By Anne Bianchi
Italy is the festival capital of the world. In every season and region, and whether held in honor of a saint or in the spirit of secular fun, each festa or sagra features distinctive rituals, and delicious dishes. "In the end," says Anne Bianchi, a noted food writer of Italian heritage, "all Italian festivals--regardless of type or location--have one uniting factor: food."
After years of traversing Italy's countryside, and eating her way from festival to festival, Bianchi decided to treat home cooks and armchair travelers to the cream of authentic cuisine, served with hearty slices of local culture. The result is a unique and tantalizing collection, Italian Festival Food: Recipes and Traditions from Italy's Regional Country Fairs.
From Piedmont to Sicily, from appetizers to dolce, Italian Festival Food takes readers on a sweeping gastronomic tour, peppered with fascinating insights into a people and their proud heritage. Based on intense tastings and conversations with village cooks, Bianchi presents 150 recipes steeped in tradition. To ease replicating genuine Italian specialties in American kitchens, each recipe comes with an estimate of preparation time required; the level of difficulty (Easy, Moderate, or Advanced); and a complete list of ingredients, most readily available in the average U.S. supermarket. Bianchi also offers helpful tips on which part of the recipe can be prepared ahead of time or stored for future use, as well as festive serving suggestions and palate-pleasing wine-pairings from Italian vintners.
Part cookbook, part travelogue, and a totally captivating read, Italian Festival Food showcases the natural bounty of nine of Italy's regions. Bianchi begins each section with a memorable vignette, highlighting astounding culinary feats; glorious shores, mountains, and churches; and heartwarming personal encounters. Throughout, 62 black and white photographs capture every aspect of Italy's rustic festas, from people at work preparing food to revelers focused on the business of sharing and eating. For vicarious tasting, readers will visit: Piedmont, with a stop in the tiny village of Caprarola to celebrate the walnut harvest and sample Rondelli di Polenta con Salsa di Noce (polenta rounds with walnut sauce).
Trentino, with a stop at Alto Adige's annual Rice Festival for an array of glorious grains, from Risotto con Ciliegie (risotto with black cherries) to Brodera (risotto with spareribs).
Emilia-Romagna, for a lesson in making fresh egg pasta and bites of Malfatti al Mascarpone (mascarpone cheese dumplings) and Vincisgrassi (stuffed lasagna).
Tuscany, with a stop at Nola's Lily Festival for Cianfotta (a summer stew of eggplant, red pepper, and black olives) and Budoia's Festa dei Funghi for unparalleled mushroom delights.
Sardinia, for a lively history of May Day celebrations, and tastes of Le Virtu ("The Virtues," a vegetable-rich soup) and Sfincione di San Vito (a sardine-packed pizza served on St. Vito's Day).
Campania, with trips to Novoli on St. Anthony's Day for Torta Rustica (a hearty cheese and proscuitto pie) and Camogli for Torta Pasqualina (a chard and ricotta tart to honor St. Rocco).
Puglia, for a celebration of Italy's vineyards and samples of local meat, game, and poultry dishes, including Holy Saturday's special Pitaggio (veal sausages with artichokes and fresh fava beans).
Calabria, for a scenic walk on coastal beaches and stops at festivals in honor of the sea's riches, featuring Calamaretti Picante (spiced baby shrimp) and Cacciucco (a signature fish soup).
Sicily, with sweet stops at Trastevere's Feast of the Madonna for Sformato Trasteverino (a kiwi custard tart) and Marineo's St. Ciro Festival for Cassatta (a chocolate ricotta refrigerator cake).
Complete with an inventory of pantry staples, building-block recipes, and mail-order sources for those rare, hard-to-find ingredients, as well as a calendar of Italy's country fairs and feasts, Italian Festival Food will not only inspire cooking and travel, but also a passion for the culture, lore, and people of Italy.
Anne Bianchi is a writer of Italian heritage who specializes in food. A restaurant columnist for La Cucina Italia magazine, she is the author of several books, including From the Tables of Tuscan Women and Zuppa! She divides her year between New York City and the Tuscan province of Lucca, where she runs a cooking school, Toscana Saporita.
Italian Festival Food
Recipes and Traditions
From Italy's Regional Country Fairs
By Anne Bianchi
Macmillan USA, June 1999
336 pages, with 62 b/w photographs
Information provided by the publisher.
This page created December 1999
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