I’ve just seen the new cookbook from my friend Patrizia Cantini of Florence and it’s a beautiful work, one filled with recipes she learned from her mother. As mentioned in the title, the recipes are from two Italian regions, Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna and they cover everything from classic appetizers such as Fried Zucchini Flowers and Bruschetta to pastas such as Tortellini in brodo and Spaghetti al Pomodori Secchi (dried tomatoes) to several wonderful main courses, such as Coniglio al Timo (Rabbit with Thyme) and Fagianella con Lambrusco (Pheasant with Lambrusco).
I asked Patrizia why these two regions, and she explained that her mother was born in Emilia-Romagna and then moved to Florence. Patrizia was born in Florence and still lives there today. I asked her which of these two regions she considers herself more a part of. “For me, it’s difficult to say which region I identify myself more with,” she told me. Interestingly, she told me that while her cultural background is absolutely Tuscan, her soul is “probably more Emilian.” Continuing, she explains, “People from Emilia-Romagna have a particular capacity to work hard and enjoy life. They love to eat, drink and dance. In the countryside in Emilia-Romagna, you can see older people dancing with the young people.”
When it comes to cooking, Cantini explains the differences with these two regions. “The Emilian tradition is based on fresh pasta and first courses. Emilia-Romagna gave birth to tortellini and lasagne. In the past, they cooked with pork fat, as they didn’t have olive oil.” As for Tuscan cuisine, she explains that “the Tuscan tradition is based on olive oil and more on second courses. We have a lot of dishes with game or rabbit, but we have a lot of soups too.”
Cantini has been teaching cooking classes since 2011, but she notes that her greatest pleasure “is to be able to carry in her family tradition, especially the Emilian one with tortellini, lasagne, ravioli, gnocchi and tagliatelle.” She didn’t know her grandmother very well, as she died when Patrizia was only four years old, but she points out how great a cook her mother was; today, she is trying to pass on her knowledge of cooking to her teenage daughter. Cantini has dedicated the book to her maternal grandfather, who lived near the Apennines south of Bologna. She notes his house in a small village called Trasserra; some of the recipes in the book were made in this very house.
The recipes are easy to follow with simple photos accompanying them. Measurements are in metric, so you may have to go on the internet to convert from grams to ounces, but it will definitely worth the trouble once you take the time to make her version of Leek and Ricotta Cheese Flan, Pork Stew with Potatoes or the classic Strawberry Mousse (there are some excellent dessert recipes worth trying in the book as well).
What’s nice about the book is the simplicity and heartfelt emotions of Patrizia Cantini, who tells the reader in her introduction, “unlike many chefs, I do not have a story to tell. I can only say that when you eat well you are happier.” How can you not love someone with that outlook on life?
This e-book can be purchased at amazon.com. Here is the link.