“The recipes in this book represent a love of food and family”, author Emily Richards writes in her new cookbook “Per la famiglia” and I couldn’t agree more. In this cookbook, Emily lets us into her heart and her home and shares with us her most treasured family recipes. I come from a Southern Italian family myself and as I was reading through the recipes and short stories, it brought back so many memories of my own life growing up in an Italian-Canadian family. I’ll admit I shed a tear or two looking at the food pictures. Yes…food pictures! Food is more than just food. Food represents memories, good times and big celebrations shared with family. As I read the recipe for Cudduri, I thought of my Zia Rina. I would walk into her home at Christmas Eve and the smell of fried goodness would fill our noses (and our clothes) and all the good times that came along with sharing this food. Beautiful! I love it.
I thoroughly enjoyed the food photography that accompanied almost every recipe in this cookbook. As I’ve said in other blog posts, I’m a huge fan of great food pics! Pictures are what entice me to recreate a recipe. This cookbook is not short on pictures and I think it’s great that Emily styled her own. It shows how talented she is in addition to creating this beautiful book.
In the beginning of this book you will find a food glossary that includes bread, cheese, cured Italian deli meats, peppers and more. This is a great guide for those who are not of Italian decent, not familiar with Italian culture, and who would like to pick up a few Italian staples. She also has a section on kitchen staples. Foods you should have stocked away, ready to eat at any given time. This section is particularly helpful for the busy Mama or Papa. If your ever in a pinch and need a quick meal, you have a perfect tasty homemade meal ready at your fingertips. These meals are easy to make and can be made in large quantites to freeze or jar for a later date.
Another notable section in this cookbook is the outlined menus for Italian celebrations. Here she goes over some popular celebrations for Italians including St. Joseph’s Feast, Easter, Baptism/First Communion/Confirmation, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day and sample menus you might have on each of these occasions. The rest of the book is divided into the following chapters with recipes included in each: Easter, Christmas, Antipasti, Pizza e Pane, First Courses and Light Meals, Main Courses, Vegetables and Salads, Desserts, and Cookies. Everything you need to know food-wise if you want to celebrate Italian-style.
The first recipe I was inspired to make was the brodo (chicken soup). No pictures beside this one but it didn’t need any. I know exactly what brodo looks and tastes like. This was something I ate at least a couple times a week growing up as I was a super picky eater and my poor mother struggled to find a meal I would like every day. When I first got married, as good Italian mothers do, my mother would pack us frozen homemade brodo for myself and my husband. I don’t know why but I never asked her for the recipe. I remember attempting a Martha Stewart vegetable broth in the early years of marriage that turned out absolutely tasteless. Since then, I had no motivation to make brodo until now. This recipe was ridiculously easy and I am so happy that I made it….well I should actually credit the husband for this one. Sadly as I was cutting a leek, my knife slipped and I sliced 3 fingers. As I was at the hospital, my hubby gladly finished the rest of the soup for me and he did a fine job! When I walked back into my condo, the smell of brodo filled my home and a flood of memories went through my head. I was thrilled that it smelled EXACTLY like my mamas and almost (almost) shed another tear!
The second recipe I was inspired to recreate were the arancini (rice balls). It is something I’ve also never attempted to make but absolutely love eating. These were also very easy and completely doable for the beginner cook. I found the arancini must tastier in a homemade tomato sauce but completely up to you how you would like to eat them. Here’s the recipe:
Arancini (Cheese-Filled Rice Balls)
2 ½ cups water
1 tsp saffron threads
1 ½ cups Arboro rice
½ cup freshly grated Romano cheese
2 tbsp butter
6 oz Mozzarella, Provolone, Asiago or Havarti cheese
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup dry seasoned bread crumbs
4-6 cups canola oil for deep frying
Filling: In a large saucepan, bring water and saffron to boil. Add rice; reduce heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, for about 20 minutes or until tender but firm. Add cheese and butter. Let cool completely.
