by Kate Heyhoe
Summer in Italy fires up hearts and kitchens alike. Young lovers ride tandem, touring the sunny countryside, on put-putting Vespas. Storefronts shut down for two weeks while whole families migrate to the beaches. Strolling couples share gelati and frozen fruit ices on late, balmy nights, after a simple supper or an evening at the opera.
No matter what the temperature may be, there is always the pasta. Americans have taken to serving pasta in the summer, but usually as pasta salads, drenched in mayonnaise or vinaigrette. Not so in Italia, where pasta is more frequently served warm or at room temperature, with a savory sauce—not a salad dressing.
In Italy al Dente: Pasta, Risotto, Gnocchi, Polenta and Soup, Biba Caggiano shows the Italian brilliance of emphasizing less as more. Traditional and modern dishes from all regions shine in their simplicity, the pure flavors of their ingredients shimmering and sparkling like the waves of Venezia's Grand Canal.
As Biba's newest book, Italy al Dente is as warm and charming as she is. You may recognize her from her TV series, "Biba's Italian Kitchen" and other media appearances. with Italian cooking featuring so few ingredients and uncomplicated cooking procedures, Biba, as she is familiarly known, stresses the need for quality. 'Keep in mind," she writes, "that for a true Italian flavor, you must try to secure the ingredients listed in the recipe, even if that means going the extra mile. Even though the Italian attitude toward food is surprisingly more relaxed than it used to be, thankfully we still don't do fusion cooking!"
In presenting a profile of Italy al Dente, I decided to focus on pasta dishes that complement the season—these recipes are full of summer's best flavors: sweet shellfish, ripe tomatoes, hot peppers, tender arugula. Put them in your June menu plans and you'll see why pasta in Italy is a food to be eaten all year long—warm, hot or al fresco.
Italy al Dente
The Glories of Italian Cooking
by Biba Caggiano
Photographs by Ellen Silverman
William Morrow & Company, Inc.
1998, Hardcover, US $25.00
Recipes & photos reprinted by permission
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