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Music – “O Mio Babbino Caro From Gianni Schicchi” from Tuscany: A Romantic Journey by Roberto Occhipinti. Released: 2005.
A recent cookbook I came across in my travels was “A Tuscan in the Kitchen”, by Pino Luongo, with Barbara Raives and Angela Hederman, published in 1988. The book (which I found in my trusted thrift shop), had been purchased at Libreria BM Bookshop, in Florence, Italy, in 1992.
Other than much older “receipts”, which I find frequently in my vintage and antique cookbooks, this is one of the rare modern cookbooks I have used, which does not specify any quantities in any of the recipes. As the author, Pino, indicates, “And forget about amounts and cooking times when you use this book. I’ll help you understand that in your own kitchen you have all the freedom in the world to do exactly what you want, and the best way to arrive at solutions is through common-sense”. Pino also says that he doesn’t give exact cooking times, either, as an exact time doesn’t exist. More importantly, as most good cooks would know, “…there is a way to understand when food is ready that has nothing to do with the clock”.
Last evening, I decided to try “Rigatoni Alla Buttera”, or “Peasant-Style Pasta”. The ingredients are broken down in each recipe, by category:
canned tomatoes smashed in their own juice
hard-wheat pasta (but definitely not spaghetti – the author recommends tagliatelle or pappardelle).
grated parmesan cheese
sweet and hot Italian sausages
The recipe is pretty straightforward: peel the casings from the sausages, break into chunks and sauté without oil. Drain, add some pepper and set aside. Melt some butter in the pan and add the cooked sausage, the peas and the tomatoes. Cook until thickened, add cream and reduce. Add enough Parmesan to thicken the sauce. In the interim, cook your pasta al dente, drain and toss with the sauce.
It was delicious and without writing down the quantities that I used, I cooked enough for my spouse and I with a very small portion leftover. I trusted my cooking experience to judge the proportions and the quantities, and the cooking time and it worked out just fine. Even with the large number of cookbooks I have in my collection (I just passed the 3,700 mark), I frequently cook “ad lib”, without a cookbook or a recipe, perhaps changing something since the last time I cooked it, but this is one of the rare times I’ve found a modern cookbook, without the quantities specified. It was fun and I discovered I could rely on my experiences and senses to tell if it was done and if it tasted good! Now, if I could just wing a trip to Tuscany…