Rustic Italian Foodby Marc Vetri, David Joachim
Slow-cooked meats, homemade breads, flavorful pastas...these are the traditional comfort-food classics that Italians have been roasting, baking, curing, and making in their own kitchens for generations--dishes that people actually want to cook and eat. In Rustic Italian Food, acclaimed Philadelphia chef Marc Vetri celebrates the handcrafted cuisine of/i>… See more details below
Slow-cooked meats, homemade breads, flavorful pastas...these are the traditional comfort-food classics that Italians have been roasting, baking, curing, and making in their own kitchens for generations--dishes that people actually want to cook and eat. In Rustic Italian Food, acclaimed Philadelphia chef Marc Vetri celebrates the handcrafted cuisine of Italy, advocating a hands-on, back-to-the-basics approach to cooking. Home cooks of every skill level will revel in the 120 recipes, such as sweet Fig and Chestnut Bread, rich Spinach and Ricotta Gnocchi, savory Slow-Roasted Lamb Shoulder, and fragrant Apple Fritters. Rustic Italian Food is also an education in kitchen fundamentals, with detailed, step-by-step instructions for making terrines, dry-cured salami, and cooked sausage; a thorough guide to bread and pasta making; and a primer on classic Italian preserves and sauces. Much more than just a collection of recipes, in this book Marc Vetri connects us directly to the essence of Italian food.
—Gabrielle Hamilton, chef and author of Blood, Bones & Butter
“Philadelphia's Marc Vetri will unapologetically teach you the way Italian food has been made for centuries, but in doing so will apply modern sensibilities that make his food the favorite of chefs around the country … Not sure about making your own pasta? Start with the spinach and ricotta gnudi. They're simple and as sexy as they sound, assuming you know that the ‘g’ is silent.”
—St. Petersburg Times, 12/14/11
“Marc Vetri's rustic food is very family friendly, big on flavor, with detailed recipes that will make you want to cook.”
—Ideas in Food, 12/13/11
“This is a precision how-to book for a much broader range of foodstuffs – from great rustic breads to delicious mostardas and even homemade charcuterie … Rustic Italian Food demonstrates compellingly that good cooking is not about bling but about simplicity, understanding, and feeling.”
—The Austin Chronicle, 12/9/11
“These recipes prove why [Marc Vetri’s] restaurants are so successful.”
—Detroit News, 12/8/11
“Sometimes you just want rustic, and Italian rustic to me seems compelling … This is a primer on all things Italian food with detailed, step-by-step instructions for making terrines, dry-cured salami, cooked sausage, bread, pasta and classic Italian preserves and sauces - traditional comfort that Italians have been dishing in their kitchens for generations.”
—Ottawa Citizen, 11/23/11
“As a grown-up, I've never tried to make fresh pasta; the prospect seemed so daunting and time-consuming, with messy volcanoes of flour and eggs and a thousand esoteric contraptions. Rustic Italian Food, homeboy Marc Vetri's handsome new cookbook, proved me wrong.”
—Philadelphia City Paper, 11/17/11
“This book is good like that, building foundations home cooks can expand upon. The pages feel heavy in hand, like well-rested pizza dough, and are layered with solid information that helps you understand why, for example, you should use a honey starter in one bread recipe versus a sourdough starter in another, or why some pasta doughs call for eggs and others don't.”
—Philadelphia City Paper, 11/17/11
“Some of the book's most significant tidbits are not in the ingredient lists, but in the chapter introductions and cooking instructions. You might never make lamb mortadella, but reading about the process, in Vetri's approachable, engaging description, is captivating, in the same way people who have never turned on a stove watch Food Network cooking shows for hours.”
—Philadelphia Inquirer, 11/9/11
“Rustic Italian Food … [is] a multifaceted experience: It's part reference (see chapters on meat curing and paragraphs on oils and cheese); part culinary philosophy (his opinion of molecular cooking and absentminded line cooks), part travelogue (like his laugh-out-loud search for the perfect Parisian baguette), part expert cookbook (homemade pastas, breadmaking, spit-roasting a pig), and part novice cookbook (some recipes, like the spinach gnudi, marinara, and salads, are downright Rachael Ray simple).”
