by Toni Lydecker
Paperback, 272 pages
“As you have no doubt heard and observed, a real Italian meal consists of several courses. Except when it doesn’t.”
With this brazen declaration, Toni Lydecker leads us to the simple beauty of the piatto unico or one-course Italian meal. A languorous multi-course Italian meal is a traditional and wonderful thing, but sometimes the time, energy, and appetite it calls for is better suited for special occasions, not everyday dining. For the home cook on the go, a delicious piatto unico strikes a balance of being well-rooted in tradition, while being flexible enough to fit the often hectic demands of modern life. Well-balanced and packed with bold flavors, the piatto unico embodies the rustic simplicity of great Italian cooking.
Culled from Toni’s time spent in Italy eating and cooking with friends and family, some recipes are surprising, personal, and unique, while others are comfortably familiar. Hunks of rustic whole grain bread tossed with ripe tomato, fresh basil, the best olive oil, and tuna make a panzanella that’s a perfect one-dish meal, light yet filling. A bowl of creamy polenta, rich with cheese and earthy sautéed mushrooms or a dish of fresh pasta tossed with savory sautéed leeks, shrimp, and crispy prosciutto is satisfying and comforting. A vegetable-based casserole of baked zucchini stuffed with farro, walnuts, and tangy goat cheese makes for a bountiful main dish as much as meatier fare such as Tuscan-style barbecued ribs rubbed with rosemary-sage salt or braised chicken with sweet peppers. There are plenty of hearty recipes, but sometimes a lighter dinner is called for and bruschetta topped with slow-cooked white beans and kale or a plate of asparagus and prosciutto, crusted with breadcrumbs, cheese, and topped with a poached egg is just right.
Whether a recipe is a faithful interpretation of a classic dish, strikes out in a new direction, or does a little of each, with Toni’s careful instructions, insider tips, and techniques, Piatto Unico serves as an insightful and timeless guide for lovers of Italian food, old and new.
About the author
Toni Lydecker is a journalist and cookbook author who specializes in Italian regional cooking.