Michele Scicolone has written many fine cookbooks on Italian cuisine, including The Antipasto Table, A Fresh Taste of Italy, 1,000 Italian Recipes and The Sopranos Cookbook. THE ITALIAN SLOW COOKER (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) is her latest. StoveTopReadings has cooked from and reviewed this fine new cookbook favorably, and because we have long admired Michele’s outstanding cookbooks, we wanted to catch up and get her views on the never-ending popularity of la cucina Italiana and its application to the slow cooker.
MS: Thank you, Greg. Italian recipes seemed like a natural for the slow cooker. Pasta sauces, soups, polenta, legumes, stews and other Italian favorites are typically cooked slowly at low heat, so why not make them in a slow cooker?
STR: Are the results the same? Can you duplicate the same tastes using the slow cooker as you can by conventional cooking methods?
MS: Yes. You may need to reduce the liquid slightly in a slow cooker, but the flavors are identical.
STR: Did you use a number of slow cooker models, and which ones do you think produced the best results?
MS: Yes, I used 4 different slow cookers to test the recipes. Two are by All Clad. One has a cast aluminum crock and the other has a porcelain crock. These two are my favorites, especially the one with the cast aluminum crock. It is lightweight, can be used on the stovetop and is very easy to clean. Both All Clad models cook evenly without hot spots, and have lots of great features, like a Keep Warm setting (great for buffets), a timer, and digital clock. Much less expensive, my Hamilton Beach cooker has fewer features, but also does an excellent job.
STR: If someone were to begin to cook from THE ITALIAN SLOW COOKER, which recipes would you suggest they start with for optimum results?
MS: I love making polenta in the slow cooker. It is so easy! And any of the soups would be ideal for this time of year.
STR: Are slow cookers used in Italy?
MS: No, I have never seen an electric slow cooker there.
STR: There are so many Italian cookbooks out on the market. What do you think is behind the enduring appeal of Italian cooking? And is there anything new on the horizon?
MS: Everybody loves Italian food, it’s easy, inexpensive, and good for you. What more can you ask?
Despite all we know about it, I think there is always something new on the horizon. Food is constantly evolving, but in Italy it evolves in a different way from the way it does here. Many young chefs are re-interpreting old classic dishes and adapting new techniques to local ingredients. I am sure that in time these ideas will influence chefs here.
STR: Who are your favorite Italian cookbook authors?
MS: In my travels in Italy, I buy a lot of cookbooks written in Italian. The authors I like include Jeanne Carola Francesconi, Ada Boni, and Pino Correnti among others.
STR: Are there any new or as-yet undiscovered Italian ingredients that we should know about?
MS: There are a lot of Italian cheeses becoming available here that are worth looking for, like Tumin, Montasio, and Monte Veronese. There are also a number of artisanal Italian chocolate producers making fine chocolates that are worth seeking out.
STR: What’s next and where can people find out about your activities?
MS: I have lots of things in the works right now including planning a pizza tour of Italy. You can find out more about them at www.MicheleScicolone.com. I also write about Italian food for the Italian American Digital Project at www.i-italy.org/bloggers/italian-kitchen.