Lidia’s Favorite Recipes, by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali is a down to earth, no frills, beginner friendly Italian cookbook. I thought it would be a good choice for our family of five, and that intuition proved correct. Out of ten recipes made, we were happy with them all. This is Italian comfort food, forcing you to happily stretch out on the couch before you can even think about boxing up leftovers and doing dishes. Be warned, each recipe makes a lot of food! I repeatedly scratched out ‘Serves 6’ and wrote in ‘8-at least’. I’ll probably do half recipes when revisiting.
I made: Egg-Battered Zucchini Roll-Ups (p. 9), Rice Balls (p. 22), Tomato and Bread Soup (p. 34), Shells with Young Peas and Mushrooms (p. 61), Basic Risotto (p. 83), Italian American Meat Sauce (p. 98), Swiss Chard Potatoes (p. 113), Brussels sprouts Braised with Vinegar (p. 119), Roasted Pears and Grapes (p. 185), Ricotta Cookies (p. 208), Almond Torta with Chocolate Chips (p. 209).
Would add to my regular rotation: Rice balls (p. 22), Shells with young peas and mushrooms (p. 61), Almond torta with chocolate chips (p. 209).
Standout Star Recipe: Rice Balls (p. 22). The recipe makes a crazy amount, but I froze them (first on a sheet pan, then moved to a freezer bag) and I thaw in the refrigerator and then fry them, and it is such an easy dinner with some vegetables and/or a quick tomato sauce.
Quick answers to important questions:
- Is it necessary to spend a bunch of money for new equipment? Nope.
- Are the ingredients expensive? Mostly not, unless you’re making meat dishes.
- Are the ingredients difficult to find? No.
- Can I use ingredient substitutions? Yes.
- Are the recipes complicated? Not really, though some require a bit of time investment. Beginners welcome!
- Can I feed kids from this book? Yes, simple food=kid friendly.
- Is this book on my side, trying to help? Yes.
- Is the text of the book helpful and/or interesting? Yes, very helpful and sometimes interesting background information.
- Are recipes on one page or do I have to keep flipping back and forth while cooking? There’s been an effort, perhaps, but not enough.
- Is this book beautiful and would it belong on a coffee table? The photos are nice but this is not a coffee table book.
- Did I learn and grow as a cook while using this book? Yes. I made arancini for the first time ever, and also risotto.
- Are ingredients given in weight? Nope, sadly.
- Is there advice on how to make ahead/store/reheat food? Some, but definitely could have used more.
- Can these recipes be adapted for different dietary needs? About 60 percent could be adapted very easily to vegetarian.
- Can kids help with these recipes? Yes, once you’ve made it once or twice.
- How delicious is the food? Solid A’s, really tasty.
- Are the recipes healthful? Can they fit in to a balanced diet? Not low calorie, but fresh. Portion sizes seem big.
- Is there a set of values underpinning the book? Yes. Cooking at home, enjoying food with loved ones.
- Good gift? Yes, for beginners, anyone interested in Italian cooking, and anyone with a big family to feed.
TLDR: Good, simple Italian recipes for crowds and families or those who want plenty of leftovers. Nice gift for someone beginning their home cooking journey.
Find Lidia’s Favorite Recipes wherever you buy books, or get it from Amazon! Cook, share, enjoy!