Book Review: Ciao Italia Family Classics

Ciao Italia Family Classics - coverWhen it comes to Italian cuisine, Mary Ann Esposito is an institution. She is the host and creator of Ciao Italia with Mary Ann Esposito, the United States’ longest running cooking program which has been on the air since 1989. She is also the author of 12 Italian cookbooks and also has a website, www.ciaoitalia.com.

In her twelfth cookbook, Ciao Italia Family Classics, Esposito admits that she is both a traditionalist and a minimalist as she strives to let the best ingredients shine on their own in all of her recipes. Strongly influenced by both of her grandmothers and her mother, the author has created an outstanding collection of recipes featuring many Sicilian and Neapolitan favorites. In addition to the more than 200 recipes, Esposito also includes a chapter entitled “Italian Pantry Basics” where she describes the key ingredients most commonly used in Italian kitchens. She also stresses the importance of planning meals and bringing the family back to the dinner table to eat together despite busy, hectic schedules. The author contends that eating together, in the Italian tradition, promotes conversation, togetherness, reassurance, and relaxation. She also talks about the importance of teaching children about good food so that they can make healthy choices as adults.

While reviewing Ciao Italia Family Classics, it became evident early on that this book is a must have cookbook for anyone who loves Italian Cuisine. Indeed, it was difficult to choose just three recipes from this book. They were all very appetizing and most were accompanied by amazing, mouth-watering photos. Each recipe also had an interesting anecdote in which Mary Ann Esposito draws from her rich Italian heritage to describe the origins of the recipe and its importance to her. We decided to try the Arancine Siciliane (Sicilian Rice Balls), Calzone di Ricotta alla Mamma (Mom’s Ricotta Cheese Calzones), and Cannoli alla Nonna Saparito ( Nonna Saparito’s Cannoli). Esposito’s recipe for the risotto is delicious enough, but to then to roll it into balls and deep fry it takes it to ethereal levels. The Arancine Siciliane is an amazing side dish or appetizer that you absolutely have to try. The Ricotta Calzones were equally delicious. This is a simple recipe that lends itself to experimentation. There are a multitude of vegetables and meats that could be added to the cheese calzone base to create incredible entrees. For dessert we tried an Italian classic, cannoli. This was also relatively easy recipe that resulted in a delicious dessert with a light crispy shell combined with a cool, creamy, chocolaty filling. It was difficult to eat just three of these!

We give Ciao Italia Family classics 5 out of 5 stars. It is packed with recipes of traditional Italian favorites that are easy and accessible. In addition, most recipes include beautiful photographs and interesting descriptions. It would be a cherished collection of recipes for anyone that loves Italian cuisine.

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