The Italian Farmer’s Table: Authentic Recipes and Local Lore from Northern Italy is more than just a cookbook. Although it is built around an intriguing collection of authentic regional recipes, it digs deeper to offer a glimpse inside everyday rural life in northern Italy. Its pages are filled with captivating descriptions of each regions’ distinct culinary identity and the unique individuals who bring it all to life.
While researching this book, authors Matthew Scialbabba and Melissa Pellegrino visited over 30 working family farms scattered across northern Italy. These farms, known as “agriturismi,” are popular vacation destinations for those interested in experiencing a glimpse of Italy’s rich agricultural roots first hand.
Tales of Local Lore
Agriturismo (singular) is a combination of the Italian words for “agriculture” and “tourism.” It refers to a legally regulated group of working farm vacation destinations found throughout Italy. To receive this official designation, one requirement is that a large percentage of the food served to guests must be produced either on the property or in the local area.
As a result, the recipes featured in The Italian Farmer’s Table are based on fresh locally grown and seasonally available ingredients. In addition, the meat for each recipe comes from animals born, raised and processed either on the agriturismo itself or the local area. Here, the backstory of what goes into cultivating and nurturing the various elements comprising each recipe takes center stage.
For those who appreciate what goes into preparing delicious, healthy meals, The Italian Farmer’s Table is a real treat. It exemplifies the streamlined “farm to fork” movement now popular in the United States and around the world. This is largely because it offers an appealing alternative to the factory farming methods that dominate modern commercial food production.
How It Is Organized
Weighing in at 320 pages, The Italian Farmer’s Table features 150 authentic recipes from the 30 plus agriturismi the authors visited. At the start of the book, the authors share a number of basic “staple” recipes, including polenta, chicken broth, vegetable broth, sweet pastry crust, and several others. These recipes are essential building blocks for many northern Italian recipes, not just those found in this collection.
After this introduction, The Italian Farmer’s Table is organized into 8 sections, each focusing on a different region of northern Italy: Liguria, Piemonte, Valle D'Aosta, Lombardia, Trentino-Alto Adige, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Veneto and Emilia-Romagna.
Each section is organized into individual chapters, each devoted to a single agriturismo located within the featured region. Within each chapter, you learn about that specific agriturismo and the surrounding area’s backstory and how the local geography and cultural heritage affects the flavors and ingredients found in each recipe.
You also get to know the real people who live and work there. Through a combination of good storytelling and full color photography, you get a sense of the pride they take in their work and their food. Of course, what would a discussion of Italian cuisine be without wine? A discussion of the wines native to each region is woven throughout each section.
Authentic Regional Recipes
As for the recipes themselves, they are diverse and include main dishes, soups, salads and desserts. All measurements are given in both metric and US equivalents and the titles of each are offered in Italian and English.
In general, the instructions are brief and straightforward. They would be easy for a beginning to intermediate level home cook to replicate. One potential complaint about the recipes is that several hard-to-find ingredients are included. However, the authors offer suitable alternatives whenever possible.
Sample Recipes Include:
Potato, Leek & Butternut Squash Soup
Lasagna with Radicchio Treviso and Asiago Cheese
Chicken Breast with Porcini Mushroom Stuffing
Butternut Squash Gnocchi
Phyllo Bundles with Walnuts and Asiago
Chocolate and Ricotta Tart
Whether you love to cook or long to travel to this region, The Italian Farmer’s Table is an enjoyable and affordable addition to any cookbook collection. It is available in both paperback and Kindle format, with digital prices starting around $10.