My Calabria Cookbook Review


(photo: cover of My Calabria)

Authentic Calabria

When I see or experience anything with a resemblance of Calabrian authenticity here in the United States I get very excited.   I had a wonderful experience stumbling across Mary Palmer’s very genuine, and heartfelt, cookbook Cucina di Calabria at a used book store during my college days.  Along the same lines, when I recently sampled a small artisan gelato made in Pennsylvania (Gelato di Baba) the hazelnut flavor brought me back to my childhood days strolling the streets of Reggio di Calabria with my Uncle and cousins (with gelato in hand).

Flipping through Rosetta Costantino’s new cookbook “My Calabria”, I experienced the same aforementioned sense of authenticity via her recipes, photos, and general understanding of the southernmost province in Italy.  

My Calabria

Rosetta, a former engineer and UC-Berkley grad turned cooking instructor and author, was raised in Verbicaro, Calabria and came to the US with her family at age fourteen.  Verbicaro is located near Cosenza in the northern part of Calabria and is best known as a small wine producing town.

Rosetta has organized her cookbook into ten main sections including chapters devoted to antipasti, pasta, soup/rice/polenta, bread/cheese/eggs, seafood, meat, vegetables, the Calabrian pantry, desserts, and wines of Calabria.  “My Calabria” also has a wonderful introduction to the region of Calabria, including her family’s story of coming to the US.  However, what I enjoyed best about Rosetta’s introductory section was an area devoted to the “key ingredients” found in most Calabrian dishes (this, in my view, is an excellent way to understand the food of Calabria, as well as the land).  Rosetta, lists eleven main ingredients as essential to Calabrian cooking, including:

  • Anchovies
  • Canned Tomatoes
  • Canned Tuna
  • Capers
  • Dried Oregano
  • Flour
  • Olive Oil
  • Pecorino Cheese
  • Polenta
  • Red Pepper (not and sweet)
  • Salt
  • Salt Cod
  • Wild Fennel Seed

(photo: courtesy of Rosetta and My Calabria)

A Special Book

Rosetta gets the above ingredients correct and it’s part of what makes the book so, dyed in the wool, authentically Calabrian!

Some of my favorite dishes in the close to 400 page cookbook include, risotto con le cozze (or risotto with fresh mussels), Pesce Spada all Bagnarese (swordfish in garlicky broth, Bagnara Stle <this is the region that my family is from in Calabria!>), Salsiche Calabrese (or homemade fennel sausage Calabrian style), and Parmigiano di Zucchine (or baked zucchini layered with tomato, mozzarella, and Parmigiano-Reggiano).  

Rosetta ends her work with a general overview of the wines of Calabria and reminds us that homemade wine is still made by the majority of citizens in Calabria; a wonderful reminder that while the “artisan” food movement is new and held in awe in the United States it’s common place and ubiquitous in most parts of Calabria and, specifically, in the homes of everyday Calabrians.  I encourage everyone to go out and buy Rosetta’s excellent work on the food of Calabria and, as my father would say, go out and make things with your hands you c
an be proud of (in this case, one of Rosetta’s dishes!).  

Contest / Book Give Away

Update, 11/12/10: Sorry, the contest is closed and the winner is Matt S.!

In order to spread the concept of eating the Calabrian way Rosetta and the good folks over at Norton have agreed to send a free copy of “My Calabria” to one lucky reader !  Here’s how you can enter the “My Calabria” cookbook giveaway contest:

– Prize Giveaway includes one (1) copy of “My Calabria.”

– What you need to do to enter: 1. leave a comment under this post on your favorite, authentic, cookbook (Italian or otherwise) and 2. become a fan of on Facebook (if you’re already a fan of Scordo on Facebook then please encourage all of your friends to become fans on Facebook by 1. Click Suggest to Friends, 2. Select Your Friends 3. Send the Invite.
– Only one entry per person please.

– The contest is open until 12 midnight on 11/11 and a single random user will be picked via (sorry contest only open to folks from the US given shipping logistics).  The winner will be announced immediately on Twitter (so please follow me) and on by 5PM on Friday, 11/12. 

– Please use a valid email address when leaving a comment so I can contact you just in case you’re the lucky winner (I’ll need your shipping address). 

– Norton will send out the book to the single contest winner during the week of 11/15

If you must have the book right away (which I encourage) then buy the book via Amazon or head over to Bleeding Espresso where Michelle is holding a contest to win up to 4 copies of My Calabria (and increase your chances to win a copy!).  


  1. Hey Vince—
    This looks like an awesome book, thanks for the shot to win this. There are many cookbooks that my wife and I love to refer to, my favorite classic book being
    “The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian”.
    Got a copy of Lidia Bastianich’s latest at a book signing as well, and it is just spectacular, made a recipe for white meat sauce over tagliatelle from it that was great.
    “Shut Up and Eat” by Tony Lip is also a book I recommend if you haven’t read it. Lots of tasty recipes and anecdotes and memories from Italian American actors and stars.

  2. This is one I didn’t have to think about. My favorite authentic cookbook is Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan. It’s a combination of her first two books with additional recipes. Her first book changed everything I thought I knew about Italian cooking as well as my heart, soul and palate.

