Jamie’s Italy, a beautiful book packed with photos of the Naked Chef cooking with tiny old Italian nonnas, is recently out here in the States, but was first published in the U.K.
For testing purposes, I made “Pici con ragu,” which meant making the pasta by hand. It’s an impressive recipe. Describing how to shape pasta is a difficult task, but I produced, after about two hours hunched over a skewer and a ball of dough, a big pile of pici. Rather proud of myself, too.
The ragu was extremely simple: ground veal, garlic, onion, rosemary, bay leaves, canned tomatoes. But the quantities seem to have been converted to the exact weight from the English version—hence the call for 1 pound and 2 ounces of ground meat. Kind of a silly thing to ask a butcher, I think. The only other problem, besides my aching back, was that the directions say to keep the lid on the sauce for the entire two hours of cooking. Of course, this leaves you with a very thin sauce—one that doesn’t resemble the photograph in the book, either. It’s an easy problem to fix, though. Toward the end of the cooking time, remove the lid and turn up the heat to cook off excess liquid.
Friends have told me that Oliver’s recipes are a little haphazard, better for improvising than following too closely, but handmade pasta is something you can’t really fudge, so I am won over, so far.