Cookbook Review: “Mamma Agata – Simple and Genuine” by Chiara Lima

Sometimes you happen across a cookbook that you know you’ll treasure for the rest of your life. That’s how I felt when I first looked through Chiara Lima’s beautiful cookbook Mamma Agata – “Simple and Genuine” Italian Family Recipes. I’ve written many times here on Ciao Amalfi about my adventures discovering and learning about cooking here on the Amalfi Coast. Imagine my excitement when I discovered that Chiara Lima, director of the Mamma Agata Cooking School on the Amalfi Coast, had written a cookbook of her mother Agata’s traditional family recipes. Here was a chance to step inside a family kitchen and learn about real home cooking here on the Amalfi Coast. And you couldn’t find a warmer or more welcoming kitchen than Mamma Agata’s to step in to!

Image courtesy Mamma Agata Cooking School

More than just a cookbook, Mamma Agata – “Simple and Genuine” is a labor of love, telling the story of Agata’s life in Ravello, cooking up her wonderful dishes for movie stars and sharing her talents in the kitchen at the cooking school founded in 1994. Throughout the book you also meet Agata’s family, including her daughter Chiara who writes with passion and love about her family’s history and cooking traditions.

One of the hallmarks of Mamma Agata’s recipes, which is reflected in the title of the book, is that good food doesn’t have to be complicated. To make authentic home cooked Italian dishes all you need are fresh ingredients and the know how to accentuate and combine flavors. The recipes in this cookbook take you step by step through the process of preparing Agata’s signature dishes. The photography throughout the cookbook is extraordinary and leaves you yearning to move right in with Mamma Agata at her beautiful home in Ravello. Each recipe is accompanied by step by step photos that make following the recipes easy and natural.

One of my favorite touches in the cookbook are the sections called “Mamma Agata’s Recommendations” and “Mamma Agata’s Secrets” that are interspersed throughout the recipes steps. While I’m cooking her recipes, it really feels like Mamma Agata is there looking over my shoulder and offering little tips and suggestions to make sure I get it just right. Cooking isn’t simply about following a recipe, and I learned some really handy tips about cooking from these recommendations.

 

Mamma Agata and her family refer to their beautiful home and cooking school as “The Hidden Treasure,” and it truly is a magical spot on the Amalfi Coast. For those who have visited the cooking school and all the rest of you who might dream of visiting some day, this beautiful cookbook will be a real treasure. I can tell you that it has quickly become one of my most prized resources in the kitchen. It’s already been splattered by tomatoes bubbling away on the stove and filled with notes as if I’ve already owned it for a lifetime. Anyone who has traveled to and enjoyed the wonderful cooking here on the Amalfi Coast will also treasure this wonderful resource.

 

Psst… Don’t miss meeting Chiara Lima on her USA BOOK TOUR!

For those of you reading in America, Chiara Lima will be traveling to many locations on a book tour during the month of November, including stops Bernardsville, New Jersey and New York City before continuing on to Chicago and then Dallas. Check here to see all the details on the dates and event venues. Best of luck to my sweet friend Chiara on her book tour to America!

Photo Friday: Early Morning in Florence

 

Last week I was invited by Katie Greenaway over at Olio di Oliva e Sogni di Vino to write about one of my favorite photos. I chose this one from my trip to Florence last May, because it reminds me of the beautiful moments I spent watching the city come to life each morning. If you’re looking for a little Friday reading, pop over and check out my guest post called Swallows Over the Rooftops of Florence. (There’s a video, too!)

Happy Friday!

Favorite Italian Films: La Meglio Gioventu

I’ve been having fun traveling around Italy with the Favorite Italian Films series. And getting some great new additions to my must see list! This week we’re off on a jaunt that takes us through some of Italy’s top travel destinations with Katie Greenaway from Olio di Olive e Sogni di Vino as she tells us about another one of her favorite Italian movies.

Welcome, Katie!

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No film has made me relive my childhood like La Meglio Gioventu (The Best of Youth). This was a 6 part miniseries set all over Italy from Rome to Florence to Palermo to Turin. Matteo and Nicola Carati (played by the talented Alessio Boni and Luigi Lo Cascio) are brothers from Rome who have different views on life. From 1960 to 2003, the events that transpire for this family have many similarities to life in general. Matteo is the lost soul. He keeps to himself and in the end never finishes university. Nicola, on the other hand, is determined. He finishes university and plans on making a difference in the psychology world in Italy. Even when his professor tells him to go abroad to find work, he perseveres through the bureaucracy to find what Italy has to offer.

The story begins with Nicola and Matteo planning a road trip with friends to travel all over Europe. Things get sidetracked when Matteo rescues a young girl named Giorgia (Jasmine Trinca) from a mental hospital because she was being mistreated. From there Matteo, Nicola and Giorgia start an impromptu journey on trying to find Giorgia’s parents. They travel through Umbria and Tuscany until they find her father, wh0 ends up not wanting her to stay with him. He believes she belongs in the mental hospital, because according to him, Giorgia is sick.  Something that Nicola and Matteo believe is untrue, and, in fact, she is a bright young girl. Nicola and Matteo end up parting ways when the police pick up Giorgia.  One ends up joining the military and the other volunteers in Florence during the flood of 1966. Which one does which? There are so many twists and turns in this story that you’ll just have to watch it on a nice rainy afternoon.

