cover image ITALIAN HOLIDAY COOKING: A Collection of 150 Treasured Recipes

ITALIAN HOLIDAY COOKING: A Collection of 150 Treasured Recipes

Michele Scicolone, . . Morrow, $35 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-06-019991-3

The title of this solid collection is somewhat misleading: only about one-quarter of these recipes (including Fettuccine and Chickpeas for the Day of the Dead and Marinated Eel Skewers for Christmas Eve) correlate to specific holidays. The rest are simply beloved dishes that Scicolone (Savoring Italy) has gathered. Many do not hail directly from Italy, but from Italian-Americans, and the author reports that such family heirlooms are better preserved by Americans than by modern Italians. Semantics aside, these are excellent recipes for a range of dishes. A chapter on sauces and ragùs gives recipes for Tuscan Tomato Sauce, Fake Sauce (meaning that it's meatless), Vegetable Ragù, Sicilian Ragù with ground meat and Umbrian Ragù with cream and black truffle. Scicolone hits all the high points on the boot: the Monzù's Swordfish Pie from Sicily, Ligurian Seafood Salad and Easter Pie (with cheese and eggs) from Abruzzo. Often dessert recipes in general cookbooks are throwaways, but Scicolone provides three individual chapters, one on cakes and tarts; one on cookies, fruit and nuts; and one on spoon desserts, fritters and pastries. These are some of the book's most unusual selections and include Almond Brittle (Italy's famous torrone), traditional Chocolate Eggplant from Amalfi and Double Chocolate Pudding Tart, a less gory version of Naples's famed pig's blood pudding. Scattered descriptions of Italian holiday traditions provide some historical context, and the recipes make up for the lack of focus in this anecdotal collection. Photos. (Oct.)

Forecast:With the glut of Italian cookbooks available, one such as this that lacks a sharp focus will be hard-pressed to stand out.