Food 4 Thought
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Food 4 Thought
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A cookbook review of Cooking alla Giudia.
Excerpted from Cooking alla Giudia by Benedetta Jasmine Guetta (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2022. Photographs by Ray Kachatorian.
The setting where I first learned about Benedetta Jasmine Guetta’s brand-new cookbook, Cooking alla Giudia: A Celebration of the Jewish Food of Italy, could not have been more perfect. I sat at a nicely set table inside Carmel by Lolita: a kosher, traditional Italian restaurant in the Jewish quarter of Milan, Italy. I had just ordered Spaghetti Milanesi, a Milanese spaghetti with saffron, when my Milanese-Jewish friend pulled the cookbook out of a bag, and handed it to me, as a gift. “Food means tradition from our heritage,” she wrote on the inside page of the book. “But also exploring cultures.”
There is no better way to explore cultures than through perusing the pages of Guetta’s one of a kind cookbook turned history book turned travel guidebook. It is the history of the food, and the story of where each food comes from, that makes this cookbook stand out. Not only does Guetta introduce us to Italian Jewish history, but she teaches us how to differentiate between the ingredients used in each city. Each recipe begins like a narrative: we learn who made the dish in history, for what Jewish occasion the dish was served, and what the dish represents in Italian Jewish customs.

From Milan and Lombardy to Venice and Veneto, through Rome, Florence and Bologna, this cookbook directs readers on a Jewish food journey throughout the diverse regions of Italy. Italian Jewish food has existed for thousands of years, and yet the culinary heritage of Italian Jews is largely still unknown. Guetta makes it her mission to keep Italian Jewish cuisine from all eras alive and remembered not just by the elderly, but by future generations. She accomplishes this goal by demonstrating how integral Italy has been in the development of Jewish food, and Jewish food to Italy.
For instance, Guetta explains that if you ask someone in Italy about the origin of orecchiette pasta, most people will claim it came from Southern Italy. The hidden secret? It came to Italy with Jews from France who settled in the southern region of Italy in the 12th century. Likewise, poring over Guetta’s book I discovered Yellow Rice for Shabbat: a dish which revealed the Jewish origins of the dish I had eaten in Milan. Believed to be the predecessor of risotto alla Milanese (similar to Spaghetti Milanesi,) it uses saffron threads for the yellow color instead of cheese and butter—creating the perfect, creamy side dish to any meat main.
Excerpted from Cooking alla Giudia by Benedetta Jasmine Guetta (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2022. Photographs by Ray Kachatorian.
Stunningly detailed photographs accompany each carefully crafted recipe. Readers will see the crisp, fried edges of an artichoke, and in real-life discover just how perfectly crunchy the recipe turns out. Readers will salivate over a picture of the garlic-herb zucchini marinade, and in real-life taste that bitter white-wine vinegar soaked into the dish. Readers will notice the bright yellows and oranges which color the thoroughly researched cookbook, and clearly make the cuisine unique from more commonly spoken about Eastern-European Jewish cuisine.
Excerpted from Cooking alla Giudia by Benedetta Jasmine Guetta (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2022. Photographs by Ray Kachatorian.
While the recipe instructions are simple and easy to follow, the resulting dishes look complex and beautifully laid out. But whether you like to cook or not, this cookbook deserves a home at the top of your shelf. It serves a dual role of cookbook and reading book, approachable for many different audiences.
Excerpted from Cooking alla Giudia by Benedetta Jasmine Guetta (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2022. Photographs by Ray Kachatorian.
As an Italian food writer who has spent years spreading the word about Italian Jewish food, Guetta knows what she is talking about. But at the end of the day, there is one thing that shouts success more than all else: the stamp of approval from an Italian Jewish community member, such as my friend, gifting the cookbook to someone else inside an Italian Jewish restaurant. Her action was a gesture towards a future where Italian Jewish food becomes a staple not just outside the house, but also in home kitchens.
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