Restaurant group Big Mamma isn’t known for its subtlety, with its Gloria, Circolo Popolare, Ave Mario, Jacuzzi, and Carlotta restaurants a riot of colour and retro quirkiness, so it will come as a surprise to absolutely no one that its new cook book is a bright green tome that will stand out on your bookshelf like a cat at Crufts.
As the title itself explains, this book is all about speed, promising recipes that can be cooked in 30 minutes - ‘cheeky shower included’ - with sections broken down into aperitivo, antipasti, primi, secondi, contori, pizze, and dolci as well as some basic preparations. Within its 300+ pages you’ll find recipes for everything from spaghettonne with sea urchins; fried courgette flowers stuffed with ricotta; and focaccia with mortadella; to fried aubergines with garlic and caramelised tomatoes; and Neapolitan octopus with olives. There’s 100 recipes all in all, meaning there’s plenty to keep you busy.
So far, so predictable. But where the Big Mamma book tries to stand out is with all the additional extras found between its pages that add a bit of colour to the recipes and to Italian cuisine in general - and also give an insight into the slightly crazed minds of the group’s founders Victor Lugger and Tigrane Seydoux. Take, for example, the ‘A minute to spare’ that appendices each recipe and which veers from providing useful tips on cooking to making often unrelated observations. So, while it might suggest the use of a mandolin to slice the raw mushrooms for the burrata with button mushrooms recipe, other advice includes looking up an Instagram account featuring pasta and grandmothers, taking time out to water the plants in your house, and even checking your belly button for fluff.
Add into the mix some lists - nine chef secrets for saving time, the 10 ultimate Italian cheeses, five Italian products you should always have in your cupboard, top 10 Italian songs to round off the evening - and some quite frankly terrible pun named dishes - Cream of Passion, Tiramissyou, Figgin’ Beautiful, La Dolceviche, and Pavlova Anderson (a particular favourite) and you have that rare thing - an Italian cookbook that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Italian food purists might baulk at such frivolity, but as Big Mamma knows they are not its restaurants’ or this book’s target customer. If, however, you like to create dishes with a little bit of attitude - or that take your ablutions into account - then this might just be the book for you.
Big Mamma - Italian Recipes in 30 Minutes (shower time included)
Number of pages: 320
Standout recipe: Pizzoccheri with potatoes, bitto, and kale
Publisher and price: White Lion, £25
Publication date: 11 April 2024