I’m going to let you into a little secret: this is my first cookbook review. I’ve reviewed other books, but never a cookbook. Now some cookbooks make good reading and others are all about the recipes. Mama’s Family Cookbook has an introduction which tells you about the author: an Italian great grandmother from Apulia who cooks for her large, extended family on a regular basis. Aside from that introduction, Mama’s Family Cookbook is all about the food and the recipes.
The dish that really caught my eye was Penne al Pollo or Creamy Chicken Penne. I thought I’ll try that one, have a good read through the book and write my review. I tried the recipe and I was disappointed. It didn’t taste bad, but it did taste bland. Mama does suggest adding dried chillis and canned tomatoes to add depth to the sauce in a tip alongside the recipe, but this seemed to be a creating a different dish to the main recipe.
So I’m starting to feel a bit out of my depth. I’m a rookie cookbook reviewer that has tried one recipe that wasn’t much good. Do I slate the book? That seemed a bit harsh on the strength of one recipe. So I decided to try another. This time I went for Pollo alla Parmigiana or Chicken Parmesan. This was much more successful. The recipe was easy to follow and the dish had the gutsy flavours that I associate with Italian cooking, in fact it was very rich. I’d recommend serving it with a side salad, bread or lots of plainly served vegetables to mope up that deep, rich sauce.
So then I thought what does that tell the reader of my review: one dish was good and one was bland. It’s difficult to decide whether you like it or you don’t. So I decided to try another: Rigatoni ai Zucchini or Roast Courgette Rigatoni. I followed the recipe for the most part, but I added an extra clove of garlic and a bit more onion. It seemed to benefit from the slightly stronger flavour. This was a hearty, flavoursome dish that didn’t require a great deal of work.
So what did I think of Mama’s Family Cookbook overall? There were more wins than fails and I think I learnt to add more flavouring to recipes as I went along. That said, not everyone has the confidence to do this and you do expect a recipe to have been thoroughly tested before publication. I’d say it’s a good collection of Italian cookery, but feel free to experiment and make changes to suit your tastes.
I was given a copy of Mama’s Family Cookbook for the purpose of carrying out this review.