ITALIANS LOVE TO EAT, and they have an innate sense of hospitality. Their spontaneous
warmth is one of the factors that contributes to the success of Italian restaurants all over
the world. Food is prepared with care and attention. Good quality fresh, seasonal produce
is regarded as essential and the natural flavour of food is never masked with complicated
sauces. The culinary tradition of Italy is based on vegetables, cereals, fish and olive oil:
a healthy way of eating which appeals to modern tastes.

Today Italy enjoys comparative prosperity, but in the past large areas suffered under
centuries of foreign rule, and hunger was an ever-present enemy.

The people learned to make the most of whatever ingredients were available and wild or
home-grown vegetables, and bread often provided a complete meal. The traditional cooking
of the poor, known as the cucina povera, used care and imagination to make simple
ingredients festive. Expensive items like eggs and cheese were used sparingley,and
vegetables, herbs and olive oil played the dominant role. In the southern region around
Puglia, for example, round or square friselle were made from whole wheat flower or oats,
are baked hard so that they would keep indefinitely. It was not unusual for the evening meal
to be friselle dipped in water to soften them slightly, then heaped with chopped ripe
tomatoes and good olive oil Pasta has become an international favourite, so much so that most households would have
a packet of pasta lurking in the kitchen. Non-Italians tend to make a complete meal of pasta
and salad. However in Italy today pasta is eaten as a first course, followed by meat or fish
and a vegetable dish.

Often an appetiser or antipasto is served before the pasta and the meal is completed by
fresh fruit or a dessert, dolce. Some people even enjoy a plate of cheese before the dessert.
Visitors to Italy are often amazed by the quantity of food consumed in one meal and can
usually get no further than the pasta course.

For years I was convinced that pasta was the only course worth eating in Italian restaurants
because the meat and fish dishes seemed so predictable. It was after I discovered regional
home cooking that I became truly enthusiastic about other courses and could lament the
dearth of interesting main courses on restaurant menus. In the last few years, however,
many chefs have painstakingly researched forgotten recipes, adapting them to suit modern
tastes, so that today’s menus offer a greater variety and pasta now has some stronger
competition.

This collection of recipes represents some of my personal favourites most of which are not
easy to find outside Italy.

The book is divided into sections according to the main ingredient the quantities given in the
recipes are for six people if the dish is served in its usual place on the Italian menu.
If you are serving pasta or rice as a one dish meal, you may need to increase the quantities.
Indeed, all the recipes are versatile: each dish can be cooked as a one course meal,appetiser
or main course, according to your personal preference. I have not included desserts because
fresh fruit makes the perfect eating to most Italian meals.

The Italians have survived their troubled past by perfecting the art of arrangiarsi- adapting
themselves to the prevailing circumstances. If you cannot find a certain ingredient, improvise
and use what is available. The dish will taste different, but it will have your personal touch
and this too is part of the Italian tradition.

Buon Appetito