Christine Smallwood is a food and travel writer who has written about Italy’s food gastronomy and led food tours in Italy. In Italy: The World Vegetarian, she takes what she’s learnt from the Italians she spent time with – the way they buy, make, view and eat food and turned it into a cookbook that celebrates Italian food, specifically fresh produce.
In her intro she shares words a restaurant owner once said to her; ”Why are our mothers such great cooks? Because they know how to shop well. They know how to recognise good, fresh produce because that’s the basis of everything.”
Fresh produce is the basis of each recipe in her cookbook – Italy: The World Vegetarian. Christine encourages you to enjoy produce when it is at its freshest, to learn and appreciate good quality olive oil – an ingredient that comes up over and over again. She encourages you to engage with the process of cooking – to stay in the kitchen while your food cooks, mixing it, tasting it and adjusting each recipe to your own liking.
The recipes are split into three sections, small plates (snacks and salads), large plates (pasta) and condiments. I’ve recently gotten into making homemade pasta and her recipes for pasta (and note that Italian kitchens aren’t packed with appliances) has gotten me exited to try more pasta variations using the tools I have. Her cookbook is a savoury, not sweet cookbook and the recipes are not difficult to make. All are vegetarian, plant-based and many are vegan or could easily be adapted to be. The only Italian recipe you won’t find in this cookbook is Pizza. According to Christine, it’s because most Italians know that to have good pizza, you need to go out to a good pizzeria. It’s a wonderful recipe book for those who love Italian foods and do currently or want to eat more plant-based meals.
The recipe I am sharing is the one for Mushroom stuffed gnocchi or gnocchi di patate ripieni di funghi. It is the very best gnocchi I have made and since eating it I’ve been dreaming up various gnocchi fillings. As explained in the cookbook, gnocchi stuffed with minced meat is found in various regions of Italy. Mushrooms which have a meaty texture and umami flavour work brilliantly instead of minced meat. Christine uses Desiree potatoes as they hold together without needing too much flour. I used the potatoes I had and have no idea what variety they were, but they worked so don’t worry about looking for a particular type. Do make sure that you cook out all the liquid of the mushrooms before adding them as a filling, so you don’t get soggy gnocchi.
Italy The World Vegetarian was given to us by Jonathan Ball Publishers and is available here. Opinions and images are our own. Recipe is reprinted from Italy The World Vegetarian with permission.
Zissy is the co-founder of Nutreats. She likes to make things, do things and wear things.