Recipes without Quantities – Tuscan fun!


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.

A Tuscan in the Kitchen, by Pino Luongo, with Barbara Raives & Angela Hederman, published in 1988

A Tuscan in the Kitchen, by Pino Luongo, with Barbara Raives & Angela Hederman, published in 1988

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”.

Tuscany, Italy.  Who wouldn't want to visit this beautiful region and sample the food?

Tuscany, Italy. Who wouldn’t want to visit this beautiful region and sample the food?

Last evening, I decided to try “Rigatoni Alla Buttera”, or “Peasant-Style Pasta”. The ingredients are broken down in each recipe, by category:

black pepper
canned tomatoes smashed in their own juice
hard-wheat pasta (but definitely not spaghetti – the author recommends tagliatelle or pappardelle).

Cold Storage
grated parmesan cheese

sweet and hot Italian sausages
green peas
heavy cream

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.

Tuscany, Italy

Tuscany, Italy

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…

About vintagecookbookery

Cookbook lover and collector with a burgeoning collection of cookbooks. Reading and researching food trends, history of cooking techniques and technological advances in cooking, what we eat and why and cookbooks as reflectors of cultures is a fascination for me. As of November 7th, 2013, I hold the current Guinness World Record title for the largest collection of cookbooks: 2,970 at the official count on July 14th, 2013 (applaud now, thank you very much!) The current (unofficial) number is now 6,500. What next? More shelves?
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3 Responses to Recipes without Quantities – Tuscan fun!

  1. Thanks so much for your comments! I think you’re right….after years of cooking, you get that ‘gut’ instinct for what will work and what won’t, quantities, etc. I think it’s called ‘trial by fire!’

  2. I once copyedited an Italian cookbook that was translated into English. I found it so frustrating because the quantities and instructions were really vague. Years later, I’m getting better at trusting my instincts when I cook. Also, I’m really enjoying your blog and love the music!

  3. Mayomix says:

    That seems to be how early Americans and many cultures cook. When I made food with Latino friends we measured ingredients with hands and fingers and sometimes spoons. It made meal preparation feel like a natural expression and extension of the body.
    So, my chili is never the same twice, and that’s perfectly good. It’s all part of the joy of creating comforting dishes.

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