Book Review: Ciao Italia Five Ingredient Favorites Quick and Delicious Favorites from an Italian Kitchen by Mary Ann Esposito

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In Mary Ann Esposito’s new book, Ciao Italia Five-Ingredient Favorites, she shows home cooks how to turn just five ingredients into an easy, delicious, and economical Italian dish for the family dinner table. Mary Ann Esposito knows that the genius behind great Italian cooking is the simple philosophy of using just a few quality ingredients to create something delicious. In Ciao Italia Five-Ingredient Favorites she shows home cooks how to make that philosophy work for them so that they can save time and money without sacrificing flavor. With seventy-five authentic Italian recipes — from antipasti to pastas, main courses to desserts — Esposito draws on the Italian culinary tradition of simplicity in the kitchen to create such effortless and tasty dishes as:

  • Prosciutto di Parma, Fontina, and Fig Wraps
  • Spicy Soppressata Tartlets
  • Cheesy Stuffed Meatballs
  • Pistachio-Dusted Pork Chops
  • Oven-Poached Halibut with Shallot and Fennel
  • Escarole Salad with Mustard Dressing
  • Chocolate, Hazelnut, and Banana Tartlets
  • Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Vanilla

With Ciao Italia Five-Ingredient Favorites, Mary Ann Esposito serves up a surefire way to please family and friends with easy recipes that are quick and delicious.

Mary Ann Esposito is the creator and host of the long-running PBS series Ciao Italia, celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2010. She is the author of eleven successful cookbooks, including Ciao Italia Slow and Easy and Ciao Italia Pronto! She lives in Durham, New Hampshire.

Note: This post may contain affiliate links, which means if you buy from my link I might make a small commission. This does not affect the price you pay. See the full affiliate disclosure here.

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Oooh, a cookbook. I got to review a cookbook. Yay for me! And an Italian cookbook at that. My hubby surprised me with a trip to Italy for my 39th birthday. I know why not my 40ieth, but hey! I got to go to Italy for two glorious food and art filled weeks. The food. The food. It was some of the best food I had ever eaten in my life; the best meal? Roast chicken. Can you imagine? All of Italian food before me and the best meal I had was a roast chicken. It was delicious. It was then that I discovered the key to good cooking; fresh, simple, local food. And I have tried to cook that way ever since.

The premise of Ms. Esposito’s cookbook is just that – simple food using staples you have on hand. The recipes call for 5 ingredients (not counting salt, pepper, flour or oil) and come together very quickly. While I found some of the recipes to be extremely basic others where more intriguing. Each chapter starts with an short story and 5 tips relevent to the topic at hand; pasta, soup, sauce, etc.

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The instructions are written in some of the recipes – including the cookie recipe I tested – for someone who has some cooking knowledge under their belt. You will see what I mean when I get to showing you my cookies. It doesn’t mean a novice couldn’t make these recipes it just might lead to questions. Overall, though I am happy to add this book to my ever growing cookbook collection.

Since I had to bake for the hubby’s fire meeting I picked a recipe from the Big Five Sweets section; Biscotti al Limone or Lemon Wafer Cookies. They used eggs! You all know I have LOTS of eggs around here.

So here we go:  Three eggs, sugar, lemon juice and orange juice go in the mixer bowl (the recipe calls for Meyer lemons. I live somewhere where I am lucky enough to find lemons let alone Meyer lemons so I used the alternative of 1/2 lemon juice and 1/2 orange juice. Oranges are also premium around these parts so I used orange juice concentrate. Knowing how to substitute effectively is half of good cooking)

Here is where I felt the instructions fail a novice cook. They say “beat together the eggs, lemon juice, and sugar until pale and thick. Don’t rush this process. The eggs should have lots of air beaten into them and fall off the beaters in ribbons.” OK – I have done this before I know exactly what to look for. I know to just walk away from that mixer for a good 5 – 10 minutes to get those eggs where they need to be. Did I know that the first time I did it? No! I think a mention of timing or a photo would have been helpful for the first timer. But as it says, whip it, whip it good!

Then you add in 1/3 of the flour and fold it in.

Add in the lemon zest and a pinch of sea salt. 

And fold in the rest of the flour.

Then drop by teaspoons on a baking sheet lined with parchment. I didn’t have parchment so I used foil.

Bake at 350* for about 15 minutes and you get lovely, citrusy cookies.

I will not admit or deny tasting these cookies and saying they taste rather like Trix cereal but in a classier way. I think I will make them again and put some goat’s milk ice cream in the center. MMMMM!  Or maybe some of my homemade apricot jam.

There are several other recipes I am looking forward to trying; Devilish Chicken,Roast Lamb, Roman Style and I could go on.

I know I will make the cookies again.

Ciao Italia is available at

Disclosure:  I received a gratis copy of Ciao Italia from FSB Media for review. The opinions expressed are my honest opinons and were not impacted by the receipt of the free book. 

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