cover image CIAO ITALIA IN UMBRIA: Recipes and Reflections from the Heart of Italy

CIAO ITALIA IN UMBRIA: Recipes and Reflections from the Heart of Italy

Mary Ann Esposito, . . St. Martin's, $25.95 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-312-30329-7

Host of the PBS cooking series Ciao Italia, Esposito (Ciao Italia—Bringing Italy Home) offers only about 60 recipes in her latest collection, but the book succeeds on two levels. First, the dishes from Umbria reflect a simple, rustic fare not overexposed in other Italian cookbooks. Known particularly for its olive oil and truffles, the area in the middle of Italy's boot (bordering Tuscany) specializes in such dishes as Veal with Black Truffles; Pork-Stuffed Celery, an October specialty made for the Festival of Celery and Sausage; and Pork Chops Spoleto Style, which call for kalamata and cerignola olives and dry white wine. Umbrian Ragu Sauce contains ground pork, ground beef and diced ham and requires less than an hour to prepare. Gubbian Flat Bread is made with a scoop of batter poured into a half-inch of hot oil. There is even a Chocolate Olive Oil Cake. In addition to the recipes, Esposito includes 18 personal essays recalling the visit she and her TV crew made to Umbria, when she watched a local cook make pasta, interrupted a farmer tending his garden and witnessed an elaborate race involving likenesses of saints. The brief reminiscences are charming vignettes that enable the reader (even Italophiles who have shelves full of Italian cookbooks) to feel the experience. (Nov.)