October's Cookbook: Buca Di Beppo's

My cookbook of the month this month was Buca Di Beppo's "Into the Sauce." I was initially drawn to this cookbook because it is a) An Italian cookbook, and b) Attached to a great Italian restaurant (and one I have dined at!) I thought since their restaurants are great, perhaps their cookbook would follow suit.

So what did I cook? From this cookbook I tackled the following recipes:

Meatball Sauce
Neapolitan Cookies
Sweet Pepper Stew

Here's my breakdown/review (and pictures!)


It’s almost embarrassing to admit that I, a bonafide Italian, have never made a tiramisu, but it’s true. My family was into cannolis. But armed with this cookbook, I was ready to give it a whirl. This was also my first time working with mascarpone cheese, which is basically a sweet Italian cream cheese.

I was happy that the recipe was fairly easy. I used my springform pan for the recipe because it was the deepest pan I had on hand. The recipe called for 1 cup of espresso mixed with 3 oz of brandy, which you then dip the lady fingers in. I was about to pour my brandy into the ground of espresso when it dawned on me: should I have brewed the espresso? I googled another recipe and found out, yes, I was supposed to MAKE espresso...not use espresso grounds. Tiramisu 1, Bossy Italian Wife, 0.

The finished product! YUM! 
But I corrected myself, and was glad I caught the mistake early. Having little familiarity with tiramisu, I began my stacking and layering of the lady fingers and the marscapone cheese mixture, and then something funny happened: I ran out of espresso/brandy mixture really quickly! That was basically the biggest (and perhaps only) flaw in the recipe, but it is sort of a major one, in my opinion.

No matter, though. I went ahead and re-poured the espresso and brandy mixture and kept right on trucking! It came out beautifully! Perhaps I soaked the bottom layer a bit too much... but my guests thought it was fabulous. I served it with a dollop of homemade ice cream, which was really a hit.

Spaghetti & Meatballs 

I have made many a meatball in my life, but the Buca di Beppo’s meatball recipe was different than anything my grandmother taught me. Rather than frying or baking the meatballs, you instead form the balls, let them rest an hour, and then add them to the meatball sauce (which is different then spaghetti sauce) and you let them cook in the sauce.

I was skeptical... but I shouldn’t have been. It was delicious. I mean, delicious! I only made one tweak to the recipe, (I couldn’t help myself). Instead of using all beef I used half beef and half ground pork. I just think that mixing the meats tastes better and I guess old habits die hard.

Topped with fresh basil and parmesan cheese! 

The meatballs were so tender, and so flavorful, and the sauce so wonderfully laced with meat and garlic and great flavors that I think I may only make meatballs this way from now on. My dinner guests were wholly impressed, and by the end of dinner, we were all feeling like we were ready to tuck in for a long fall’s sleep. 

Neapolitan Cookies 

I thought to myself, why not try another dessert? After all, a lot of the traditional spaghetti and meat stuff is harder for me to follow when I have my own techniques that go back generations in my family. So, neapolitan cookies it was. I had all the ingredients,and although the recipe looked simple, I thought it might be very nice. Boy was I wrong. 

I followed the recipe to the “t” but when the dough was finished, I was unable to handle it properly; it needed to be thicker and less sticky. So I added a little more flour. And then a little more, and then a little more. This dough was just not coming out properly..... it seemed like it should have been lighter and much easier to handle.... maybe it needed more butter, but I just wasn’t sure and I so I just tried adding more flour until the dough was just thick enough that I could roll it into a the rope required to make the neapolitan possible. 

Still, while I was rolling it, I was finding that the measurements in the recipe were just “off.” I had experienced this in the tiramisu as well, so I wasn’t entirely surprised. But I was miffed, nonetheless. I stuck them in the oven, and while the shape and everything looked like the picture, it didn’t get as golden brown as it should have... nor was it as “light” as I anticipated. 

The recipe says to serve it with coffee or expresso (for dipping) and I can totally see why--if you don’t have something to dip it in, it tastes too thick, too heavy, and just flops. This recipe has to be one of my least favorite in a long, long time. And I have to say that I think that this can be a symptom of restaurant cookbooks. If someone had tested this properly, they would realize that either the measurements were off or the directions were. 

Either way, avoid this recipe because it’s not likely to impress guests and it will also probably turn you off to making desserts. 

I am sorry to say, I couldn't stomach this dessert, and most of
them were thrown away...

Pepper Stew:

For my last recipe, I decided to check out the sweet pepper stew. It seemed like a great addition to nearly any meal, and simple at that. With red, green, and yellow peppers, red onion, and capers, this dish is a feast for the eyes as far as the color palette is concerned. 

I also liked that it was one of those dishes that I could make ahead and let it sit in the oven on a low temperature. My mother, who was cooking with me that day, swore that we needed more peppers, but we came out just fine, and it tasted fresh and lovely with the tomatoes and the peppers and garlic. 

This recipe was easy and could accompany so many great dishes. I served it with a sweet potato gnocchi dish I made, but you could easily translate with with any pasta dish, on top of a salad, or along side some spicy Italian sausage. This one is a keeper.  

This was a great side dish, hands down!
Overall, I am giving "Into the Sauce" 3.5 out of 5 stars. The desserts definitely leave something to be desired, as do the overall measurements. My best guess is that the measurements weren't tested....but who can say? If you are an experienced Italian home chef, then you should be just fine, and this book makes for a great reference in the kitchen as well as inspiration for great Italian-style meals. 

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