Read up on some of 2013's most-loved cookbooks, tested and reviewed by the one and only Food52 community.
Beautiful book! Beautiful people! Beautiful food! The stage is set in the first few pages with gorgeous images of braised oxtail, polenta, perfectly cooked hanger steak, homemade ricotta, and the two women behind these amazing creations.
The introduction describes the heart of the Sorella restaurant without being too self-promoting (although it definitely makes me want to visit Sorella next time I'm in New York!), and the voice of the cookbook is unique and interesting as the authors, Sarah Krathen and Emma Hearst, give their perspective on hospitality, food, wine, and, of course, each other. What lies in subsequent pages is food reminiscent of an old Italian grandmother: rustic, comfortable, and deeply satisfying. Although well organized, you won’t be able to translate some chapter titles without a crash course in Italian. (Qualcosina? Stasera Abbiamo?)
There's a brief chapter on cocktails, with a good mix of traditional (A Good Margarita) and innovative (Oca Zamperosee). It's followed by "Qualcosina," which is basically a section on small plates (don’t call them tapas or the Sorella girls will quickly correct you). Here, it becomes apparent that these gals love big flavor -- they use ingredients like bacon fat, anchovies, salt cod, lamb tongue, and chicken livers. To balance richness, a few lighter recipes are thrown in, like the Heirloom Tomato Salad with Bagna Cauda.
"Un Pò di Pasta" contains recipes not only for wheat pasta but also for gnudi, gnocchi, and risotto. Home cooks troubled by risotto will find the Basic Par-Cooked Risotto recipe very useful. The Risotto with Porcini Ragu I made was fantastically simple and yielded a lot of leftovers, giving me enough extra ragu to make another scrumptious dinner.
In "Stasera Abbiamo," the chapter on main courses, the Hanger Steak with Garlic Herb Butter, Castelvetrano Olives, and Charred Green Onions is easy and delectable; similar to the Porcini Ragu, there is plenty of herbed butter for a second meal. If you are feeling particularly adventurous, the Stuffed Meatballs with Caramelized Onions and Arugula do not disappoint. While the title is seemingly simple, the recipe itself entails many steps (though they're totally worth the 10 servings of giant 6-ounce meatballs). Are you noticing a theme?
The chapter on side dishes is straightforward with a few unique twists, like the Piemontese Spinach with Anchovies. In "Dolci & Pani," I liked the emphasis on smaller and less sweet options. The simple Amaretti Cookies or the Honey-Bergamot Shortbread with a Shot of Espresso is a perfect way to end a meal.
Overall, Sorella is a book full of rich and satisfying Italian comfort food. My one critique is that some of the main ingredients might be hard to find, but it's worth every bit of time and money to track them down.