It’s easy to ignore things that have been overdone. So, do so at your own risk.
If you lined up all of the pasta/spaghetti sauce recipes that are currently in print there’s a good chance it would stretch to Genoa and back again. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But, let’s be honest about it, that space in the culinary world is pretty darn crowded.
When you pick up most Italian style cookbooks you can expect the expected. Some pasta recipes, roast chicken recipes, some fish, meats and of course the many amazing desserts of Italy. This broad brush approach to most cookbooks of that region is what sets this effort apart.
Born and raised in the northern Italian city of Bologna, Biba Caggiano, takes a more defined approach to the subject. The title of her book, Spaghetti Sauces: Authentic Italian Recipes from Biba Caggiano, says it all. Nothing more needs to be added. If you’re looking for a recipe for Bistecca Fiorentina, you’ve opened the wrong book.
Here’s the good news, if you are in search of an authentic, easy to produce, yet elegant pasta dish, then Biba’s got what you’re looking for. This book defines great, simple pasta and sauces. Enough said.
Broken down into it’s component parts, the book makes it easy to choose a style that suits your mood and taste. Cheese, Pesto, Quick Tomato, Vegetable, Seafood and Ragu. There’s no searching through indexes or page after page of recipes that all seem to run together. Simple is the theme of this cookbook.
Enough talk. How about some authentic Italian pasta (and sauce).
It was hard to choose, trust me. There are lots of great food images in this book. On one hand, it makes coming to a decision easier, but on another, those photos will make you second guess yourself.
Ah, the humble ham. I just love prosciutto. It makes anything you add it to just sing.
I chose this particular dish because the ingredients and directions were so basic and simple that I just had to see what kind of flavor it would yield.
I ended up with a couple of nice pea shots, so you get to see both.
Here’s How To Do It
1 10 oz. package frozen peas, thawed (or 1½ lbs. unshelled fresh peas)
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 or 6 fresh plum tomatoes, minced
salt and fresh ground pepper
¼ lb. sliced prosciutto, diced
1 lb. spaghetti
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
If you are using fresh peas, shell them and cook in a medium saucepan of salted boiling water until they are tender, but, still firm. About 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Start cooking your pasta according to the package directions.
While pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until they reach a light golden brown and are soft. Add the garlic, stir once or twice. Add the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and cook until tomatoes begin to soften. About 4 to 5 minutes. Add the prosciutto. Stir for 1 to 2 minutes then add in the peas. Stir until contents of the pan is heated through. Remove from heat.
When pasta is almost done remove ½ cup of the cooking liquid and reserve. When the pasta is done, drain and add to the skillet. Add butter and mix it quickly over low heat until all of the ingredients are well combined. Add some of the cooking liquid as necessary. Adjust the seasoning and sprinkle with some of the cheese.
Recipe adapted from Prosciutto, Tomatoes and Peas, Biba Caggiano, Spaghetti Sauces: Authentic Italian Recipes from Biba Caggiano, Gibbs-Smith
TIP: This dish really comes together quickly and easily. Since there are so few components in this dish, it’s important to use the freshest possible ingredients you can find. You’ll thank me later.
The Bottom Line: This is the type of cookbook that will get used time and time again in most every home kitchen. The recipes and equipment needed are within easy reach of any home cook/chef. You won’t have to embark on a treasure hunt for any exotic and hard to find ingredients. So, that means there is a reasonable chance that you can execute many of these dishes with things you may already have in your fridge or pantry.
If you happen to live in the Sacramento California area, you can get some of Biba’s food at her namesake restaurant.
Author: Biba Caggiano
Hardcover: 128 pages
Publisher: Gibbs Smith