cover image Food of the Italian South

Food of the Italian South

Katie Parla. Clarkson Potter, $30 (256p) ISBN 978-1-5247-6046-5

Food writer Parla’s knowledge and voice shine in this outstanding meditation on the food of South Italy from the Molise, Campania, Puglia, Basilicata, and Calabria regions. The recipes are the kind of waste-not-want-not dishes the once impoverished area is known for: a soup of chickpeas and dandelions, once considered weeds, from Calabria, and bread-stuffed peppers from Camania. Parla (Tasting Rome) excels at digging up local specialties, as with a soup with breadcrumb dumplings that hails from a town of 2,300 in the Campania mountains, or stuffed mussels from Puglia. Sidebars cover equipment and products, like the iron rods used to shape pasta and the buffalo mozzarella from an artisanal farm where the animals receive “spa treatments” and sleep on mattresses. Parla includes such pastas dishes as a spicy candele con ’nduju from Calabria and a Christmas-time spaghetti with dried fruit and nuts. For meats there’s a recipe for a Molise pork shoulder cooked in grapes, while a chapter on breads includes one from Basilicata made with fennel seeds. Desserts are in the same rustic vein and include cookies with mashed potatoes incorporated into the dough. This excellent volume proves that no matter how well-trodden the Italian cookbook path is, an expert with genuine curiosity and a well-developed voice can still find new material. (Mar.)