Review: Cooking with Italian Grandmothers

November 5, 2010

I've traveled through Italy. In fact, five years ago I spent six months living in Florence, and then in Rome. And what I came back to the States with, other than a near-constant hankering for gelato, was an inspiration to find the freshest of ingredients and prepare dishes that were simple, rustic, and pure. I wanted to replicate the dishes I'd closed my eyes and “mmm”ed over, I wanted to share my ideas about eating locally, and I wanted to dig through my own Italian grandmother's recipe box to find the food of my heritage. Jessica Theroux's newly released cookbook, Cooking with Italian Grandmothers: Recipes and Stories from Tuscany to Sicily, brings me back, not only to Italy and the eleven cities I dined in, but to the kitchens where Italian cuisine is born. Within the thick, brown-paper-wrapped binding, Theroux recounts her year spent traveling throughout the boot. She writes passionately about the women who opened their cupboards, their kitchens, and their hearts to her. Twelve women in all, each sharing their recipes for authentic Italian and their beliefs about food. Theroux affirms the idea that a meal is never just the ingredients it was made of, but a history and a tradition too. Cooking with Italian Grandmothers reads like a diary, a treasured recipe collection, and a photo album, all at once. I felt inspired by the nearly 100 hundred recipes, a few as classic and familiar as Lasagna, as unique as Saffron-Rice Pie with Spiced Tomato Jam, as involved as Pumpkin Tortelloni with Brown Sugar and Sage, and all as mouth-watering as Caramel Poached Pears with Prunes, Almonds, and Cream. The foreword of this beautifully crafted cookbook, written by Jessica Theroux herself, perfectly captures its essence: "Good cooking, the kind that feeds the soul and nourishes the body, is the result of listening openly and acting simply. All of the women in this book taught me something about the power of food to connect us; to ourselves, our history, our land, our culture, to our past and present moment." Add Cooking with Italian Grandmothers to your collection and you, too, will taste your way through Italy with Jessica Theroux. -Andrea Mitchell, Foodista staff and blogger at



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Charles G Thompson's picture

I recently bought this book and can't wait to cook from it. Thanks for the write up (and reminder to pull it off my shelf!)

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always cooking's picture

I bought this book as a present for my mother recently. but I took a scan of the recipe for "spiced tomato jam" before gift wrapping it :-)

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