One glance at this book and I realized it is unlike any other Rachael Ray cookbook. For one thing, it is this shorter, boxier rectangular shape. It will not fit on the bookshelf like her other books but will stick out some, which I kind of like. The second thing I noticed was that there are several recipes – I hope you’re sitting down – that take significantly longer than 30 minutes to prepare. Even for Rachael Ray. Bolognese Sauce takes 2 hours, which is about how long it takes to make Mario Batali’s version. On the other hand, Marcella Hazan’s recipe takes minimum 4 hours.
I confess Rachael Ray’s thirty minute meals generally take me about an hour. It can take fifteen minutes for me just to gather the right pans, herbs, and ingredients. I tend to like things chopped finer than she does, and I’m just not that quick about things. But I do like a lot of her recipes. So I’m not too concerned about how long it takes to make some of this stuff, as long as it is good. And for the most part, it is.
Having married into a Sicilian family, and grown up in NY, I cook a lot of Italian food. So it is always with some trepidation that I open an Italian cookbook. I’m happy to say Rachael Ray did not disappoint.
Starters, Salads and Small Bites
Pizza, Calzones and Focaccia
Pasta, Gnocci, Polenta and their Sauces
Risotto and Grains
Pork and Lamb
Beef and Veal
Just looking at that list, I knew this was a cookbook I’d want to dive into. Separate chapters on pizza, pasta, and risotto? I’m in for sure. Her One-Hour Dough for pizza is very good, but the Naples Pizza Dough that rises for 2-3 days in the fridge is even better.
This is her most personal cookbook for sure, having grown up in an Italian family. She shares a lot of their recipes, most of which she has tweaked and there is not a better recipe tweaker around. I loved her mashup of Veal Saltimbocca and Marsala, which is something I’ve often done myself. It just works beautifully. She also offers that chicken cutlets can be subbed for the veal, and I’ll add that so can pork cutlets – which is usually what you are getting when you order veal parm and it costs less than $25. But I digress.
Another winning mashup is her Penne alla Vodka with Prosciutto and Peas, which is fantastic. Anytime I can add prosciutto to something I’m happy, and the peas are a sweet bonus.
Ray offers tips, variations and substitutions throughout the book, which I think is one of her hallmarks. She makes every recipe seem accessible to cooks at any level.
The Gorgonzola Sauce is a snap for a quick after work dinner, everything gets zapped in the food processor then simmers on the stove while the pasta cooks. I tried this with spiralized zucchini and it was awesome. On the other hand, I wasn’t a fan of the Marinara Sauce, it had fennel in it which to me, makes it something other than marinara. Same with the Pomodoro Sauce, she adds chicken stock which is just weird to me.
The Cioppino, AKA Christmas Eve dinner, is a wonder and takes a bit of work, as it should. Chicken Piccata with Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus, well, you know how I feel about prosciutto and it certainly works here.
Desserts are probably the weakest chapter, but as Ray herself proclaims, she is not a baker. Nonetheless, there are some very good recipes here for classic Italian desserts like Sesame Cookies, Zeppole and Ricotta Cheesecake.
Finally, cocktails. She had me at the Creamsicle. You know what it is, just boozed up. I subbed some orange soda for the phosphate, wouldn’t know where to get that. As Ray would say, Delish!
8/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™
EVERYONE IS ITALIAN ON SUNDAY by Rachael Ray. Atria Books (October 27, 2015). ISBN 978-1476766072. 408p.