Lidia’s Celebrate Like an Italian: 220 Foolproof Recipes That Make Every Meal a Party, written by Lidia Matticchi Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali, features a variety of recipes perfect for entertaining, whether it be for formal affairs, casual get-togethers, or even weeknight dinners for the family. Highlights include Bocconcini di Pollo e Salsicce all’Aceto di Mele (Chicken and Sausage Bites with Apple Cider Vinegar Sauce), Tiramisù ai Frutti di Bosco (Berry Tiramisù), Prosecco Punch, Funghi Marinati (Marinated Mushrooms), and Ravioli di Pere e Pecorino con Salsa Cacio e Pepe (Pear and Pecorino Ravioli with Cacio e Pepe Sauce). I will also be including their recipe for Crostoli al Cioccolato, Chocolate Crostoli, following the review.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Alfred A. Knopf in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Lidia Matticchio Bastianich is the chef/owner of multiple restaurants, an Emmy Award-winning public television host, and founder/president of Tavola Productions, an entertainment company. She is also the author of Lidia’s Favorite Recipes, Lidia’s Italian Table, Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen, Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy, Lidia’s Family Table, Lidia’s Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine, and more.
Tanya Bastianich Manuali oversees the production and expansion of the LIDIA’S food line. She has also coauthored several cookbooks with her mother and brother, Joe. She currently lives in New York City with her husband and children.
Chapters are divided by course: Aperitivi; Appetizers; Salads; Soups; Vegetables and Sides; Polenta, Risotto, and pasta; Dish and Seafood; Poultry and Meat; and Desserts. The individual recipes are also listed in the contents for easy reference.
Lidia and Tanya begin with an overview of party planning and where to start. They go over the various types of parties and get-togethers with tidbits scattered throughout on traditions surrounding celebrations in Italian and Italian-American households. Every chapter includes menu planning ideas and information on how to serve the recipes.
Whether you are celebrating birthdays, New Year’s Eve, summer barbecues, brunch, pizza parties for the young and old, weddings, or family dinners, there are ideas to help make your party a success. I was especially drawn to the variety of recipes. There are an abundance of Aperitivi to help get your party started on the right foot, from those made with hard liquors to sparkling wines and softer drinks. There are also plenty of Stuzzichini- foods made for serving in small, bite-sized portions (some of my favorites!).
The seventy photographs are provided by Steve Giralt. Many of the recipes are accompanied by a beautifully-styled full page photo of the finished dish. The titles are written in English and usually Italian. Every recipe includes a headnote with background information, stories, menu ideas, serving size, and tips. The measurements are listed in US Customary only.
This book is a great pick whether you are looking for new entertaining ideas or just love Italian food. Recipes range from incredibly easy drink ideas to more intricate spreads perfect for Sunday dinner buffet-style. Most of the ingredients are readily available in the average American supermarket. Some more difficult to locate items include Grana Padano, porcini mushrooms, certain liquors, fava beans, golden raisins, dried peperoncini, semolina, pancetta, black figs, Taleggio, and sunchokes. Having a seafood market nearby will also be helpful for the seafood chapter.
Crostoli al Cioccolato (Chocolate Crostoli)
Crostoli are fried sweet Italian ribbons popular during holiday celebrations, including the upcoming Carnevale. This particular Crostoli al Cioccolato uses a cocoa-flavored dough, making it perfect for a special Valentine’s Day treat as well. The chocolate dough is rolled into a thin sheet, cut into ribbons, then each is tied with an overhand knot to form the pastry. They are fried until crisp before coating thoroughly in confectioners’ sugar mixed with cocoa powder for even more chocolate flavor.
Chilling the dough for at least an hour makes it easier to roll out and handle. It can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated for up to a day. The Crostoli al Cioccolato can also be fried a few hours early, but wait until right before serving before dusting with the cocoa confectioners’ sugar.
Looking for more delicious fried Italian treats? Try Tagliatelle Dolci di Carnevale (Italian Carnival Sweet Tagliatelle) and Chiacchiere (Italian Fried Pastries).
I also made Sgroppino, Crispy Shrimp (Gamberi Croccanti), Ziti with Kale Pesto and Crispy Bacon, and Tagliatelle with Porcini Mushroom Sauce.
Sgroppino is a slushy cocktail from Venice. Chilled Prosecco is mixed with lemon sorbet and a splash of vodka. Limoncello can also be used in place of the vodka. Prosecco lovers will also enjoy other recipes such as the Fragolì Prosecco, Pear Bellini, and Prosecco Punch.
Crispy Shrimp (Gamberi Croccanti) are shrimp coated in a breading with pickled peperoncini and fried until crisp and golden. While these are best fried fresh, they can also be kept for up to 10 minutes in a 325˚F oven. They are served with slices of lemon.
The Ziti with Kale Pesto and Crispy Bacon was a huge hit for the whole family. The pasta is tossed with a kale pesto sauce, pieces of bacon, and grated Grana Padano. I especially love the use of kale during the winter months when basil is more difficult to come by.
The Tagliatelle with Porcini Mushroom Sauce was one of my favorites. Unfortunately, the grocery store was out of stock for porcini mushrooms, so I had to substitute with other varieties. The mushrooms are browned in batches with garlic, then simmered in a buttery stock before tossing in the homemade tagliatelle noodles. Finish the dish off with a sprinkling of Grana Padano.
Crostoli al Cioccolato (Chocolate Crostoli) Recipe
Excerpt from Lidia’s Celebrate Like an Italian
Crostoli al Cioccolato (Chocolate Crostoli)
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter softened
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- Grated zest of 2 oranges
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour plus more for rolling the dough
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder divided
- Vegetable oil for frying
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
In a food processor, blend the butter, sugar, and salt until smooth. Add the milk, egg and yolk, orange juice, and zest, and process everything together until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the flour and 1/4 cup of the cocoa, and pulse until the dough comes together. Clean the bowl again, and pulse a few more times to mix thoroughly. Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, and knead briefly into a soft, smooth ball. (If it is sticky, knead in more flour in small amounts.) Wrap the dough tightly in plastic, and chill 1 hour (or up to 1 day).
Cut the chilled dough in half, and work with one piece at a time. Flatten the dough on a lightly floured work surface, and roll it out into a rough square approximately 16 by 16 inches. With a fluted cutter, trim the edges and divide it into fourteen strips about 1 1/4 inches wide. Cut all the strips in half to form twenty-eight ribbons, each about 7 inches long (they will shrink after you cut them).
One at a time, tie each ribbon into a simple overhand knot. Place the knotted crostini on a baking sheet lined with parchment, leaving room between them so they don't stick to each other. Roll out the second piece of dough cut and tie the same way.
Meanwhile, pour vegetable oil in a deep frying pan and heat to 360˚F. Fry the crostini in two or three batches until crisp and cooked all the way through, about 4 minutes per batch, turning occasionally. Drain on a paper-towel-lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining batches. To serve, combine the confectioners' sugar and remaining 1/4 cup cocoa in a fine strainer, and dust the Crostoli al Cioccolato through the strainer, turning them to coat both sides.