whole chives and/or parsley sprigs, optional

Makes 6 servings

In this dish, high heat and speed are essential. Make sure the pan is good and hot when you add the shrimp and that it is wide enough to hold all the shrimp pieces in a single layer (so the pan doesn't cool down as the shrimp go in). And be sure to have all your ingredients right by the stove-once the shrimp go into the pan, it's "full speed ahead."

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet, over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, shaking the pan, until light golden, about 2 minutes. Raise the heat to high, add the shrimp, and toss until they are bright pink and seared on all sides, about 2 minutes. Stir in the chopped chives, then add the wine, butter, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, and boil until the shrimp are barely opaque in the center and the sauce is reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Stir in the chopped parsley and crushed red pepper. Season with salt.

Place a piece of warm toast in the center of each of six warm plates. Spoon the shrimp and sauce over the toast, drizzling some of the sauce around the toast. Decorate the plates with lemon slices, and with the parsley sprigs and/or whole chives, if using.

The restaurant business is tough on family life. Joseph, my son, was only four years old when we opened our first restaurant, Buonavia, in Forest Hills, Queens. He would spend many days playing on tomato boxes, and when he got a little older, he would make pocket money by standing on a milk crate and helping with the dishes or the preparation of the day's vegetables. But he did have his rewards, and a plate of clams casino was one of his favorites.

Clams Casino

36 littleneck clams
4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 red or yellow bell peppers, roasted and peeled as described on next page, cut into 1-inch squares
12 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch squares
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup dry white wine

Makes 6 servings

You can prepare the clams right in their baking dish up to several hours in advance and bake them just before you serve them.

Preheat the oven to 450’ F.

Shuck the clams as described on page 7, reserving the clam juice and arranging the clams on the half shell side by side in a 13 x 11-inch baking dish. Strain the juice through cheesecloth or a very fine sieve into the baking dish. Sprinkle some of the parsley over the clams. Top each clam with a square of roasted pepper. Cover the pepper with two squares of bacon. Using about 3 tablespoons of the butter, dot the top of each clam with about 1/4 teaspoon butter. Cut the remaining butter into several pieces and tuck them in and around the clams in the baking dish. Add the wine and remaining parsley to the baking dish.

Bake until the bacon is crisp and the pan juices are bubbling, about 12 minutes. Arrange clams on a warmed serving platter, or divide them among warmed plates. Pour the pan juices into a small saucepan and bring to a boil on top of the stove. Boil until lightly thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Spoon the juices over the clams and serve immediately.

Two Ways to Roast a Bell Pepper

Roasting peppers imparts a subtle flavor to them, softens the texture, and removes the skin-which some people find hard to digest. Here are two ways to roast a pepper. Whether roasting green, red, or yellow peppers, choose thick-fleshed peppers that are boxy in shape-they will char more evenly and be easier to peel.

Turn the gas burners on high and, working with a pair of long-handled tongs, place the peppers on the grates, directly over the flames. Roast the peppers, turning them as necessary, until evenly blackened on all sides, about 8 minutes. Remove the peppers, place them in a bowl, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let stand until cool enough to handle, about 40 minutes.

Or place a rack in the uppermost position and preheat the oven to 475’ F. Put the peppers on a baking sheet and roast them, turning as necessary, until all sides are evenly blackened, about 12 minutes. Remove the peppers to a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let stand until cool enough to handle, about 40 minutes.

To peel the peppers: Pull out the stems and hold the peppers upside down, letting the seeds and juices flow out. Cut the peppers in half lengthwise and, using a short knife, scrape away the blackened skin, ribs, and remaining seeds.

This is a tasty dish adored by many people. Shucking the clams is easy, if you follow the directions on page 7. And it beats steaming them open, which toughens the clams.

