Celebrating Italy’s Glorious Vegetables

GV stack

In 2008, my family and I took a trip to Venice. Five years later, my most vivid memory of that trip is not of the Piazza San Marco, or the cathedral, or the gondolas wending their way through the canals. It is of the incredible display of vegetables at the Rialto farmers’ market. The selection of radicchio alone was enough to make me dizzy–fat, scarlet bouquets of Chioggia and Verona; furled red and white fingers of Treviso; pale green and pink-speckled heads of Castelfranco. Behind them spilled blood-red tomatoes and peppers, and atop those sat a big, squat winter squash, sliced in half, its orange flesh practically glowing. What a show!”

That’s the opening paragraph of The Glorious Vegetables of Italy, which is officially out today. Those words pretty much sum up why I decided to write a book on Italian vegetables ~ or, more accurately, the vegetables that star in Italian cooking, from artichokes to zucchini. So much color, so many choices ~ who wouldn’t be inspired?

Pasta and pizza may be the rock stars of Italian food, but they owe a debt of gratitude to vegetables. Most of my favorite pasta dishes aren’t covered in sauce, but rather tossed with whatever vegetables happen to be in season (right now it would be eggplant, peppers, tomatoes or zucchini ~ or eggplant, peppers, tomatoes and zucchini).

I’m thinking, too, of a dinner I had just last month in Abruzzo, at the home of my friend Fabrizio Lucci. His mom, aunt and cousin served us guests no fewer than 12 different types of pizza, each pie topped with a different vegetable ~ artichokes, eggplant, fennel, peppers, rapini, zucchini, and so on. There was an especially memorable one stuffed with slow-cooked onions.

In a happy coincidence, there is a chapter on pizza (plus calzoni and panini) in the book, with recipes for potato pizza, pizza with roasted fennel, and grilled pizzas with all sorts of vegetable toppings. And possibly the best panino you’ll ever eat ~ stuffed with fried zucchini blossoms, tomato and fresh mozzarella. There are also chapters on pasta (of course), garden soups and salads, main courses, sides, desserts, and preserves and condiments.

I also want to mention the Gallery of Italian Vegetables, a section in the front that profiles the players (Beans: a big, broad family; Spinach: the virtuous vegetable; and so on) and includes helpful information on choosing, cleaning and preparing them.

Diptic veg

Photographer Sang An created portrait-like images of the vegetables featured in the book.

Once again, I must credit the talented team at Chronicle Books for turning my words and recipes into a stunning book, featuring portrait-like images from photographer Sang An. Talk about glorious!

I love my new book, but I’m not going to go on and on about it. If you’d like to know more, I’ll happily direct you to the book’s page here on the site. Also, I have scheduled a number of events ~ cooking classes, demos, tastings and book signings ~ both near and far. The kick-off event is a tasting and book signing on September 7 at one of my favorite D.C. boutiques ~ Salt & Sundry, in Union Market. You’ll find all the necessary details on my Events page. Please stop by and say hi if you come to one of my events. I’d really like to meet you.

I’m continuing to schedule events well into fall and beyond, so if there is a venue that you think I ought to contact, please let me know about it. Also, if you happen to write or blog about The Glorious Vegetables of Italy, please do let me know about that, too. My friend Olga Berman (a.k.a. Mango & Tomato) made the Swiss Chard and Spinach Ravioli Nudi in Simple Tomato Sauce for her monthly cookbook dinner club and wrote this post about it. Joe Yonan, food and travel editor at The Washington Post, wrote about the Eggplant “Meatballs” in Tomato Sauce for his Weeknight Vegetarian column. And Theresa at Food Hunter’s Guide posted this review of the book on her site. Feel free to share any links in the comments section below.

Here’s one of my favorite recipes from the book; nothing fancy, just an easy mash of potatoes and green beans. But I love it. It’s adapted from a dish I had at a restaurant called La Loggia Antica, in the hills of Abruzzo’s Teramo province. It’s typical of Abruzzese country cooking, rustic, comforting and thoroughly satisfying ~ Italian vegetable cooking at its best. Buon appetito!

