The celebrity chef-written Italian cookbook is by no means a rarity today. So, is it even possible for such a book to stand out from the crowd? As it turns out, yes. Jonathan Waxman’s new cookbook, Italian, My Way: More Than 150 Simple and Inspired Recipes That Breathe New Life into Italian Classics, proves that there is still much to learn in the realm of Italian cooking, and he is the perfect teacher to guide us in the kitchen.
Waxman is a master Italian chef, and this is the cookbook for those who would like to be more masterful. No “easy Italian” here; this food requires the patience of a rural nonna. But those with the time and means to do all that Waxman asks will undoubtedly be rewarded with the ability to cook for friends and family at a quality that rivals the best restaurants in New York (including Waxman’s own). This book could save you hundreds of dollars in restaurant bills.
Jonathan Waxman may not be a household name, but consider the list of chefs who praise him as one of, if not the, best chefs in America: Jamie Oliver, Mario Batali, Bobby Flay, Alice Waters, and Tom Colicchio, who wrote the forward to this book.
Although Waxman’s recipes are not easy, they are simple, a quality that is endearing in an age when most food is so overly processed as to be unrecognizable to farmers. When you have the highest quality, freshest ingredients, there is no need to get too fussy over them, and Waxman will teach you the importance of finding the best ingredients.
Italian, My Way contains over 150 recipes, both inventive and traditional, divided in the following way: Salads, Antipasti, Zuppa, Pizza, Pasta, Contorni, Pesce, Carne, Pollame, and Dolce. With so many italicized chapter names, it is clear this cookbook will be good.
The salad section stresses the importance of seasonal ingredients, and there are recipes for each time of the year — blood oranges and fennel in the fall, tomatoes and lavender blossoms in the summer. After eating shaved asparagus for the first time at Mario Batali’s restaurant, Eataly, and loving it, I was happy to come home and discover that Italian, My Way also has a recipe for “Raw shaved asparagus with lemon dressing” that was equally tasty. I was also surprised to find that shaving asparagus is not only relatively quick and easy, but also fun. (I have always liked the feel of peeling vegetables, which is how one “shaves” asparagus.)