Lidia’s Italian Table

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Lidia Matticchio Bastianich has captured the essence of Italian cooking in Lidia’s Italian Table, which is the companion piece to her twenty-six part series of the same name on PBS. In sections that include antipasto, soups, fresh pasta, dry pasta, rice, gnocchi, polenta, vegetables, game and chicken, meat, fish and shellfish, and sweets, Bastianich presents dishes that have a familiar “Italian” ring, yet are not what most people consider typically Italian dishes, such as her Sauerkraut and Bean soup. Bastianich’s early life was spent in a northern Italian town that borders Slovenia, therefore her recipes are Italian combined with a bit of Slavic flavoring, which results in some very unique dishes.

Bastianich also includes a chapter on ingredients which are the cornerstones of Italian cuisine: parmigiana-reggiano cheese, olives and olive oil, truffles, porcini, tomato paste, hot peppers, salt, wine and grappa. Bastianich explains that knowing how to buy, store, and use these ingredients is a must in Italian cooking. Her core ingredients of Italian cooking are highlighted in tasty recipes such as Asparagus Gratin with Parmigiana-Reggiano Cheese, Tagliatelle with Porcini Mushroom Sauce, and Zabaglione with Barolo Wine. Bastianich’s recipes also bring new life to some foods, for example the versatility of polenta is showcased in dishes such as Polenta, Gorgonzola, and Savoy Cabbage Torte and White Creamy Polenta with Fresh Plums.

The recipes for “dolci” or desserts in Lidia’s Italian Table are both tempting and delicious. She includes such classics as Apple Strudel and Zabaglione and more enticing fare such as Blueberry-Apricot Frangipane Tart and Sweet Crepes with Chocolate Walnut Filling. As with most of Bastianich’s recipes, these recipes are straightforward enough for anyone to follow.