BOOK REVIEW: Seven dishes from Two Greedy Italians by Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo

by - May 28, 2011

Have you all been watching Two Greedy Italians on the BBC? Brilliant isn't it? Not just relying on the whimsical, lemon grove, rose-tinted view of Italian food culture, TGI also represents modern Italy. Although to be honest where I'm from in the country, it is still very food and family centric and women that can't cook are still frowned upon! But great to see Antonio and Gennaro celebrate and enjoy not only the food, but the real meaning of it within the culture there today. I particularly liked the residential drug rehabilitation centre set up to put youngsters back on track by teaching them skills such as cheese and wine making - trust the Italians to treat addictions with food creation! But it seems to be a really beneficial focus for these young people and you can see their genuine passion for their new found vocations.

Anyway, I was lucky to be sent the book ahead of the series to try out and I can honestly say it is as good as the televised series. There are plenty of fantastic, simple and humble recipes that have been loved by generations past and still made to this day. The vegetable in particular is celebrated with lots of simple contorni, or side dishes, that are stars in themselves. I adored the beans with fried breadcrumbs and pine nuts, that my dad tells me was the pasta topping for poor Italian families that couldn't afford Parmesan cheese! Delicious - Jamie Oliver does a fab cauliflower risotto that uses these fried breadcrumbs with chilli as a topping.

Recipes are interrupted by interesting cultural pieces on Italian regionalism, the north-south divide, cucina povera, religion, immigration and street food which help get an understanding of the origins of the Italian people and foods.

It was easy to cook plenty of dishes from this book as, being a greedy Italian myself, most of the ingredients were in my store cupboard anyway. So far I have tried seven dishes with plenty more bookmarked for the coming weeks like the braised greens and polenta cake, garlic soup and caramelised orange cake. The below were the tried and tested recipes, all of which were a success and ones I will be making again.

This is a must try, Fagiolini e Compagni " green beans and co", a divine topping of fried breadcrumbs and toasted pine nuts which really made the beans shine:

This rustic dish of chicken livers, porcini mushrooms and homemade Tajarin pasta was divine, with a good kick of Marsala:

Making the most of the British asparagus in this raw asparagus and Parmesan salad:

The sea bream with everything from the Med - lemons, olives, garlic, capers, anchovy, wine, tomatoes and herbs - made for a quick, light and tasty mid-week meal:

I shoved this chicken with artichokes, onions, potatoes and rosemary in the oven to feed a crowd of mates which went down a storm:

Carluccio seems to love the use of breadcrumbs and this was an ideal, healthy and quick version of breaded chicken. Stale bread was whizzed up with olives, sun-dried tomatoes and herbs and placed on top of some white fish. Delicious:

Finally this quick dish of broad beans with a walnut, garlic, chilli pesto was created as we waited for the pasta to boil:

Carluccio and Contaldo are from different regions and so recipes are represented from both, showing how diverse the food is in a place that has only existed as a united country for 150 years.

There are some of my Italian favourites as well as some new regional discoveries in these book that truly represents Italian cooking and is essential for anyone remotely interested in the cuisine or want to know a little more about the culture of this cuisine.

Essential for the cookbook shelf.

Two Greedy Italians by Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo is published by Quadrille and costs £20.00.

Many thanks to Quadrille for this copy to review.

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