Before she was a Food Network star and an internationally bestselling cookbook author, Nigella Lawson decided she wanted to be Italian. At the age of 17, she applied to study Italian at Oxford and spent her gap year working as a chambermaid in a family-run pensione in Florence, earning meager wages but learning a wealth of hands-on knowledge in Italian cooking. Today, Nigella brings as much of Italy as she can into her own kitchen, and now she celebrates the pleasures of Italian food in her very first Italian cookbook Nigellissima: Easy Italian-Inspired Recipes (Clarkson Potter, February 2013).
We recently sat down with Nigella and asked her a few questions about this very exciting cookbook. Check out the excerpt at the end of the post for a few sample recipes!
Why did you decide to write an Italian cookbook?
I never really ‘decide’ to write any particular book, I just find myself warming up on a particular theme and *then* I realise what book I am working towards. But the Italian theme was always an obvious one for me, it was just a case of when: I lived in Italy when young, studied Italian as part of my degree in Medieval and Modern Languages at Oxford University and there has been scarcely a year since that I haven’t spent a vacation in Italy. Italy is my spiritual (and gastronomic) home, and my children even have Italian names!
But as I started working on the book, it became clear to me that I didn’t feel the need to add to the huge number of books on the subject in the traditional, but rather I wanted to write about the food I cook in my London home, that is inspired by Italy but fused with my own culture and practices. Now, many of the recipes in Nigellissima are pretty straightforwardly Italian, but many are Anglo-Italian fusions, such as my plum and amaretti crumble. But all in all, the focus I wanted was on the spirit of Italian food, its speed and ease, and the unfussy simplicity of its flavors.
What is your favorite recipe in the book?
Now that’s an impossible question to answer: all these recipes are my babies! Still, the recipe I have probably made the most is my One-Step No-Churn Coffee Ice Cream; my children would probably say their favourite (and they tell me wholeheartedly and with a gratitude one does not expect to find in one’s offspring, that this is their favourite of all my books!) is the pasta risotto with peas and pancetta….
We know you love food just as much as we do, so we have to ask you the pressing question we’re always thinking about. If you had to choose your last meal, what would it be?
How long have you got? My last meal would go on for just about ever, not simply to put off the moment of my demise, but because there would be no reason at all to moderate my intake. As a discipline, now, though, I will limit myself to Nigellissima recipes and I think I would start with Parmesan shortbreads with prosecco then move onto a pasta with zucchini, then cod with broccolini and chilli, then my Italian roast chicken with gnocci gratin (all with a gorgeous Malvasia wine) then I would have to have gorgonzola with muscat grapes and some Tignanello, then perhaps end with frozen berries and white chocolate limoncello sauce with a shot of limoncello on the side….. Or would I prefer the chocolate olive oil cake, with a scoop of one step no churn coffee ice cream on the side, with a shot of Illy espresso liqueur? All of it, I think. And maybe a slice of yogurt pot cake, too!
Check out sample recipes from Nigella Lawson’s beautiful new cookbook, Nigellissima: