Passione: Simple, Seductive Recipes for Lovers of Italian Food features over 100 of Gennaro Contaldo’s favorite dishes and stories from his childhood. Along with the recipe I am sharing for Ndundari con Salsa di Pomodoro e Basilico (Pasta Dumplings with Tomato and Basil Sauce), other highlights include Zuppa di Piselli e Menta Fresca (Pea and Fresh Mint Soup), Agnolotti Ripieni di Carne Macinata (Agnolotti filled with Meat), Branzino con Salsa alla Rucola (Sea Bass with Arugula), Porchetta (Stuffed Rolled Pork Belly), Verdure alla Griglia (Grilled Vegetables), and Crostata di Limone (Amalfi Lemon Tart). I reviewed Gennaro’s last book, Pannetteria, in March and had just has much fun working my way through Passione.
Gennaro Contaldo is an acclaimed chef, food writer, restauranteur, and TV personality. He grew up in Minori on the Amalfi coast and started working in restaurants at the age of eight. He is the co-host of the series Two Greedy Italians with Antonio Carluccio and regularly appears on Saturday Kitchen. He is also the author of many other books including Pannetteria, Gennaro’s Italian Year, Gennaro’s Italian Home Cooking, Gennaro’s Slow Cook Italian, and Gennaro’s Easy Italian.
Disclosure: I received Passione from Interlink Books in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.
Chapters are divided based on course: Ingredients Essenziali (Essential Ingredients); Zuppe (Soup); Pasta; Polenta, Risotto, Gnocchi; Pesce (Fish and Shellfish); Carne (Meat, Game, Poultry); Verdure (Vegetables); Tramezzini (Snacks); Pane (Bread); and Dolci (Desserts).
Between the recipes and before every chapter, Gennaro shares stories of his childhood in Minori and his family. He begins with the development of his passion for cooking as a child while growing up near the mountains and sea. He learned about his ingredients first-hand, from fishing and diving for oysters to foraging for wild mushrooms and raising animals for meat. He also provides a short guide for favorite ingredients like dried porcini mushrooms, Parmesan cheese, oils, garlic, dried pasta, chili peppers, and anchovies.
The recipe photography is provided by Kim Lightbody. Many of the recipes are accompanied by a beautifully-styled full page photo, generally of the finished dish. Gennaro’s childhood photos are also scattered throughout the book. Measurements are listed in US Customary and Metric. The name of each dish is written in Italian and English. As a note, the font for the Italian title is written in cursive and some of the words can be difficult to decipher if you don’t already know how it is supposed to be spelled. Each recipe has a headnote with background information, serving guides, personal stories, and more.
This book is a great pick for those interested in Italian cuisine. There is a nice assortment of classic favorites along with lesser known regional cooking, easy-to-assemble snacks along with more time-consuming dumplings. Most of the ingredients can be easily located in the average American supermarket. Some more difficult to find items include polenta, pork belly, rabbit, guinea fowl, Taleggio and other cheese, Arborio, pancetta and prosciutto, limoncello, and fresh seafood.
Ndundari are pasta dumplings made with ricotta cheese as the base from Gennaro’s hometown of Minori. The dumplings are made every year on July 13th to celebrate the feast of the patron saint, Santa Trofimena. The cheese is combined with flour, egg yolks, Parmesan, and seasonings, then kneaded until smooth to form the dough. It is then rolled into ropes and cut into little pillows. They are boiled until tender, then tossed in a quick tomato and basil sauce.
Using ricotta cheese in place of the potatoes often associated with gnocchi make these dumplings a bit lighter and easier to handle. If you are still nervous about perfecting gnocchi, Ndundari is a great place to start. They are a little larger than gnocchi and a fun shape to make with children without the risk of the dough falling apart.
If the dough is still too crumbly after kneading, add a little more ricotta. If it is too sticky to handle, add a little more flour.
I also made Conchiglioni Ripieni al Forno (Baked Pasta Shells filled with Cheese), Bocconcini di Pollo con Aceto alle Mele (Chicken Bites Wrapped in Pancetta and Sage with a Cider Vinegar Dressing), Bruschetta, and Fragole Fresche con Salsa di Fragole (Fresh Strawberries with Strawberry Sauce).
Conchiglioni Ripieni al Forno is a favorite with my family. Large pasta shells are cooked just until al dente, then stuffed with a ricotta cheese mixture wrapped with basil leaves. The shells are baked with a homemade tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese on top until bubbly. It also held up well for Chad’s leftovers the next day.
Bocconcini di Pollo con Aceto alle Mele is a simple, yet elegant chicken dish. Pieces of chicken breast are wrapped with sage and pancetta, then pan-fried until seared and cooked through. They are served with salad and an olive oil cider vinegar dressing.
Bruschetta is a classic snack that is a perfect way to use up slices of stale bread such as ciabatta. The bread is toasted on both sides, then rubbed with garlic. It is topped with chopped tomatoes, olive oil, and fresh basil. This is one of my favorite ways to use up tomatoes from the garden.
Claire is absolutely obsessed with strawberries and picked out this Fragole Fresche con Salsa di Fragole for us to try. Halved strawberries are simmered in a sweetened lemon syrup and strained to create a smooth sauce. It is served with fresh quartered strawberries and mint/powdered sugar for garnish. We especially enjoyed the sauce with vanilla ice cream.
Ndundari con Salsa di Pomodoro e Basilico (Pasta Dumplings with Tomato and Basil Sauce)
Excerpt from Passione
1 2/3 cups (7 oz/199 g) Italian “00” pasta flour or all-purpose, plus more for flouring
1 cup (8 oz/225 g) ricotta cheese, well drained
3 egg yolks
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
A pinch of ground nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper
For the tomato and basil sauce:
2 x 14 oz (400 g) cans of plum tomatoes, drained and chopped in half
12 large fresh basil leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons (90 ml) olive oil
3 garlic cloves, thickly sliced
In a large bowl, mix the flour, ricotta, egg yolks, Parmesan, nutmeg, and black pepper together to form a soft, moist dough. Place on a floured work surface and knead for 3-5 minutes, until smooth. With your hands, roll the dough into a large sausage shape and then use a knife to cut it at right angles into rectangular shapes about 3/4 inch, 2 cm long.
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil and add the dumplings. Wait until they rise to the surface, then simmer for a further 2 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the sauce. Place the tomatoes and their juice in a bowl with half the basil, add some salt and pepper, and mix well. Heat the olive oil in a large pan and add the garlic. When the garlic begins to change color, remove the pan from the heat and add the tomato mixture. Replace on the heat and cook gently for 4 minutes, until the mixture is bubbling. Stir in the remaining basil leaves.
Lift the dumplings out with a slotted spoon and add to the sauce. Mix thoroughly and serve immediately.