Makes 6 servings

Smashed Green Beans and Potatoes with Pancetta

La Loggia Antica is an agritourism restaurant situated high in the hills above Bisenti, in the Teramo province of Abruzzo. The restaurant is known for the creative ways in which it features local vegetables, and it was there that I first had this comforting mash of green beans and potatoes, flavored with crispy pancetta and good olive oil. It's delicious served warm or at room temperature and makes a great accompaniment to roast chicken, pork, fish or a frittata. Photo by Sang An, for Chronicle Books

Ingredients

  • 1 pound medium-size yellow potatoes, such as Yukon gold, peeled and cut in half crosswise
  • 1 pound fresh young green beans, ends trimmed
  • 4 ounces pancetta, diced
  • 1/2 cup good-quality extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • Fine sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

Put the potatoes and green beans in a large pot and fill with cold water to cover. Set the pot over high heat and salt generously. Bring the water to a boil and reduce the heat to medium-high to maintain a lively (but not violent) simmer. Boil the vegetables until they are very tender, about 25 minutes.

While the potatoes and green beans are cooking, place the pancetta in a medium skillet (I use a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet) and set over medium heat. Sauté the pancetta, turning it frequently, for about 10 minutes, until it has rendered some of its fat and has just begun to crisp and turn brown. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.

When the vegetables are tender, drain them in a colander. Return them to the pot and slowly drizzle in in the olive oil. Use a potato masher to mash the potatoes and green beans together as you drizzle. What you're aiming for is a somewhat lumpy, textured mash--no need to puree completely.

With a spatula or wooden spoon, scrape the pancetta and drippings into the pot and stir to combine with the potato-bean mash. Season with salt and pepper.

Spoon the mixture into a serving bowl and drizzle with a little more olive oil if you like. Serve warm or at room temperature.

NOTE You can make this vegetarian by omitting the pancetta.

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28 Responses to Celebrating Italy’s Glorious Vegetables

  1. Olga @ MangoTomato August 20, 2013 at 12:51 pm #

    I really want to make the roasted mushroom and mashed potato dish next. And the tomatoes in cream!

    Congratulations on the gorgeous book! Will try to make it to your event in Sept.

    • Domenica Marchetti August 21, 2013 at 7:21 am #

      Thank you, Olga ~ both good choices, especially as the weather starts to get cooler. And thanks for choosing the book for your cookbook dinner club. I had such fun seeing those pictures on Instagram.

  2. Michelle - Majella Home Cooking August 20, 2013 at 2:04 pm #

    Congratulations, Domenica! My copy is on its way. Can’t wait to dig in! The fiori di zucca panino sounds like heaven as I’m sure they all will. I hope you find your way to NYC this fall. Un abbraccio forte, Michelle

    • Domenica Marchetti August 21, 2013 at 7:22 am #

      Michelle, I’m trying to get a Northeast leg of the book tour going. I’ll keep you posted. Let me know if there are places you think I should hit. I saw on FB you are up to your eyeballs in passata di pomodoro. I need to get cracking. Un abbraccio, D

  3. Gail Magnani August 20, 2013 at 2:20 pm #

    Congratulations, Domenica! I got an email from Amazon that my book has shipped! Can’t wait to try the Swiss Chard and Spinach Ravioli Nudi; I’ve already made the Swiss Chard ravioli from your Glorious Pastas of Italy book many times. You are becoming a rock star in the cookbook world!

    • Domenica Marchetti August 21, 2013 at 7:23 am #

      Thank you Gail ~ enjoy the new book and let me know what you make. D

  4. helenatvine August 20, 2013 at 9:01 pm #

    Time and time again, I trust your guidance and encouragement to cook something outside of my culinary comfort zone. BNI, S&S and Glorious Pastas have brought a more extensive menu of Italian food into our home. Your recipe choices are conceived with loved ones in mind- family and those who genuinely love good, honest food.
    Know that you make our kitchen and dining room tables a richly satisfying place by your labor.

    • Domenica Marchetti August 21, 2013 at 7:24 am #

      Helen, how sweet. Thank you. When are we going to get together? We still need to compare notes on our respective Italy trips! xo

  5. Jamie August 21, 2013 at 5:19 am #

    A huge congratulations!!! Brilliant and I cannot wait to see it and cook from it. Like you, my best memories of the Mercator Wagner where we shopped several mornings a week when we lived in Milan were the vegetables – the huge mountains of asparagus, carciofi, tomatoes in a dizzying number of varieties… stunning! And what a joy cooking with them and eating them.

    • Domenica Marchetti August 21, 2013 at 7:28 am #

      Aw, thanks my friend. L’Italia e’ un giardino…I tell you, I could already fill another book with more veg recipes…xo

  6. Kelly August 21, 2013 at 10:35 am #

    Hey D – I just received notice that your book is being shipped today and I can hardly wait to get it! Congratulations and you must let me know when you will be up this way!

