Two Pasta Dinners from “Jamie Cooks Italy”



To the surprise of no one, this cookbook, which has Italy in the title, is very strong on its pasta dishes. I mean, I would expect nothing less, though history has shown us here at Cookbook a Month that not all cookbooks deliver what they promise. In this case, at least, Jamie in Italy knows how to cook pasta.

We loved both these dinners. Roll on Jamie.

Sausage Linguine: As previously discussed, anything in this house that has the addition of pork products– be it bacon, sausage or otherwise– is a winner. For this recipe, you fry up a sausage, then add tenderstem broccoli, garlic, anchovies, chilli flakes and small glass of white wine. Toss linguine into the pan once cooked and then sprinkle cheese over the top (of course). Perfection.

Bucatini Amatriciana: This is also delicious. Essentially, you fry pancetta, add a sliced red onion, smash up a can of plum tomatoes, stir it into spaghetti and then eat. As Andrew is now in charge of cooking for himself at university, I’m going to send this recipe to him. It’s delicious, it’s quick, it’s easy: the holy grail of student/new cooks everywhere. Dinner FTW.

The fact that I could simplify both of these recipes into one sentence each is a real plus in my book. Don’t get me wrong– multi-page recipes have a time and a place, too, but it’s usually not on a weeknight when I’m trying to get dinner ready fast. Both will be winging their way into Andrew’s inbox. We’ll see if he actually makes them.

In the meantime, we can add these to the FTW weeknight dinner rotations.

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Two Pasta Dinners from “Jamie Cooks Italy”

“Semolina Teardrop Dumplings” and “Nonna Merdedes’ Fonduta” from “Jamie Cooks Italy”

This dinner was very much a team effort. It had to be, because when Tim told me what he wanted to make, I said, with all the loving support you can imagine, “I don’t think that’s going to work.”

He had decided upon making the dumplings, which looked intriguing but seemed to require either special Italian equipment or a colander with 1/2 centimetre holes, neither of which we had. But what we do have (in abundance) is piping bags, so Tim decided he’d use one of them, and after considering all the available tips I had, he went with a star one. This was why I was skeptical.

But guess what? I was wrong! It worked! I’m not sure if Jamie would approve, but using the star tip to make small pasta tubes worked fine. The pasta was undoubtedly bigger, but it still tasted good. The cheesy fontina sauce that went with it was also a hit, and a nice reminder of fondue season, which will soon be upon us. (HUZZAH)

Would we make it again? Maybe on a rainy Sunday afternoon. But it was definitely delicious.

“Semolina Teardrop Dumplings” and “Nonna Merdedes’ Fonduta” from “Jamie Cooks Italy”

“Pasta al Ragu” from “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat”

Really, this is just a fancy meat sauce for pasta, but oh my goodness, this was so good that this cookbook has already paid for itself in good eating just in this one recipe alone.

Like all good long-and-slow recipes– it took about four hours in all– it was bit of a faff up front, especially with all the chopping for the soffritto. But it was utterly worth it. I was surprised to see that the chopped up onions, carrots and celery and almost disappeared into the meat sauce by the time it was done cooking. The long and slow method also enabled all of the ingredients to really get to know one another to become one delicious unit.

However, and this is a biggie, I need to add a caveat: I really was utterly confused by the size of the citrus zest required. It said I needed a 28cm by 8 cm strip of zest– one of lemon, another of orange. I’m sure it was a typo. At least, I hope it was a typo. How in the world would I be able to get a lemon or orange that size? (Spoiler alert: I couldn’t.) I did look high and low on the Internet for some sort of clarification or correction on this, but couldn’t find anything. In the end, I cut about eight strips of zest off of both a lemon and an orange. It certainly seemed to work, though I’d still like to know how much I really need.

This does reintroduce the question of what happens when a book has a typo. I know it’s been tested and edited and proofread, but hey, mistakes happen. But in this day and age, you’d think the publisher would be able to put out some sort of notice somewhere. When Gizzi Erskine had a typo for her Black Velvet Cake in “Gizzi’s Healthy Appetite”, she put a correction on her Instagram account. For me, the correction came too late and the cake was an utter disaster, but at least the correction was out there.

That problem aside, this was utterly amazing. Sure, it took about four hours, which is not the sort of time commitment you can make on a weekday afternoon. But on a rainy Saturday, it was the perfect thing to have bubbling away on the stove while we got on with other things. (Some of us watched the Master’s. Some of us went to the pub. I’ll leave it to you to decide what I did.) Also, we had enough leftovers to have it again, though I did have to bulk it up a bit with a can of chopped tomatoes.

Sure, there are loads of other beef sauce recipes out there that can be done easier and quicker. But they couldn’t possibly be better than this. We thought it was perfection. Highly recommended.

A Question for our American Readers who have this book: Can you please check the recipe that’s in your addition? Anne from Australia said that in her edition it calls for the same zest measurements, but she guessed– and I agree– that perhaps they ran into problems when they converted it to metric. So I’d be curious to hear what it says in the U.S. book. I’ll post the answer here if anyone has it. Thank you!

“Pasta al Ragu” from “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat”

“Spaghetti Cake” from “Superfood Family Classics”

img_9483I read a lot. (This is germane to this post. Honest. Just stick with me.) For the last several years, it’s averaged out to at least a book a week. I’ve even kept a record of all the books I’ve read, which is either smart or sad, depending on how you feel about keeping track of things. Because I read so much and because I am nearly incapable of giving up on a book I’ve started, I have found myself “Hate Reading” books a few times a year.