Baked Clams Oreganata
Vongole Oreganate

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, sliced
36 littleneck clams
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 teaspoon crushed hot red pepper, chopped fine
2 cups coarse, dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup cubed (1/4-inch) peeled and seeded tomatoes (see Note below)
1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably the Sicilian or Greek type dried on the branch, crumbled
1 lemon, cut into thin slices

Makes 6 servings

I always add diced fresh tomato to this dish, because I think it contributes a little freshness. Now is the time to try to find the
Greek or Sicilian oregano dried right on the branch-it makes a difference. Many Greek and Italian groceries will have it.

You can buy powdered hot red pepper, but I like to chop up the flakes myself.

Let the oil and garlic steep in a small bowl 30 minutes to 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 475’ F. Shuck the clams as described on page 7, reserving the clam juice. Strain the juice through cheesecloth or a very fine sieve into a 13 x 11-inch baking dish. Add the white wine, 1 1/2 tablespoons of the parsley, the butter, and half of the crushed red pepper.

In a deep bowl, toss the bread crumbs, grated cheese, tomatoes, 3 tablespoons of the garlic-infused oil, the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped parsley, the oregano, and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper until thoroughly blended.

Top each clam with about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the bread-crumb topping, packing it down tight. Set clams in the prepared baking pan and drizzle the remaining infused oil over them. Bake until the pan juices are bubbling and the bread crumbs are golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer the clams to a warm platter or divide among serving plates.

To keep the bread-crumb topping crunchy, spoon the sauce from the baking dish onto the plates-not over the clams. Serve immediately, garnished with the lemon slices.

To Peel and Seed Tomatoes

Use this method with either plum or round tomatoes. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and set a bowl of ice water near the stove. Cut the cores out of the tomatoes and cut a small x in the opposite end. Slip a few tomatoes into the boiling water and cook just until the skin loosens, 1 to 2 minutes depending on the tomatoes. (Overcooking will make them soggy.) Fish the tomatoes out of the water with a wire skimmer or slotted spoon and drop them into the ice water. If necessary, let the water return to the boil and repeat with any remaining tomatoes. Slip the skins off the blanched tomatoes and cut the tomatoes in half-lengthwise for plum tomatoes, crosswise for round tomatoes. Gently squeeze out the seeds with your hands. The tomatoes are now ready to dice or cut as described in the recipe.

Meet the Author

Lidia Matticchio Bastianich is the author of two previous books, La Cucina di Lidia and the best-selling Lidia’s Italian Table, as well as the host of two public television series, Lidia’s Italian Table and Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen. She is the co-owner of three New York City restaurants—Felidia, Becco, and Esca—and gives lectures on Italian cuisine throughout the country. Ms. Bastianich lives on Long Island.

