A Taste of Italy: 100 Traditional, Homestyle Recipes

Damiano Carrara was born and raised in Italy, spending winters in mountainous Bologna and summers in coastal Lucca. In both areas, Carrara's family grew and raised most of the food they ate. Through his father and mother, his grandmother and a great-aunt, Carrara learned how to turn out simple recipes with the freshest ingredients. This began Carrara's culinary career, ultimately landing him as a contestant on Food Network Star (season 12). His celebrity enabled him and his brother to later found Carrara Pastries, cafés located in Southern California.

In his first cookbook, A Taste of Italy, Carrara shares his favorite recipes, prefacing each with evocative tidbits about re-creating dishes from childhood and from favorite restaurants. One half of the book is devoted to a sampling of savories: antipasto, soups, salads, sides, pizza and main courses. Notable highlights include several varieties of tartare; spinach lasagna with a rich, creamy Béchamel sauce; a straightforward brown butter sage chicken with fingerling potatoes; and a light and easy farro salad with shrimp. The second half showcases Carrara's passion and prowess for sweets: biscotti, cakes, fruit pies and gelato. The pièce de résistance is Carrara's signature Torta della Nonna, or Grandmother's Pie, which is an elegant, double shortbread crust filled with fresh vanilla custard and capped with sliced almonds and pine nuts. Carrara's well-balanced, deliciously presented cookbook will inspire home cooks to don aprons and dash into their own kitchens. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

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