Let me start by saying that when I agreed to review Jamie’s Italy I had no idea who Jamie Oliver is. I presumed he is a celebrity chef on The Food Channel, but my busy schedule allows no time for television. So when I was offered a copy and asked to review it, I did so with no preconceived notions of what to expect.
Unless I miscounted, Jamie’s Italy contains 121 recipes, only 44 of which I can or would consider serving. The remaining recipes either require key ingredients that are unavailable here in Arizona or don’t appeal to me. I have no idea what my fate would be if I served Polpo Semplice (basically stewed whole octopus in its own broth) to my family, even if I could get octopus here in Arizona.
Having said that, I like this cookbook for a couple of reasons. First, it is one of the few cookbooks I have enjoyed just reading. For example, one of the recipes I tried was Ribollita (which was a BIG hit). Preceeding the recipe is an entire page entitled My thoughts on Ribollita. It really gave me the assurance that while my own ribollita may not look the same as the one in his photo (and it didn’t), it was OK. In other words, Jamie’s Italy has been a great help getting me out of the ‘I am an engineer and I must follow this recipe exactly’ mode. You can’t help but do that when the recipe says, “stir in about four glugs of olive oil…”.
Most people I know suffer from the mistaken impression that Italian=Pasta. Of course, us foodies know better. That brings me to the second reason why I like this book: A few simple ingredients prepared in a simple way yet the result brings something new to the table. The Ribollita I made is a perfect example. The Zucchini in Padella is another. I am constantly on the lookout for recipes like these. Adam over at Men In Aprons also reviewed this book and made a couple of comments about the number of ingredients required in some of these recipies and wondering about authenticity. Again, using the Ribollita recipe as an example, I compared Jamie’s recipe to one I found in another Tuscan cookbook I consider pretty authentic, and I found them to be very close. From this experiment I think it is safe to say that the recipes are authentic.
In closing, I should warn you however that sections of this book are not for the feint of heart. The photo of the shepherd next to the bloody lamb he has just slaughtered is not something I cared to see. This is a beautiful book and would make a great coffeetable book except for the fact that you wouldn’t want to spring a surprise like that on your guests just before dinner.