  3. I love Marcella Hazan’s “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking”, Jamie Oilver’s “Jamie’s Italy” and Mario Batali’s “Molto Gusto”. All different and all wonderful cookbooks for anyone who wants to cook Italian!
    I love Italy…it’s people and their food!

  4. My favorite authentic cookbook is, like the above commenter, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. But I am really interested in My Calabria, especially as I am planning a trip to Calabria in a few months.

  5. My favorite Italian cookbook is “italian Cooking.” It was part of the “Round the World Cooking Library.” It was published in 1972, and includes many recipes for foods that were not considered commonplace in America. Among them are polenta, fennel and broccoli rabe.
    Recently, I purchased a replacement copy on E-Bay.

  6. Wow thanks for the awesome opportunity to enter to win this fantastic cook book. I am going to say my favorite authentic cookbooks has to be ~
    Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy: A Feast of 175 Regional Recipes
    Authentic Mexican 20th Anniversary Ed: Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico by Rick Bayless
    Both have my heart because truly the passion for authenticity drips off the pages.

  7. Carolyn Bottone-Post

    My favorite cookbook is a very old copy of the Good Housekeeping Cookbook, since it has my late Mother’s comments in it, as well as some of her hand written recipes and recipes she’d cut out of magazines, etc. I do love the “Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian” which I gave her as a gift and inherited when she died. But she was the best and most inventive cook I’ve ever known!

  8. Ciao Vince! Would loce to add this cookbook to my collection. My favorite authentic Italian cookbook is “Simple and Genuine” – a cookbook written by Chiara Lima who runs the Mamma Agata Cooking School on the Amalfi Coast. A lovely book written about a very special family, and it’s as authentic as it gets for cooking traditions here on the Amalfi Coast. We’re already connected on Facebook & Twitter … look forward to hearing the results of the giveaway! 🙂

  9. Vincent this book looks awesome. I am so anxious to get my hands on a copy. Thanks for the chance to win one!

  10. I got here through Bleeding Espresso, and I agree, the book looks wonderful. From a quick look around, I am glad to have found you, and will be following you more in the future.

  11. My favorite is “Classic Home Desserts” by Richard Sax. Yum.

  12. My husband was born and raised in a town in Reggio Calabria and came to the US at almost the same age Rosetta did. His family kept the Southern Italian traditions, cuisine and wine making. As a non Italian I worked hard to learn all I could to make authentic dishes for my husband. I also liked the cookbook “Cucina di Calabria” by Mary Amabile Palmer and I would love to win a copy of Rosetta’s new cookbook!
    I am following you both on facebook and twitter!

  13. I already have most of the pantry items (no cod or fennel yet). All I need now is the book! Please!!!

  14. I have to say Marcella Hazan, particularly her first book, is my favorite. It must be as it’s so beat-up from years of use. I like many of the ones mentioned, including Lidia B’s. I found you via Bleeding Espresso, btw.

  15. Ciao, Susan, and thank you for heading over from Bleeding Espresso. One sign of a good cookbook is the condition (indeed)!
    And Welcome to all Bleeding Espresso readers!

  16. Glad to meet you Old Jacques! So happy you like (please share with your friends) and that you’ll follow us. All the best.

  17. Thank you, Pat! My parents were born about 15 minutes outside of Reggio Calabria in a small village called Pellegrina.
    It’s wonderful that you worked so hard to learn how to make authentic Calabrian dishes for your husband, I’m sure he’s appreciative. Thanks for the follow here and on twitter, please share and Scordo on Facebook with all of your friends!

  18. I would love to have a copy of Rosetta Costantino’s cookbook. No one would appreciate more.

  19. This cookbook is so up my alley! Thank you for the chance.

  20. VInce, it looks like a great cookbook! I’d say for Italian food, I like Lidia’s cookbooks, but Jamie Oliver put out a pretty great one with gorg pictures. And since I love French food too – I have to give Jacques Pepin a shout out too 🙂

  21. I am a fan on facebook! My favorite Italian cookbook recently has been the Silver Spoon, although I wish I had time to try each recipe. Thanks for the chance to win!

  22. My favorite cookbook is Dom DeLuise EAT THIS Italian Cookbook. I haven’t opened it in a long time, but it’s become the foundation for my meatballs, red sauce and eggplant parmesan. The recipes were fresh, simple and included my favorite basic Italian foods I grew up with.

  23. Vince,
    Thanks for the opportunity! Favorite cookbook, hands down, is Mary Amabile Palmer’s “Cucina di Calabria”. I also enjoyed “We Called It Macaroni” by Nancy Verde Barr.
    Thanks again and keep up the great writing!

  24. I loved this book as well! And I also wrote a review of it on my food blog:
    Now a question. When am I going to Calabria??!! As soon as I can make it happen! Rosetta opened my eyes to a whole new culinary adventure!

  25. History of Calabria

    (photo: the picture is taken from Pellegrina looking down on the seacost <Mediterranean Sea> town of Bagnara Calabra.)As many of you know, my parents (and extended family) were all born in the southern Italian province of Calabria (specifica…

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