Coating: Meanwhile, cut cheese into 16-18 cubes; set aside.
In a shallow dish, whisk eggs; set aside. Divide rice mixture into 16-18 balls. With fingers make indentation into each ball and fill with a cheese cube. Seal indentation. Roll balls in flour; then egg; then in breadcrumbs. Set aside on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. In a large deep saucepan or deep fryer, heat oil over medium heat to 375 degrees. Fry balls, in batches, about 2-3 minutes or until golden crispy. Drain on a paper towel-lined baking sheet. Makes 16-18 balls.
Make ahead: You can make the arancini up to the point of frying them; cover and refrigerate for up to 4 hours. Let come to room temperature before frying in oil.
A couple notes on my experience making these:
I did not have saffron so I obmitted it completely. I couldn’t find any at my local Longos grocery store and I don’t keep it at home as it is quite expensive.
I made the mistake of not boiling the rice at a lower heat setting for a longer time. The problem with this is that the rice had too much moisture in it therefore making it difficult to roll the rice into balls. I countered this problem by adding a little extra flour to my hands when rolling in order for the balls to stay in place and it worked out perfectly. I also made the mistake of putting the balls in the fridge, wrapped in plastic wrap prior to rolling them in the coating. This did something to my mozzarella cheese filling…it stayed quite solid even after frying. Note: I have a toddler running around me during the day and for those who do not have children, this translates to unfinished work all the time! Things that are completely out of my control. I also did not have 4-6 cups of canola oil. I had maybe 2 cups or so and used this amount to fry the balls. This required turning them once throughout the frying time. I would recommend either making or buying a tasty tomato sauce to accompany the arancini. All in all, these were amazing! They will definitely become a regular recipe in my family and my toddler and husband loved them!
I really wish I could have tried the super tasty looking Nutella Pizzelles! I have yet to purchase a pizzelle maker…it’s on my Christmas wish list this year.
Some other great recipes you will find in this cookbook: Homemade Tomato Sauce, Fresh Creamy Ricotta Cheese, Ricotta Ball Soup, Cream-Filled Doughnuts, Cheese-Filled Sicilian Cake, Genetti Cookies, Mussel Soup, Fried Mixed Fish, Tiramisu Trifle, Panettone Bread Pudding, Christmas Cookies, Balsamic Glaze, Grilled Sausage Pizza, Fried Calzones, Olive and Rosemary Bread, Roasted Squash Agnolotti, Spinach Ricotta Gnocchi, Spaggetti Carbonara, Easy Gorgonzola Cheese Sauce, Spinach Ricotta Cannelloni, Slow Cooker Lasagne, Nonna’s Meat Sauce with Polenta, Fresh Pork Sausages, Roast Pork, Pickled Hot Peppers, Garlicky Green Beans, Tomato Cucumber Salad, Ice Cream Roll Cake, Celebration Custard Cake, Amaretti Cookies, Nutella Tie Plates (Pizzelle), almond biscotti and many, many more!!
The only thing I would have liked to see that wasn’t there were subtitles under the family pictures! I would look at them and smile and think to myself “wow this is such a great picture, this reminds me of so and so..I wonder who this is!” It was truly heartwarming to see Emily’s family pictures throughout the book and made it all that more personal.
Reading this beautiful cookbook reminds me of how important it is to keep culture and family traditions and pass them on to my children. Italian or not, traditions help to keep certain things that are important to you, in your family. Every family has their own and will create new ones as the years go by. A big thanks to Emily for reigniting the passion in me to recreate, keep, and pass on some recipes that are familiar to my upbringing. The recipes that remind me of big family get-togethers, intimate weeknight dinners, warmth, love, and compassion.
**I received this book from the generous Whitecap Books to give an honest review. All opinions and thoughts on this blog post are 100% my own. You may purchase “Per la famiglia” from chapters.indigo.ca or amazon.ca for $18.77 (price subject to change)