Hate Reading is the literary equivalent of Hate Watching a television show. Hate watching is when you’ve devoted time to a series you love, which has taken a turn for the worse but you continue watching it to see how bad it can be. I’ve done the same with books, thus, Hate Reading.

Now I’ve done the same with this cookbook. But instead of Hate Watching or Hate Reading, I’m Hate Cooking from it. I don’t think I’ve ever reviewed a cookbook on this blog that has forced me to Hate Cook from it. Several times in the past I’ve given up on a cookbook, but I’ve never persevered with one out of pure hate. Until now.

So today’s offering is “Spaghetti Cake.” We love spaghetti cake. I made it before from “Two Hungry Italians” but they called it the far more lyrical, “Frittata di Maccheroni.” We loved it. In fact, if I had to say one nice thing about this version, it’s that it reminded me how much we love Spaghetti Cake, so I will make another [good] version for Meat Free Monday very soon.

Since I was Hate Cooking from this cookbook, I also decided that I don’t have to follow the recipes to the letter anymore. Usually we are pretty strict with ourselves that we stick to the recipes as closely as possible for the cookbooks we’re testing, but given that I already hate this cookbook, there’s no point in giving it a proper test any more. In this case, I ignored Jamie’s entreaties to get wholewheat spaghetti (there’s just no way) and I also used some of the leftover 7-Veg Tomato Sauce rather than making the spaghetti sauce from scratch, as called for in the recipe. But I don’t think following his instructions to the letter would have made it any better.

How was it? It will surprise no regular readers of this blog to find out that it was disappointing. Like I said, we already made a better version once before, but this one definitely fell short. It wasn’t nearly as interesting or fun as the previous version from the two Italians. It seemed that there weren’t nearly enough eggs added to bind it as a cake. It tasted more like reheated spaghetti than a proper spaghetti cake.

Even the photo in the cookbook didn’t do it any favours, because it appears that the food stylist just threw a bunch of rocket on top so people wouldn’t notice how badly it was burned on the underside. No. Just no.

I wish Jamie had given Spaghetti Cake a proper chance, rather than trying to make it all healthy, which just ruined a perfectly good dish.

Thank god this month is nearly over. I should have known better. I was Hate Cooking, after all.

“Spaghetti Cake” from “Superfood Family Classics”

“Sausage and wild garlic Linguine” from “Stirring Slowly”

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Kirstin: Oh this is so very yum!

Ella: I like this too. Even the bits with visible bits of broccoli.

Kirstin: That’s not broccoli! Really?!? That’s pesto with spinach, you noodle! Tom, you’re doing that thing again where you just eat!

Tom: It’s delicious! Is it from the new book.

Kirstin: It is! Would you like some more pecorino?

Miles: Can I finish off the pecorino?

Ella: Miles, you have parmesan to finish it all!

Kirstin: REALLY?!? That joke’s a bit cheesey.

Tom: I hope you’re making this again.

Kirstin: Totally. I’ll get Italian sausages next time. For sure. Brilliant. Just brilliant.

“Sausage and wild garlic Linguine” from “Stirring Slowly”

“Carbonara” from “It’s All Easy”

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Kirstin: Of course, for the ultimate carbonara recipe, you have to use the one from the Zuni cookbook, which has two kinds of cheese.

Tom: And broad beans.

Kirstin: We used to have it in San Francisco when it was broad bean season and we could buy them from Preston!

Tom: Yum!

Kirstin: Indeed. I’ve never had a bad carbonara. Have you?

Tom: Oh yes you can. It can be swimming in watery cheesey goo. This is a proper sauce. You would stick it to the wall if you threw it.

Ella: Anything you threw at a wall would stick if you threw it hard enough.

Kirstin: And what do you think of this Ella?

Ella: Edible. Kind of nice actually. You know when you eat food and it makes you feel like wow, I ate food and it made me feel full.

Tom: It is quite substantial. And probably very good food for you in the middle of the exams, no?

Ella: Also it’s CARB-onara.

Kirstin: Niiiiiice!

Tom: I like that you add the pasta water a little bit at a time.

Kirstin: Yes, I’ve had thirds. I should make this again. But not too often…

“Carbonara” from “It’s All Easy”

“Herbed Fresh Pasta” from “My Paris Kitchen”

IMG_2564I’m not really sure what fresh pasta has to do with a Paris kitchen, but David Lebovitz says in the introduction that he can’t say the French word for noodles (nouilles) so he skirts around the issue by making fresh pasta. It seems to me that he’s going to a lot of trouble to not say one word, but I can also appreciate how some French words are tricky to say, so I guess I can understand.

We have made fresh pasta before– we’ve even got the pasta maker (see photo above)– but it’s been a while. It’s been so long since we made it that I had to excavate it from the back of little-used cabinet. I couldn’t even guess when the fresh pasta making occurred, but my memory of past episodes was that it took an entire afternoon and it was a real pain to do. It’s hard to justify spending hours making something when you can get pretty decent pasta in your local shop, so that’s probably why we haven’t done it in a long time.

But we were pleasantly surprised at how straightforward this was. The drying of pasta step, which used to stymie us in the past, is skipped, so that may have made it that much easier. Also, the first mix of flour, semolina and eggs was done in the food processor, rather than by hand, which also made it a bit easier. The second kneading step, though, was done by hand.

The semolina we used was a bit dry, so we had to use more water so the dough wouldn’t be dry. You’re warned that might be the case, so we didn’t panic. For the herbs, we used a mix of parsley and thyme, which worked a treat when we paired it with the chicken piccata we had as a main.

Would we make this again? Absolutely. We’ve even moved the pasta maker into a more accessible location so we can do it again soon.

“Herbed Fresh Pasta” from “My Paris Kitchen”