Books & Literature

Cookbook Review: Luca’s Culinary Journey, by Luca Ciano

COOKBOOK REVIEW: Italian chef Luca Ciano reminisces about growing up, and shares a collection of family and personal recipes.

Lots of simple family recipes that taste great, combined with tales of growing up, make for an enjoyable experience.
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Italian chef Luca Ciano maps out his journey from Milan to Australia and provides a family history along the way in his second cookbook following Luca’s Seasonal Journey in 2016. He’s an award-winning chef and cooking instructor.

Like many modern cookbooks, Ciano takes the reader on a journey where the recipes are given in context to a time or place. For Ciano, this is about family, sharing recipes from his Nonna and Mamma, along with photographs straight from the family albums. He revisits the people and locations of his childhood and his eventual migration to Australia, where he now resides in NSW.

Additional photographs by Steve Brown provide classy, colourful shots of the food and products, which is a nice contrast against the older, homely family photos.

Each recipe is laid out clearly, with preparation and cooking time included, although as always, be in the habit of reading the whole recipe the day before as it’s not always accurate. For the Borlotti Bean Salad, for example, the preparation time refers to canned beans, as compared to the 6 hours of soaking time found within the cooking instructions if you opt for fresh beans.

Ciano writes like he would tell it: his voice is very personable, and his storytelling is smattered with humour and fondness. His recipes follow suit in that they are easy to read and to follow. He reserves only one chapter late in the book for recipes that use his own signature range of pastas and sauces, ensuring this cookbook remains more than just a cross-promotion for his enterprise.

The three-page index is a well-spaced, useful summary of the 60+ recipes, which includes several Christmas dishes in their own chapter.

Despite his prestigious background, Ciano has compiled a great selection, most of which take less than an hour to cook, but are rich with flavours and not too difficult to make. This is a useful resource for beginner cooks, and those who enjoy more traditional, simple fare.

PASTA AL POMODORO FRESCO (PAGE 127)

This is a basic tomato and basil pasta recipe that invites you to use a pasta of your choice. The method is exceptionally simple, serving up a lightly flavoured but very satisfying pasta dish in less than half an hour. The addition of cheeses, pepper, garlic and a few other ingredients adds to the deliciousness of the dish, but it’s the distinctiveness of vine-ripened tomatoes that gives this meal its unique taste. There’s no tomato paste or other strong ingredients to override the fresh and lingering flavours that you’ll savour with each bite. For the lazy cook, this pasta recipe is ideal. For lovers of Italian cooking, you can’t go wrong.

RAGÙ DI MAMMA (PAGE 131)

Mamma’s Ragù is one of the longest dishes to cook in the book, although it is easily achievable well below the suggested 4 hours. It’s a big dish with lots of ingredients, supposedly serving 8 people, but probably more if you add it to pasta or a pie. This one uses a combination of pork and veal, although any mince would suffice. It also uses a helluva lot of oil, mixed with butter, giving it so much more flavour than the modern, conservative use of these ingredients. Long live traditional cooking methods! Ragu can be eaten however you like–on its own, with sides, or added to other dishes. Either way, Mamma’s recipe adds in vegetables and herbs so you don’t have to feel so guilty using all that oil. Delicious and well-worth the extra effort.

Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Twitter: @StrtegicRetweet

Distributed by: New Holland Publishers Australia
Released: 15 April 2021
RRP: $45 hardcover

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