A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
My daughter is in Rome right now, so a book about Italian cooking is of great personal interest. I’d like to try many of the dishes in this book.
What kind of book is Cooking the Roman Way?
“Close your eyes and imagine you’re in Rome.” Most cookbooks do not start with such an appeal, but Cooking the Roman Way: Authentic Recipes from the Home Cooks and Trattorias of Rome by David Downie is a book with a mission to celebrate the cuisine of one of the world’s great cities. Its 100 plus recipes would be dishes to consider for a Roman theme dinner or healthy choices for everyday dining.
Is this cookbook easy to use?
Downie tells us that traditional Roman cookbooks have relied on several less-than-helpful traditions. One is the use of the common phrase quanto basta, meaning “as much as needed.” Thankfully, the author specifies actual amounts for his recipes. The other common phrase is come al solito, meaning “in the usual way.” Since American readers have not grown up in Italian kitchens, he describes the appropriate cooking methods in detail as verified by actual Roman chefs. The result is recipes that can be followed by average cooks.
Some recipes will take hours, such as Ravioli Quaresimali con Burro e Salvia (pages 72-77), a spinach and ricotta ravioli that includes making the pasta, the filling, and the sauce before bringing them all together.
Can you easily buy the ingredients for the recipes?
Many ingredients are available at common supermarkets. Most important is having good plum or cherry tomatoes and the right olive oils and cheeses. If you can make your own pastas, the results will be especially delicious. You can substitute pork for wild boar. I am uncertain where to find zucchini flowers to fry unless I grow my own. There is a list of mail order sources for unusual ingredients just before the index.
What is special about this cookbook?
Cooking the Roman Way is filled with beautiful photographs by Allison Harris. Some show the dishes, but many more introduce the readers to Rome. The book is filled with historical reflections concerning the city, the citizens, and the dishes that they eat.
What recipes would I like to try?
It all looks good. I’d especially like to try Zuppa di Finocchio e Fagioli (fennel and bean soup on page 57), Fettuccine alla Papalina (fettuccine with ham and cheese sauce “in the style of the Pope” on page 101), and Crostini d”Abbacchio (lamb kebabs on page 164). I’d like to finish with Torta Ebraica di Ricotta (Jewish-Roman ricotta cheesecake with sour cherry jam on page 294).
Review by Rick