This story played with my heart strings. I cried, laughed, worried and was surprised. As this film suggests, it is an example of how one family copes with what life throws at them. Knowing who you can count on is one of the most important things. Key word: Family. You’ll notice how certain friendships are maintained throughout the film. Every time I watch this, not often because it is long, I get teary-eyed. So many emotions take place and are relived over and over again among the characters. Of course there are love stories that take place as well. I suggest watching this mini-series in pieces. But if you are like me, I had to watch all 383 minutes of it in one sitting.  

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Katie Greenaway is a freelance travel writer and is the Local Expert of Florence for Nile Guide where she also provides the secrets of Florence on her blog.  She writes about her life in Florence on her personal blog Olio di Oliva e Sogni di Vino and contributes to MNUI Travel Insurance with travel articles.

Photo Friday: A Kiss on Ischia

 Ciao Amalfi A Kiss on Ischia

Walking down a pretty street in Ischia Porto on the island of Ischia, this sensual terracotta panel caught my eye. How could it not? It was positioned on the corner of light yellow colored building, and in the meltingly hot sun it seemed particularly passionate. With cooler autumn weather just around the corner, I thought we could all use a reminder of the summer heat!

Happy weekend!

A Taste of Paradise at Mamma Agata’s Cooking School on the Amalfi Coast

One afternoon not long ago I stepped into paradise. That’s really how it feels when you walk through the doors of the Mamma Agata Cooking School on the Amalfi Coast. The pretty ceramic tile sign outside the door says “The Hidden Treasure,” and as soon as I stepped inside I knew I had discovered one of the true gems on the Amalfi Coast. I invite you along as I recount the enchanting summer afternoon I spent in Ravello at Mamma Agata’s …

 

Ciao Amalfi Blog Mamma Agata Sign

 

I arrived just as the morning’s cooking class was wrapping up. I received the warmest greeting from Chiara Lima, Director of Mamma Agata’s (and the daughter of Agata). Within minutes I found myself with a glass of red wine in hand and sampling an antipasto of Involtini di Melanzane, delicate rolls made with eggplant and filled with provolone, sun-dried tomatoes and arugula. It was the beginning of the best meal I’ve ever eaten!

 

Ciao Amalfi Blog Mamma Agata Wine Glass    

Although I didn’t see the entire cooking class, I was happy to have a chance to see the part about preparing the antipasti. The classes are taught by Agata and Chiara, with Chiara’s wonderful English translations and good humor making it a lively and fun experience. I was welcomed into the group immediately and could tell from the moment I arrived that they were having a fabulous time. The class takes place in a beautiful kitchen located just steps from a gorgeous outdoor terrace. After enjoying the antipasti in the kitchen, while learning some invaluable tips on frying, we were all invited to retire to the terrace and enjoy a glass of wine and the views while Chiara and Mamma Agata put the finishing touches on lunch. 

 

Ciao Amalfi Blog Mamma Agata View

 

The views from Mamma Agata’s are extraordinary and are certainly part of the enchanting setting.

 

Ciao Amalfi Blog Mamma Agata Terrace

 

The table was beautifully set on the terrace, and it was so inviting on a gorgeous summer day.

 

Ciao Amalfi Blog Mamma Agata Lunch Table

 

Everything served at Mamma Agata’s is grown in the family’s garden, located on the terraced land stretching down to the sea. They serve their own wines, which get the close attention of Chiara’s husband Gennaro, a professional sommelier and wine expert. If you’re interested in a Wine Tasting, Gennaro will be your sommelier for an unforgettable evening on the Amalfi Coast!

 

Ciao Amalfi Blog Mamma Agata Wine

 

The lunch started off with a taste of Mamma Agata’s Parmigiana di Melanzane, which was hands down the best I’ve ever had. After that fine beginning, we were served two outstanding pasta dishes. The first was a Spaghetti del Contadino with olives, fresh cherry tomatoes from the garden, capers and arugula. Next came Pappardelle con Perperoni e Salsiccia, broad pasta noodles served with peppers and sausage. I would go back again simply for this pasta dish … it was that good!

 

Ciao Amalfi Blog Mamma Agata Chiara Lima

The delightful Chiara serving the Parmigiana di Melanzane

 

But it didn’t end there! Out next came Mamma Agata’s famous Pollo al Limone, chicken cooked in the famous Amalfi Coast lemons from the family’s gardens. After that I had to get up and take a stroll around the terrace garden to make room for dessert!

 

Ciao Amalfi Blog Mamma Agata Grassy terrace

 

The finishing touch of this wonderful meal was a slice of Mamma Agata’s Dolce al Limone, an absolutely divine lemon cake, and a glass of the family’s limoncello. Mamma Agata’s has hosted countless celebrities, and they have a fun book put together where you can see photos. Chiara has many great stories to share, too! All of the recipes I’ve mentioned in this post can be found in the Mamma Agata Simple and Genuine cookbook written by Chiara Lima. After enjoying the fabulous meal, I dare you to leave without one!

 

Ciao Amalfi Blog Mamma Agata Book

 

That afternoon I spent at Mamma Agata’s Cooking School was a dream. I felt like I had stepped into paradise! Not only do you get to learn about the secrets and cooking traditions on the Amalfi Coast, you also get to eat a meal of a lifetime. Perhaps the best part, however, is the feeling of being welcomed into a family. When you walk through the front door that’s how you feel—like you’re a part of the family. It’s an absolutely unforgettable experience on the Amalfi Coast!

 

Ciao Amalfi Blog Mamma Agata Bougainvillea

 

For more information, visit the Mamma Agata Cooking School website, which has all the details on their cooking classes, wine tastings and how to get your own copy of the Mamma Agata Simple and Genuine cookbook.