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Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a great basic cookbook. I have about 15 Italian cookbooks and when I am going to make a dish, I look at two or three recipes and take what I like from each. Inevitably, Lidia's cookbook usually provides the best insight to the dish. There are ingrediants I can usually find at the Italian grocery store. Thanks Lidia!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I began watching Lidia's cooking show on PBS and just had to have her book. It is my absolute favorite! Some of our favorite recipes are the sausage with peppers and mushrooms, chicken scallopini in lemon caper sauce, and the linguini with bacon and onions (this one is inexpensive, too). I recommend this book to anyone.
IRISHDANCER0 More than 1 year ago
Lidia teaches you to have a touch of Italy in your home to share with your family and friends, enjoyable and tasteful meals to bring to the table. Highly satisfied you will enjoy every meal you make. Also add your own touch to a recipe to make your it own.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the book for anyone who wnts to make REAL italian food, its about the ingredients, and the quality, which is what italian cooks know. Try one recipe and you will be hooked
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is absolutely by far my most favorite cookbook. Directions are easy to follow and the recipes are DELICIOUS.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I waited because my 4 experiences at her restaurant have been less than stellar. But this book is a varied collection of flawless recipes that leave you with dishes tasting the way you imgaine Italian food should taste. It feels like you're sitting in her kitchen and she's handing over the family recipe cards. For Christmas, maybe she should give it to the cooks in her kitchen. Just a thought.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This cookbook is wonderful! My mama bought it when my great Nana died (many of the family receipes were store in her memory and too difficult to replicate), it was amazing to open up and recognize the receipes as much loved as I knew them growing up. It is an invaluable addition to my cookbook collection. You HAVE to HAVE this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love to cook, and discovered Lidia through her PBS show. Have yet to make one of her recipes that wasn't easy to follow; they all turn out delicious! They're even better if you can find top quality ingredients, such as the San Marzano tomatoes, and use extra virgin olive oil. I would recommend this particular one of her books for anyone who wants access to some basic Italian recipes. Having just spent a week at a cooking school in Tuscany, I can honestly say that her recipes and tips are on a par with what I learned there.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Lidia's recipes are out of this world. Every week we watch her show and then quickly go to Her book and plan for next weeks meals. It is not just a book, but it is a family companion - Not just ours, but a part of Lidia's. Thank you Lidia !!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Received this book as a gift, and was delighted to realize that every recipe results in a delicious, authentic Italian meal. Have not been disappointed in a dish yet-- instead, we have tried many new recipes and have developed a few new favorites. The recipes are easy-to-follow, not too time-intensive or complicated, and generally require basic ingredients. The only downside is that these recipes are not for someone watching their calorie intake!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I rec'd this book as a gift and have in turn purchased or told everyone I know about it!!! Not only are the recipes easy,and easy to follow, but they come out perfect everytime!!! You will also find, that once you buy the essentials, it is very easy to make other recipes in the book.....
Guest More than 1 year ago
I first discovered Lydia on PBS and became a big fan of hers. I watch her show religiously every Sunday. Her book is also outstanding. Her book is simple recipes yet absolutely deliciouse! Finally a REAL Italian cook!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm a cook, Italian, a cookbook collector, and I lived in Italy for six months. Needless to say, I can be critical when it comes to Italian cuisine. Lidia's cookbook is like a trip to an Italian trattoria. Her newest cookbook and its recipes are authentic, simple to follow, and well-organized. When a recipe calls for a sauce, tomato-based or otherwise, it's included with the primary recipe. If you needed one good Italian cookbook in your collection, I'd highly recommend purchasing this one. I recently added 'Naples At Table' to my collection, and I'm a fan of Marcella Hazan's 'Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking'. Lidia's book is a great complement to these two, and stands alone among good, usable Italian cookbooks. It was the PBS series which introduced me to Lidia and I've made the cannelloni and sole dishes with great success. It's a classic.
Atlanticgrl More than 1 year ago
This is a good all-around basic Italian cook book. You get a little background of the different food types and how some of them compare to Americanized dishes we are familiar with here in the states. Throughout the book are very interesting facts about Italian food. There seems to be plenty of instruction along with the recipes. It also contains a nice list of different pasta shapes and their descriptions.
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Unread_Poet More than 1 year ago
For anyone who's grown up in an Italian American neighborhood, this book really hits home, most especially since the kitchen is the foundation of the family. It brought back a lot of memories of the big family dinners we used to have every Sunday; you could walk up and down the street and smell the different foods being prepared in each house and where the whole family, from grandparents to best friends, was together and the meal lasted for most of the afternoon. Lydia's book is filled with recipes that embody those meals; the stuffed mushrooms, rice balls, fish and especially the different sauces, traditional foods that have been cooked for generations, yet there are also recipes that can be adapted to your family's tastes. It also has some photos of Lydia preparing the food which is a big help. This is a wonderful book and I highly recommend preparing one of her recipes when life gets in the way and you just need to kick back with family and friends.
JuliaT_MN More than 1 year ago
This is the second Lidia cookbook I have purchased. Her recipes for pasta making are excellent. She encourages either hand-making or using a machine. Both methods are thoroughly explained. She uses simple everyday ingredients for the most part. This particular cookbook is a good basic Italian book. I do recommend this book.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
The recipes are bland and troublesome. The basics are terrible. The chicken stock was absolutely boring. I threw the book away when I realized the ragu and meat sauce recipes had no garlic or spices or any kind except bay leaves. I had high hopes and now wish I had saved the cost of the book and bought a decent meal instead.