If you’re looking for recipes that reflect the wonderful food of Calabria then no other book does it better than Rosetta Costantino‘s, My Calabria.
Rosetta’s book was published in 2010 but it still is the bible for Calabrian cuisine.
Rosetta is an only child and was raised in Verbicaro in Calabria until she was 14 years old when the family moved to the Bay Area in California seeking a better and easier life. That’s exactly what they found and yet the one aspect of their life from Calabria that they missed but managed to reproduce to perfection was the Calabrian cuisine they’d left behind.
Rosetta’s parents couldn’t find all the ingredients they missed from Calabria to prepare the classic recipes that represent the food of Calabria they were missing from home. Fortunately they brought seeds with them and were expert gardeners so they created a vegetable garden in the Bay Area that looked exactly like a mini Calabrian garden: fabulous tomatoes, aromatic and delicious hot peppers.
Rosetta’s father was a master cheese maker in the mountains of Calabria so it was easy for him to transform this passion into home-style cheesemaking in California. He also made fabulous Calabrese sausages and other gastronomic specialties that were the essence of the food of Calabria.
Rosetta studied chemical engineering at Berkeley University in San Francisco which was the springboard for her career. Rosetta’s Sicilian born husband Lino is also an engineer. Despite their engineer-based career paths Rosetta and Lino continued to pursue their passion for Calabrian food and food from Lino’s native Sicily. Rosetta wasn’t able to make homemade pasta on a daily basis with her busy career but she still cooked daily meals, stemmed in her knowledge of Calabrian cuisine. She kept a Calabrian style garden, and still does to this day.
My Calabria cookbook
At a certain point in her life as her children grew into their teenage years and her parents began to age Rosetta realized that none of the recipes from her Calabrian gastronomic tradition were written down. This was the inspiration for her first cookbook, My Calabria. All the recipes she knew by heart that represented the food of Calabria, along with everything her mom knew, Rosetta wrote down for her cookbook.
My Calabria is full of recipes that represent the true and genuine food of Calabria, along with wonderful tales about Rosetta’s Calabrian family and history.
Rosetta's cooking classes
Rosetta also saw that her American friends were curious about her Calabrian heritage and wanted to learn all about the food of Calabria. Rosetta began organizing Calabrian cooking classes.
The San Francisco Chronicle wrote an article about Rosetta and her cooking classes and she immediately received hundreds of phone calls from people fascinated by the food of Calabria. Many remembered Rosetta’s recipes from their own culinary heritage and stories, and the food from their own grandparents.
Rosetta was happy to leave her rat race professional life behind to dedicate herself to cooking, teaching students recipes that represent the food of Calabria, and her cookbook.
Rosetta’s second book, Southern Italian Desserts
My Calabria was such a success that Rosetta was encouraged to write a second book and eventually she agreed.
Southern Italian Desserts was published in 2013 and it’s a compilation of fabulous recipes from the Italian south, many local and regional recipes that were only known locally.
Rosetta traveled around southern Italy by car with her husband and son tasting dessert recipes everywhere and then later preparing them at home and transcribing them for her Southern Italian Desserts cookbook. Many of these recipes represent the desserts and food of Calabria but not only: many of the recipes are from neighboring regions like Basilicata, Puglia, and some from her husband Lino’s place of birth: Sicily.
Rosetta says her son has an incredible palate and he was key in the development and creation of this cookbook. As they traveled around and tasted fabulous local desserts Rosetta and her son would write down all the ingredients and then reproduce the recipes back in California. She says that often it was her son who would detect when there was a key ingredient missing. Together they were able to create the 75 fantastic dessert recipes together.
What makes Rosetta’s books so special
Rosetta was born and raised in Calabria and as she lived a full 14 years there before moving to the United States the food of Calabria and her culinary heritage was by then deeply entrenched in her own palate and food memories. That coupled with her young adult, and adult, life in the Bay Area helped her record and transcribe her own recipes in a way that made sense to the American reader and home cook.
Why no ‘nduja in Rosetta’s book?
Back in 2010 when My Calabria was published the internet was still in its infancy and online purchases of Calabrian food products was close to nonexistent. Although ‘nduja is a quintessential part of the food of Calabria at the time her book was published it was basically impossible to purchase in the United States. Rosetta’s editor and publisher felt that all the recipes in her My Calabria cookbook should only contain recipes with readily available ingredients.
Where can you buy ‘nduja?
Since the book publication Rosetta collaborated with a Calabrese family based in Chicago to help them get started producing and selling wonderful food from Calabria. The company, Tempesta Salumi, makes ‘nduja and other great products like guanciale.
You can buy 'nduja online right here.
Rosetta has no plans to publish other cookbooks but she is dedicated to continuing her Calabrian cooking classes and now she also offers annual tours to her native Calabria, and her husband Lino’s native Sicily. If you’re curious and passionate about the food of Calabria, and the food of Sicily, then there’re no better tours to follow than Rosetta’s. A new tour she now offers is to the Puglia region.
Find out all about Rosetta's tours here.
Be sure to check out Rosetta's Instagram profile for great food and recipe photos and videos.
Would you like to know more about ‘nduja? Read about it here and listen to this podcast episode.
I use ‘nduja in many ways, but I especially love this recipe for ?Nduja Spaghetti with Slivered Zucchini and Arugula.
Flavor of Italy offers wonderful bespoke tours to both Calabria and Sicily. Here’s the information about our Flavor of Calabria tour, and here’s the information about our Flavor of Sicily trip. Would you like to set up your own customized tour to either of these regions? Just send me an email here.
If you’d like to read more about Sicily and its food then read my post Eating Your Way through Sicily and all about the special chocolate in Modica.
Italian desserts are wonderful and unique, and especially traditional Italian holiday desserts. Check out this post all about Italian holiday desserts.
There are lots of wonderful ceramic towns throughout Italy and you can read about them right here. Squillace in Calabria has beautiful ceramics; they are famous for the unique ingobbio technique.
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