I had high hopes for Sarah Fragoso’s new book, Paleo Everyday Around the World: Italian Cuisine. I’ve heard a lot of good things about her recipes, and she has quite a reputation in the Paleo community.
And in some ways, the book did meet and even exceed my expectations. Italian Cuisine is downright gorgeous—more so than Sarah’s previous cookbooks. There’s a full color photo for every recipe, and you’re sure to catch yourself drooling a little as you thumb through promising recipe after promising recipe. The book also has a fun introduction about the Fragoso family’s adventures in Italy as they sampled authentic Italian cuisine firsthand.
However, once I started cooking I ran into a lot of problems:
- The time estimates were tricky to follow. When I made Fragoso’s chicken Marsala, for example, she simply said to simmer the wine and mushroom sauce for eight to ten minutes. I followed the directions, but my sauce was still rather runny. If you’ve ever had chicken Marsala, you know that the sauce should be thick and almost syrupy. I was left wondering whether I should cook the sauce longer or if this was the best I could expect from the Paleo version. I wish Sarah had included some sort of indicator like, “simmer the sauce until the volume is reduced by half, approximately eight to 10 minutes.” This lack of direction was a problem with almost every recipe I tried.
- The recipes were time consuming and expensive. I spent $40 on groceries to make one meal, which consisted of lasagna, panna cotta, and steamed artichokes with salsa verde. That’s not cheap. I then spent four hours in the kitchen prepping everything. It took three hours to make the lasagna alone!
- Of course, I don’t mind putting in a little extra time for a five-star dinner. But that’s where Italian Cuisine really disappointed—the recipes just weren’t that good. Sarah apparently considers the chicken Marsala to be one of the best recipes in the book, but the flavors were underwhelming, even with all those mushrooms. The lasagna was not only time consuming, but a total dud when it came time to eat. The lasagna didn’t hold its shape, and the coconut-based béchamel sauce didn’t compliment the meat layers at all. It wasn’t inedible, but it was not good either and definitely not worth three hours of my precious time. Oh, and the desserts? Like most Paleo recipes, I had to really adjust I expectations in order to enjoy them. Like “the meat pile” (what we dubbed the formless lasagna) the two desserts I tried weren’t bad, but they weren’t the kind of thing I’d crave or go out of my way to make again.
The chicken Marsala had a lot of potential, but ultimately it fell short in the flavor arena.
As you can gather, I’m not a fan of Italian Cuisine. I actually returned the book to Barnes & Noble, and I’ve gone back to my tried-and-true favorite, Well Fed. The author of Well Fed is actually coming out with a second cookbook this October, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it. Hopefully it won’t disappoint!