    • Domenica Marchetti August 22, 2013 at 8:16 am #

      Kelly ~ where the heck did summer go? I might be up in Providence in October. I’ll keep you posted. But still think about coming down to DC. xo

      • Kelly August 22, 2013 at 10:59 am #

        I would love to visit when you are back in town! We may be in France in October (nothing too exciting – just home renovations) but keep me posted either way!

  7. ciaochowlinda August 21, 2013 at 11:04 am #

    Domenica – Please. You may go on and on about your book. You have every right too, because I’m sure it’s another winner. I can’t wait for my copy to arrive and start cooking from it right away. Your green beans and potato dish brought a smile to my face. My mother-in-law (Abruzzese) used to make a very similar dish. I’m going to make it now too, to honor both you and her. Tanti tanti auguri cara.

    • Domenica Marchetti August 22, 2013 at 8:07 am #

      Linda ~ how sweet. Don’t you just love the way Italians cook green beans? Not afraid to “over” cook them. Looking forward to seeing you. I’ll send you an email about when I’ll next be in NJ. Un abbraccio.

  8. bettyannq @Mango_Queen August 21, 2013 at 3:30 pm #

    Congrats, Domenica! I’m sure this is another wonderful cookbook from you. I can’t wait to get my hands on it. You must have enjoyed researching and writing about your own culinary heritage. Thanks for sharing this part of you with us, your readers!

    • Domenica Marchetti August 22, 2013 at 8:09 am #

      Thanks, dear Mango Queen!

  9. Laura (Tutti Dolci) August 21, 2013 at 4:53 pm #

    Congratulations on the release! So excited for you, I’m a huge lover of vegetables and to have a cookbook that celebrates them is perfetto! Hope to meet you at one of your SF events :).

    • Domenica Marchetti August 22, 2013 at 8:15 am #

      Laura ~ I’d love that. Please do come out and say hi if you can, either at 18 Reasons or at Omnivore Books. It would be wonderful to meet you.

  10. paninigirl August 22, 2013 at 10:27 am #

    Can’t wait to get the book and start cooking! Any chance you’ll be coming to southern Caifornia?

    • Domenica Marchetti August 22, 2013 at 9:54 pm #

      Nothing scheduled at this point, I’m afraid. Let me know if there are places I should contact. I’d love to hit southern California! 🙂

  11. Kim August 25, 2013 at 9:48 am #

    Ordered my copy yesterday! Can’t wait to dig in. Come to Boston too! I adore squash blossoms, but can never find them! 🙁

    • Domenica Marchetti August 26, 2013 at 9:15 am #

      Kim: It can be hard to get your hands on those blossoms if you don’t grow summer squash (or have a friend/neighbor who grows them). I can usually find them at my local farmers’ market. As for Boston, I’m looking into it. There’s a big Italian community up that way ~ would be great. Let me know if you have any specific places in mind that I should contact. Thanks!

  12. staceysnacks August 29, 2013 at 11:24 am #

    Congrats on the new book. I will order it today!
    I am still addicted to Rustic Italian, and the Soups and Stews…………made your spiedini w/ chicken and grilled plums and posted it today! Thank you! Fantastico! 🙂

    • Domenica Marchetti August 29, 2013 at 2:05 pm #

      Stacey ~ I’m going to jump over to your site right now. I haven’t made those spiedini in ages. I should do it while we have plums and good weather. Thanks for the reminder, and for the shout-out.

  13. katy September 13, 2013 at 9:45 pm #

    Hi Domenica and congratulations on your new book! I don’t comment here often, but I am a pretty avid reader and I wanted to let you know that I read about and recently tried your recipe for Tomato Marmalade. It was really wonderful and I’ve been enjoying it on my toast in the morning. I just blogged about it on my site, hoping to spread the tomato love before they disappear, and I wanted to share the link as per your request: http://diningwithdusty.blogspot.com/2013/09/as-tightly-as-i-can.html . Thanks for such a great recipe and, again, congratulations!

    • Domenica Marchetti September 13, 2013 at 10:03 pm #

      Katy ~ thanks for sharing the link. Going to go check it out straight away. Coincidentally, I just made a batch of the tomato marmalade myself yesterday. So glad you like the recipe. Thanks for chiming in. It’s great to hear from you.

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  1. Chicory Salad with Anchovy Dressing - April 28, 2014

    […] oil but wanted a quick meal without turning on the stove, so I turned to Domenica Marchetti’s The Glorious Vegetables of Italy and did a quick index search for […]

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