The book is split up into two sections. Part I: 'then' and Part II: 'now'. The 'then' explores family recipes cooked in Valeria's childhood home, the Venetian Countryside by Valeria's grandmothers and mother, some recipes are three generations passed down. The 'now' is all about the foods she makes in her modern Italian kitchen. You'll find recipes where she has drawn from tradition but also modern influences from her travels and current home, London. You don't see the obvious dishes of Italy in this cookbook, instead it explores a region I think that is less well known.
Each recipe in the book has an introduction that gives you tips and a story to the dish. I love when there is more than just a list of ingredients and a method - it makes the whole book much more personal. I love knowing why a recipe's made it in a cookbook, why they make it, who makes it for them and why it's been carried down for generations. I'm a nosey little tosser really!
When I finally picked a recipe, this was no easy task may I just reiterate, it was on a cooler night last week when I was home by myself so the entire book was my oyster without the usual comment of 'is there chicken in it?' *rolls eyes*. This meant I got to choose a recipe that was full of veg and carbs - my favourite! I checked what we had in the fridge and pantry and decided the pumpkin and rice soup which is in Part 1: 'then' would be my dinner. I wanted to cook something I've never made before and this caught my eye. It looks and sounds pretty much like risotto but according to Valencia the difference is the way it's cooked so it's called a soup instead.
It was such a simple recipe I couldn't believe it while I was making it, I kept thinking surely I need to do something else or add something more here but nope. It's a genius way to make risotto .. sorry soup and I completely understand why it's on her mum's list of favourites. I didn't add the optional Italian pork sausage but will next time as the salty savoury-ness of the sausage stirred through would work so great against the sweetness of the pumpkin. Mmmm yum.
Next on the list to make is the prawn and prosecco risotto, baby octopus and potato salad, venetian-style doughnuts and Ice Cream 'drowned' in coffee & Amaretto - umm how decadent do they sound?!
Anyway... here's the recipe incase we get a cold snap this spring or you haven't accepted winter is truly done and dusted and you're living with the air-con set on 18C OR, if you're on the other side of the world to me, it'd be a great fall recipe to make.
Rice and Pumpkin Soup - Risi e Sucarecipe adapted from Veneto by Valeria Necchio
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 brown onion, finely chopped
800g pumpkin, peeled and chopped into 3cm chunks
1.5L vegetable or chicken stock
250g risotto rice
100g Italian pork sausage, crumbles (optional)
50g parmesan cheese, finely grated
freshly ground black pepper
In a wide, heavy-based saucepan, melt the butter and when it's hot and bubbly add the onion and fry on a low heat until translucent, stirring every so often so it doesn't colour. Stir in the pumpkin and cook over a medium heat until the edges of the pumpkin are soft, make sure you stir often so nothing colours.
Pour in the hot stock, reduce the heat to low and simmer until the pumpkin is cooked through and falling apart. Remove from the heat and using a stick blender, blitz until smooth. Season to taste.
Place the pumpkin stock back on a medium heat and once it comes back to the boil, add the rice. You will need to stir quite frequently to avoid the rice sticking to the bottom but you don't need to stand there as a slave to your pot. Cook for about 15 minutes or until the rice feels tender and the soup has thickened and turned dense and creamy.
Remove from the heat, allow to cool slightly.
Meanwhile, if you are using the Italian pork sausage in the recipe, fry the crumbled sausage in a dry frying pan until browned and cooked through. Stir into soup at the very end along with the grated parmesan and a fresh grinding of black pepper.