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 Review of The Italian Regional Cookbook by Valentina Harris – with sample recipes

Review by Ceri Wheeldon

italian regional cookbook review image

If you want to add just one cookbook on your kitchen shelf , let it be this one. It is absolutely gorgeous.  The Italian Regional Cookbook by Valentina Harris has 325 recipes with 1500 photographs. It is not just a cookbook, but a journey through Italy. The photographs are stunning. The book takes you on a culinary tour of 20 regions of Italy – from the flavours of the Mediterranean to the Trentino region where cuisine is somewhat heartier.

The photos of the food combined with the images and history of the food from each region inspire you to want to cook something new -and book your next holiday to Italy!!

Valentina Harris cookbook mage

I often cook with red peppers, but I found this fabulous recipe with yellow peppers in the book – which I have made a couple of times now – absolutely delicious and really simple to do.

Valentina has kindly allowed me to share the recipe with you – and also one of her dessert recipes  which I am yet to make – next dinner party!!

Yellow Peppers with Capers Peperoni in Teglia alla  Napoletana


yellow peppers with capers image

This is one of those dishes that brings together the colours, flavours and textures of
the food of southern Italy absolutely perfectly. The dish is best when eaten at room
temperature, with lots of green salad, bread and chilled white wine.

4 yellow (bell) peppers
60ml/4 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, sliced
15ml/1 tbsp tomato purée
7.5ml/1 1 /2 tsp salted capers, rinsed and chopped
3 anchovy fillets, preserved in oil, drained and chopped
sea salt

1  Halve the peppers and remove the seeds and membranes. Cut each pepper into four pieces.

2  Heat the oil in a pan and fry the garlic until browned. Add the peppers. Dilute the tomato purée with 45ml/3 tbsp water and pour over the peppers.

3  Season with salt, then stir. Cover and simmer for 15–25 minutes, until the peppers are soft.

4  Mix the capers and anchovies together, then stir them into the cooked peppers.
Cover and leave to stand for 3 minutes before serving warm with salad and bread.
Alternatively, serve cold.

Crostata di Pere e Amaretti/Pear and Amaretti Tarts

pear and amaretti tart recipe



Crumbled amaretti cover the pastry case for these delectable little tarts, which are topped with pears and pine nuts. It is essential to use pears that are quite ripe, without being overripe, to ensure they cook to the perfect level of tenderness. Adding milk to the pastry near to the end of cooking makes it moist and crumbly and gives it a lovely golden sheen. Serve these tasty tarts warm, accompanied by a scoop of vanilla ice cream or mascarpone.



250g/9oz plain flour, plus extra for dusting

10ml/2 tsp baking powder, sifted

175g/6oz caster sugar

115g/4oz unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing

1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk

5ml/1 tsp vanilla extract

pinch of salt

breadcrumbs, for dusting

45ml/3 tbsp pear, peach or apricot conserve

75g/3oz amaretti, crumbled

6 small ripe pears, halved, peeled and cored

50g/2oz pine nuts

45–60ml/3–4 tbsp full-fat milk, for brushing

icing/confectioners’ sugar, for dusting


1 Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4. Sift the flour and baking powder in a pile on the work surface and make a hollow in the middle with your fist.

2 Add 115g/4oz of the caster sugar, the butter, egg and yolk, vanilla and salt, then knead together to make a soft ball of dough.

3 Remove one-third of the dough and roll it into a ball. Roll the remaining two-thirds into another ball and set both balls of dough aside until required.

4 Generously grease six individual tart tins or pans with butter, then dust each tin first with flour, then with breadcrumbs.

5 Roll out the larger ball of dough on a lightly floured work surface, to about 1cm/1 ?2in thick. Cut out circles of dough large enough to line each of the greased tins, then use to line them, pressing the pastry in carefully with your fingers.

6 Cover the base of each lined case with a layer of conserve, then arrange a thick layer of the amaretti crumbs on top.

7 Arrange the pears on top of the amaretti crumbs, cutting them to fit, then sprinkle over the pine nuts and remaining caster sugar.

8 Use the smaller ball of dough to first line the edges of the top of each tart carefully, and second, to create a lattice pattern for the top of each tart.

9 Bake the tarts in the preheated oven for about 20–30 minutes, or until browned. Remove the tarts from the oven, brush generously with milk, then bake for a further 8–10 minutes.

10 Remove the tarts from the tins and put each one on a serving plate. Dust with icing sugar, then serve while still warm.

COOK’S TIPS • Although you won’t get quite the same texture, you can use frozen sweet pastry, if you are very short of time. • If you prefer, you can make one 30cm/12in tart with the same quantity of ingredients used in this recipe. Bake for 30–40 minutes, then add the milk glaze and bake for a further 8–10 minutes.



Ceri Wheeldon

Ceri is Founder and Editor of Fabafterfifty.co.uk She is a frequent speaker at events and in the media on topics related to women over 50 , including style and living agelessly. With 20+ years experience as a headhunter Ceri also now helps support those looking to extend their working lives.

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