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Cooking Alla Giudia by Benedetta Jasmine Guetta

Posted by Nigella on the 14th April 2022
Image of Benedetta Jasmine Guetta's Honey Matzo Fritters
Photo by Ray Kachatorian

I have long lamented that Edda Servi Machlin’s Classic Cuisine of the Italian Jews has been allowed to go out of print, and it still seems hideously wrong to me, but I am thrilled to have this excellent new book on the subject. From Minestra di Lenticchie di Esaù (Esau’s Lentil Soup, a Tuscan speciality that, as Guetta points out, anachronistically but deliciously, contains tomatoes); Aliciotti con Indivia (Baked Anchovies and Escarole, two of my all-time favourite ingredients) from the Roman Ghetto; Agnello di Pesach con Carfiofi e Fave (Passover Lamb with Artichokes and Fava Beans) that irresistibly begs to be made; to the Tibuia, o Torta degli Ebrei (Savoury Cheese Pie, or “Pie of the Jews”) that is part of the Jewish cooking tradition in Finale, a city in Emilia Romagna, this is a book I’m so happy to have in my kitchen. I’ve listed so few recipes, but there are so many more that I long to make, and that tell the story of a people and a country, noting the influence of the many Libyan and Spanish Jews that settled in Italy, too, and whose cooking became fused, not only among each other, but also had a huge influence on the development of so many of the dishes we customarily just think of as Italian.

I don’t wish, however, to make it seem that this is a book for food scholars and culinary historians only. Far from it: this is a book for home cooks and greedy people everywhere. Which reminds me to give you a little glimpse of the many, many dolci, taking in puddings, pies, cakes and cookies. From the Jews of Central and Northern Italy, there is Bruscatella e Zabaione, a bread pudding which requires you to soak the bread in sweet wine rather than milk, to be served with zabaglione; a rapturous Chocolate Mousse Cake; Ricotta and Sour Cherry Crostata from Rome; Almond Custard from Livorno, by way of the Portuguese Jews; and Almond and Chocolate Cookies from Venice; and I must also mention breads, both sweet and savoury. It is in the Sweet section that I found the recipe I’m sharing with you today: the Pizzarelle di Pesach, or Honey Matzo Fritters, a gorgeous addition to this year’s Seder menu, though no less delicious for those who don’t celebrate Passover, I can assure you!

Excerpted from Cooking alla Giudia by Benedetta Jasmine Guetta (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2022.
Photographs by Ray Kachatorian.

Book cover of Cooking Alla Giudia by Benedetta Jasmine Guetta

Try this recipe from the book

Image of Benedetta Jasmine Guetta's Honey Matzo Fritters
Photo by Ray Kachatorian
Honey Matzo Fritters
By Benedetta Jasmine Guetta
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Bara Brith