When most Americans think of Italian cuisine, they probably picture something closer to what is actually Italian-American cuisine—a big departure from authentic Italian food. The Italian families that immigrated to America years ago brought with them their treasured family recipes. But subsequent generations were forced to adapt and alter these dishes due to the unavailability of particular products, differences in kitchen setups and tools, and other discrepancies. Hence, the pizza sold at American pizza parlors is nothing like the authentic focaccia from which it likely descended.
The purpose of this book is to give you a feel for authentic Italian cuisine; however, compiling a comprehensive collection of recipes to represent the food of Italy is an enormous task. Italy is broken up into several regions, each of which has its own unique character that is dictated by geography and culture. In addition to these regional differences, there is also a distinction between the food of Italy's home kitchens and that of Italian restaurants. From one place to another, you will encounter different spices, different vegetables, and different meats, but they all contribute to the general Italian palate.
In this book, you will find many recipes that are considered “authentic” Italian cuisine, such as Osso Buco, Pasta e Fagioli, Zuppa di Pesce, and Bruschetta. You will also see some recipes for traditional Italian dishes, but with a slight twist. These might include the addition or substitution of a new ingredient not typically associated with that dish, as in Citrus-Braised Halibut, Turkey and Cranberry Sausage, and Pork and Apple Meatballs.
And there are a few dishes that are usually associated with other cultures that are given here with traditional Italian ingredients or a typically Italian flair. Some examples of these dishes are Chicken Terrine and Fish Casserole, both of which are based on French recipes. You will also notice shallots in many of the recipes. Shallots are not a traditional or typical ingredient in Italian cuisine, but they can be used in place of onions in many recipes for a fresh, distinctive flavor.
Though some of these recipes are already altered from their original state, you should feel free to further customize them to your own tastes and the tastes of your family. You can add and subtract ingredients to make foods creamier, sweeter, more colorful, or more nutritious. It is not only okay to substitute or vary ingredients in recipes, but it is also fun and fulfilling to do so. No recipe is sacred, and cooking is all about experimentation!
You will find information to guide you through some specific processes of Italian cooking. There are tips for preparing dough, helpful hints for making your own sausage, definitions of particular cooking terms, a list of basic ingredients to have on hand, and much more. The only other thing you need is a kitchen! So, put on your apron and read on. You're about to embark on an exciting and mouthwatering Italian journey!