Serafina: Modern Italian Cuisine for Everyday Home Cooking, by Vittorio Assaf and Fabio Granato, features a wonderful variety of classic Italian dishes with the home cook in mind. A few highlights include Octopus and Potato Salad, Pizza Quattro Stagioni, Farfalle al Limoncello, Halibut with Moscato Sauce, and Focaccia with Nutella. I will also be sharing their recipe for Risotto alla Milanese following the review.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Rizzoli 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.
Vittorio Assaf and Fabio Granato
Vittorio Assaf and Fabio Granato are the founders of Serafina Restaurant Group.
In 1995, they first opened Serafina Fabulous Pizza at 79th Street in New York City and have now expanded with restaurants around the world. This is their first cookbook.
Vittorio Assaf and Fabio Granato begin Serafina with a short introduction and how they developed the idea for starting their own restaurant with a focus on Italian cuisine (particularly Northern Italian and Milanese).
They even devote an entire section detailing the ingredients which build the base for the cuisine, their origins, and regional identities. I especially appreciated the chart noting the differences between DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta, Protected Origin Denomination), DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata, Denomination of Controlled Origin), and more.
Chapters are divided according to course: Antipasti, Salads, First Courses, Main Courses, Side Dishes, Pizza, and Dolci. The contents list the included recipes with page numbers for easy reference.
The photography is provided by Mark Roskams with text by Lavinia Branca Snyder. Every recipe is paired with a full-page, styled photo of the finished dish. There are also a few step-by-step photos to demonstrate specific techniques such as making homemade egg pasta and gnocchi.
Measurements are listed in US Customary. Titles are written in Italian. Each recipe has a short headnote with background information, historical notes, yield, and serving ideas.
Risotto alla Milanese
I have tried Risotto alla Milanese a few times, but this recipe from Serafina is definitely a new favorite!
This version of the Milan-style risotto begins with creating a homemade beef bone base. Simmer the bones in a large stockpot with carrots, onion, celery, and parsley for about 3 to 4 hours. It is mostly hands off and develops a wonderful flavor to soak into every bite of rice.
The risotto itself doesn’t take much time, but does require constant attention on the stove and a nice arm workout. Chopped onions are first sautéed until softened, then tossed with the arborio rice before adding the saffron and wine.
To cook, the homemade beef stock is added to the rice, 1/2 cup at a time, while constantly stirring. Once the broth is mostly absorbed, another 1/2 cup is added. Repeat the process until the rice is tender and coated in a creamy sauce, about 20 to 25 minutes.
Immediately before serving, stir in grated Parmigiano Reggiano and salt to taste.
The notable golden color throughout the Risotto alla Milanese comes from saffron threads. Make sure it is pure saffron and try to avoid saffron powder to get the best flavor and color.
If using beef bones, I can usually find them in the freezer section already put together in 5 pound (2.25 kilogram) bags at my local Vietnamese grocery store (Westminster Superstore in Westminster, CA for those in the Los Angeles area) or specialty butchers.
I also made Classic Caprese, Spaghetti al Pacino, Chicken Paillard, and Pizza all’Uovo.
The Classic Caprese is an easy, yet flavorful salad featuring the best of summer. Ripe tomatoes are paired with mozzarella di bufala, basil, and olive oil.
Named after the Italian-American actor, the Spaghetti al Pacino is another incredibly easy meal. Just tender spaghetti is tossed with olive oil, garlic, red pepper, and parsley.
The Chicken Paillard comes together with only four ingredients for quite the quick and delicious lunch. Chicken breasts are pounded thin, grilled, and served with arugula and cherry tomatoes.
There is an entire section devoted to pizza. I was immediately drawn to the Pizza all’Uovo to use up a few ingredients I had on hand. A homemade pizza crust is topped with crushed tomatoes, mozzarella, eggs, and prosciutto di Parma.
Serafina is a great pick for those who love the restaurant or are interested in Italian cuisine. Many of the recipes come together easily, often within 30 minutes, while others take more prep or simmering time.
Most of the ingredients are available in larger grocery stores. A few items that may require further searching include black summer truffle, fresh seafood, porcini mushrooms, Belgian endive, pancetta, bottarga, cipollini onions, burrata, bresaola, and chickpea flour.
Risotto alla Milanese Recipe
Excerpt from Serafina
Risotto alla Milanese
- 5 pounds beef or chicken bones
- 2 carrots
- 2 small yellow onions
- 2 ribs celery
- 1 sprig parsley
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
- 1 generous pinch saffron
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- Salt to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Place the bones in a stockpot. Add the carrots, 1 onion, the celery, and parsley.
- Add water to cover. Bring to a boil, then cover with a tight-fitting lid and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.
- Simmer for 3 to 4 hours, occasionally removing foam with a skimmer. Add hot water to keep ingredients submerged, if needed.
- When the broth is ready, strain it through a cheesecloth-lined colander or strainer, then return it to the pot. Bring to a simmer over low heat.
- Chop the remaining 1 onion and heat the olive oil in a large skillet or saucepan.
- Sauté the chopped onion for 2 minutes, then add the rice. Sauté, stirring constantly, for 2 additional minutes, then add the saffron and the wine.
- Continue to cook, stirring frequently, and when the wine has been absorbed by the rice, add about 1/2 cup of the warm stock to the saucepan. Simmer, stirring constantly, until most of the broth has been absorbed, then add another 1/2 cup of broth.
- Continue stirring and adding stock when the previous addition has been absorbed, decreasing the amount added slightly each time.
- When the rice is al dente, 20 to 25 minutes, remove it from heat.
- Stir in the Parmigiano, season to taste with salt and black pepper, and stir vigorously to combine.