—Philadelphia Inquirer, 11/9/11
“Vetri is the real deal: a philanthropic, guitar-playing, accomplished, brilliantly modest chef who owns three restaurants, has two cookbooks, runs a million dollar foundation, and by happenstance embodies the "six perfections" that a Bodhisattva must generate -- hence the title of this piece. These are: generosity, ethics, patience, effort, concentration and wisdom.”
—The Huffington Post, 10/11/11
“Much more than just a collection of recipes, in this book Marc Vetri connects us directly to the essence of Italian food. . . . Vetri knows Italian food and we're excited to see what he has to teach. The cover alone makes us want to take a bite out of the book.”
—The Huffington Post, 8/25/11
“Marc Vetri cooks the best Italian food in America. Now he shares his secrets with all of us. Get ready for gutsy flavors, silky pasta dishes, and your friends and family running to the table for meal after meal.”
—BOBBY FLAY, chef and restaurateur of Mesa Grill and Bar Americain
“There are few, if any, chefs in America I would rather have cook for me. [Vetri is] a true magician of Italian cuisine who relies on fantastic ingredients and impeccable technique to create his rustic yet sophisticated food. I am going to run, not walk, to get this book ...you should, too, because these recipes will take your breath away.”
—MICHAEL SYMON, chef and author of Michael Symon’s Live to Cook
“Marc Vetri has grasped an elementary but elusive truth: good cooking isn’t about obscure ingredients or technical razzle-dazzle, and it certainly isn’t about recipes. It’s about understanding food--thinking about it intelligently and feeling it. Vetri’s passion is for the elegantly straightforward cuisines of Italy and Italian-accented America, and in Rustic Italian Food he gives us plenty to chew on in this regard. Anyone who digests this volume will end up not just a better Italian cook but a better cook, period.”
—COLMAN ANDREWS, co-founder of Saveur and editorial director of thedailymeal.com
“In Rustic Italian Food, Marc Vetri has captured, with his unique style and deliciousness, the essence of Italian flavors, kitchen fundamentals, and techniques. In this book, Marc has collected an abundance of recipes featuring traditional rustic Italian food. Each enticing chapter is prefaced with a sort of mini class on the subject, and then followed by an array of both comprehensive and easily executable recipes. This is surely a book you will want to add to your kitchen library.”
—LIDIA BASTIANICH, restaurateur and author of Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy
“Marc’s love affair with food is obvious. His simple hands-on approach is refreshing; he is a true craftsman. Simply put, Marc is the best Italian cook working in America today.”
—TOM COLICCHIO, chef/owner of Craft Restaurants
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Read an Excerpt
I REALLY LIKE TO COOK. I don’t say that as a joke--I really, really enjoy cooking. Sniffing out the best ingredients, dreaming up a dish, and then handcrafting something delicious brings me immense satisfaction. That idea might seem odd in the technological age of modern cuisine. Why bother cooking by hand? Why judge doneness with your eyes when you can just put something in an oven, press a button, and take it out when the buzzer goes off? It will be cooked perfectly. You can vacuum-seal a veal medallion in plastic, label it, put the bag in a water bath at a prescribed temperature for a prescribed time, then take it out, cut it open, and serve it. Some people think that this kind of scientific advancement is a godsend. But not me. If I wanted to be a file clerk, I would work at an accounting firm. I don’t enjoy filing. I enjoy cooking. I like to touch and smell fresh herbs, to roll them between my fingertips and breathe in their tempting aromas. I like to feel the supple skin on a fresh pear and taste the tannic bite of young artichokes. I want to understand where my food comes from--the earth, the climate, and the place where it was grown. Touching, knowing, and understanding give me more respect for the ingredients I’m working with and help me honor those foods in the kitchen. The fewer things between me and the food, the better. Don’t get me wrong--knowing the science of food can certainly make you a better cook. But how you use that knowledge makes all the difference between modern cuisine and rustic preparations. Some chefs use their knowledge to manipulate our medium--food--to its furthest reaches, constructing or deconstructing elaborate dishes with multiple components. Other chefs use food knowledge to expertly pair two ingredients together in a simple preparation like a musician who can move you from your seat with two minimal notes. That musician may have a deep understanding of musical theory but chooses to display his or her knowledge with an uncomplicated melody. I love knowing how and why things happen in cooking, but I’ll take Miles Davis over Wynton Marsalis any day of the week.
