"Remember one thing, my darling. One day nonna won't be here anymore. And I want you to be able to do all the things that nonna does!" -Rossella Rago, Cooking with Nonna
That is the opening line of Rossella Rago's popular debut cookbook, Cooking with Nonna, and is one that I can relate to. As soon as you open the book, you are faced with dozens of old family photos and handwritten recipes, and instantly feel as if you are invited to be a part of the family. Rossella begins by telling us about her very first culinary venture at the tender age of six years old in Nonna Romana's kitchen in Brooklyn. Although the adorable tale ended in a baking "disaster", she was eager to help her nonna in the kitchen from a very young age.
Rossella continues to discuss the importance and familiarity of Sunday dinners in Italian families, and how one Sunday changed her life forever: when she decided to create the Cooking with Nonna web TV series. On a personal note, I could relate to Rossella feeling as if she has to "carry the torch", being the one to learn anything and everything from our nonnas and to carry on the traditions and values they instilled in us from childhood, inclusive of the delicious recipes that they created. A nonna's culinary expertise is not to be taken for granted, but is to be realized that they have true talent when it comes to creating meals that bring friends and families together.
I love how Rossella includes a guide to getting started and what tools to have in the kitchen. Although having many of these tools are imperative to creating meals, they also aid in the creativity process when it comes to cooking. She also includes some basic ingredients to always keep in your pantry. These are helpful hints to being able to create any of her classic Italian recipes at any given time.
Rossella's recipes begin with that of homemade pasta doughs and photos of various types of pastas, and also some basic sauces. I think this is a great way to start the cookbook, as pastas are the foundation of countless Italian dishes, and basic sauces are easy to build on and experiment with.
One of the things I love most about this cookbook is the stories Rossella includes, they are at the heart of this book and everything Rossella does. Not only are the recipes mouthwateringly delicious, but they all have a history behind them. In particular, I loved the story of Nonna Romana, who Rossella says "has become a nonna to the world." If you have seen any of Rossella and Nonna Romana's videos, you know that this is true. Her story is both heartwarming, but most of all shows just how strong she was, and is, for her family. Not only does Rossella include Nonna Romana's story, but also dozens of other nonne who share their stories and love of cooking, which make this book so much more than a cookbook.
Some of my favorite recipes from the cookbook are the Sicilian Rice Balls (Arancini), Stelline Pastine with Parmigiano, Stuffed Artichokes, Rigatoni with Fried Eggplant, and Whole Stuffed Branzino, just to name a few! On the sweet side, Rossella includes recipes for traditional Italian desserts like Sicilian Cannoli and Ricotta Cheesecake, and various cookies, such as Anise Cookies which my family makes every spring.
It is evident that Rossella is truly passionate about what she does and about sharing her nonna's recipes and traditions with the world. The recipes in this book are approachable, and with her step by step instructions, anyone can create these traditional Italian dishes. I think everyone should have a copy of Rossella's debut cookbook, which is why I am doing a GIVEAWAY!
HOW TO ENTER
Head over to my Instagram or Facebook page, @TheSweetPaisana, for details on how to enter the giveaway.
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The Sweet Paisana