The normal cooking book for me, is one from a renowned chef or one that has a very chef like looking individual gracing the book's cover. However having spent part of my culinary life maturing in an Italian kitchen, I find myself more than a little drawn to publications from Italian Chefs. My admission must be that after a year and a half in that kitchen, I feel that I have a strong enough background to gauge Italian culinary authenticity.
If you love real Italian cooking, food that is presented in its most natural state then Nick Stellino's Passione is for you. The book features Pasta, Pizza, and Panini recipes. Each of these three food types are broken down into their relative chapters with a modest introduction to each, a bounty of tips and a few of Nick's personal culinary philosophies. The pasta section filled in some blanks of where my chef of yesteryear's English fell short (not that I am knocking anyone's English). Other tips reinforced the lessons of my younger days. Pasta Pappardelle with Lamb Sauce, not the usual pairing with pasta but this dish erupted with flavor. Papardelle is a much under used pasta in many kitchens. Scallop Tortellini with Pea Sauce and, very elegant. Prosciutto always a good companion to seafood. Risotto and gnocchi recipes additionally fall in to this section of the book. Pizza this chapter starts with a simple pizza base recipe and progresses from the more straight forward style of pizza to the sophisticated. The Pizza with Roasted Eggplant, Sausage and Provolone works really well. Panini it is a tough call to say which is better the panini or its Latino cousin the Cuban sandwich. The Prosciutto Sandwich with Mint, Mascapone and Parmesan, certainly puts an interesting twist in to the equation.
What I most enjoyed when reading this book, is the way product is used. For a chef it is easy to develop habits with the way they use ingredients. Passione serves as a good reminder of what else I could be doing with some of the simple items that I cook with on a daily basis, for a chef that is very healthy.
The recipes are well laid out, and after several were put through their paces in our test kitchens (we have two, a professional kitchen and a home kitchen) they were found to be accurate, easy to follow, not requiring a ton of prep and tasty. Woven throughout the book are some of Nick Stellino's reminiscent culinary memories. This I would normally find a little nauseating, however his execution of these stories is anything but that, quite inspirational in fact.
Nick Stellino's Passione: Pasta, Pizza, and Panini is a more than worthy addition to any culinary library. It is set out for home use but I feel has great inspirational potential for the work place too.....