This kind of simple, hands-on cooking is the core of Italian cuisine. In the kitchen, my greatest aspiration is to take as few ingredients as possible, cook them perfectly, and make them sing. I try to bring this kind of simplicity to all of my tables--at home and in my restaurants. It’s what I teach the cooks who come to work with me, and what I set out to share in this book.
I’m not alone in this straightforward approach. Thomas Keller, the prince of precise French cooking, recently told reporters that a chicken tastes best when simply roasted in the traditional manner: “Clean the chicken, season it inside and out, rub it with butter, truss it and roast it at 425 degrees,” says Keller. I couldn’t agree more. Even Alain Ducasse, one of the most decorated chefs in the world, recently simplified the menu at his flagship Plaza Athenée restaurant in Paris. “We’ve never been about bling-bling,” he told an international news agency, “but now we are definitively going to get back to essentials. Cuisine has become too complicated--this is about subject, verb, adjective: duck, turnips, sauce.”
For many young cooks, the simple basics no longer hold their interest. Some very talented chefs have come to work with me over the years, and I am still amazed at how many of them don’t know rudimentary food preparations like butchering animals and making stock. For me, it is an art to make a piece of cured salami with only three ingredients: pork, fat, and salt. Bread, one of the world’s most important foods and most beautiful art forms, can be crafted from only flour, water, salt, and yeast. Yet these fundamental procedures are foreign to many cooks. It’s not because making bread is hard. It’s because few people take the time to show others how simple it is to make.
Think of pickles, jams, and preserves. Cooks have been preserving seasonal fruits and vegetables for thousands of years. Simple tarts and sweets have been put on Italian family tables for more years than any of us has been alive. Thankfully, this kind of hands-on food is making a big comeback these days. Highly technological cuisine may be fascinating, but food made by hand is what people are really excited about. American restaurants proudly serve house-cured meats and house-made breads. Every year, thousands more people turn to home canning, home brewing, home butchering, and making things like homemade pickles and home-cured bacon to save money and enjoy the satisfaction of doing things themselves.
You could chalk up the handcrafted food movement to tough economic times, but I think our interest in rustic food goes deeper. Breads, preserves, pies, roasted meats . . . these are the foods that cooks--especially Italian cooks--have been inspired by for centuries. These are the approachable foods that people everywhere feel comfortable preparing and eating. This is the cooking that I teach in Rustic Italian Food.
Here is my basic approach:
1. Cook and eat food that is as close to the earth as possible. The fresher and more local, the better.
2. Start with whole foods. They taste better than processed foods.
3. Keep it simple. A few high-quality ingredients make a bigger impact than a dozen cheap ones.
To help flesh out this philosophy, I don’t just give you recipes here. I open each chapter with details about making satisfying Italian foods like homemade pasta, sausages, and vegetables. These introductions are like mini classes, explaining everything you need to know to get started. The recipes themselves also give you the ins and outs of rustic Italian food the way I cook it--with more than 120 of my favorite breads, pizzas, grilled meats, slow roasts, braises, pickles, preserves, and desserts. Some dishes, like Fusilli with Fava Beans and Pecorino (page 68), are perfect for off-the-cuff weeknight cooking. Others, like Chocolate Zabaione Tart (page 262), are more sophisticated and meant for special occasions. Still others, like Spit-Roasted Suckling Pig (page 192) and home-cured Soppressata Calabrese (page 149), require some serious time and attention but give you a huge payoff. Any time you cook a whole animal or serve home-cured salami, your guests will love you for it. Believe me. People appreciate the effort and care that goes into handmade food. This is the kind of rustic cooking that I am most excited to share with you.
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