Cookbook Review: Cooking with Nonna by Rossella Rago

Note: I received a digital advance reader copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Is it possible to feel nostalgic for a childhood you never had? I never knew my grandmothers, but I always wish I had. Lucky for us, Rossella Rago decided to record for posterity all the authentic Italian dishes that she and other Italians grew up eating, cooked with love by their nonnas (grandmother in Italian). Growing up in an Italian-heavy neighborhood, I’ve always admired how simple yet brilliant Italian cooking is. It’s my fiance’s favorite cuisine, so I’ve been searching for an Italian staple cookbook for a while. I have a good feeling that Cooking with Nonna will be that cookbook for our family.

The recipes range from staples like Spaghetti and Meatballs and Sicilian Cannoli to more obscure Italian dishes I have never heard of, such as Sicilian Timballo and Mafaldine Pasta with Anchovies. All of them sounded delicious, reasonably easy to prepare, and had a certain credibility to them that only an Italian nonna can lend. About half are paired with a photograph and most of them also come with a helpful tip to ensure that the results come out as good as Nonna's. Contrary to my expectation that all the recipes would come from Rossella Rago's nonna, they are actually from a group of nonnas that are not all related. Some are the author's great-aunts, while others are women she has met during the process of writing this book or filming her Youtube show (which I had never seen before reading this book).

The photographs are great, though I wish there were more. However, I understand that there are less photos in order to make room for the nonnas, which I greatly enjoyed. Every 3-4 recipes or so, there is a page dedicated to each nonna whose recipe appears in this book, who also imparts some words of wisdom after a lifetime of cooking and loving their families, which in Italian households go hand in hand. I grew up in a similar food-oriented culture, so even though I'm not Italian, a lot of it did remind me of my own childhood. I love hearing about how food brings other families together, and between all the remarkable, strong women featured in this book, there are thousands of years of wisdom shared amongst them all.

I have yet to watch Rossella Rago's cooking show, but judging from the screencaps I saw of it online, she looks poised, beautiful, and skilled enough to become a cooking superstar. Giada de Laurentiis, watch out!

I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone who loves Italian food. In fact, it's already in my Amazon shopping cart. I can't wait to get started making some of these dishes, and I'm sure these family favorites will become favorites of my own family.

Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

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