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Cookbook review: Mormon cooking, the Italian way

By Heidi Galieti

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, May 28 2013 7:00 p.m. MDT

"MORMON MAMA ITALIAN COOKBOOK: From My Nona Rosa's Table to Yours," by Shannon M. Smurthwaite, Front Table Books, $18.99, 136 pages

Boasting "authentic Italian cuisine" on the vibrant front cover of "Mormon Mama Italian Cookbook," family cook Shannon M. Smurthwaite brings her family's recipes to the world.

With just around 25,000 members The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Italy, few could contest whether these recipes are truly representative as "Mormon Italian" cooking.

On first glance at the appetizers and sides section, though, one might jump to the conclusion that Mormon Italian cuisine just consists of taking any dish, throwing in one ingredient traditionally considered Italian and putting the name "Italian" in the title. Italian Nachos, Italian Popcorn and Italian Strawberry Lemonade are just a few examples.

Kelly's Orzo and Cheddar Balls is also peculiar, as cheddar cheese has British roots. And in the dessert category, Mafia Mud Bars may not fit the designation "authentic Italian cuisine," that doesn't mean they don't taste and look good.

But don't let this quibble about authenticity stop you from continuing into the true heart of this aesthetically pleasing cookbook. While not meant to be an exhaustive compilation, this well-designed collection of tasty recipes offers food options that are simple, timeless and family friendly, a strong point for most "Mormon"-sized households.

Few ingredients and simple preparation are both strong points of this collection. In keeping true to its title, "Mormon Mama Italian Cookbook" has no recipe that calls for wine or coffee. Whether you make the Parmesan Artichoke Pasta or the Truffles Cioccolato, you will feel as if you are sitting down for a meal as part of Smurthwaite's family.

With more than 70 recipes, including soups, sides, breads, pasta dishes and fun desserts, "Mormon Mama Italian Cookbook" is a pleasing reference to add variety and a spirit of family to mealtime.

*****

Parmesan Artichoke Pasta

Serves: 4-6

2 1/2 cups milk

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup all-purpose flower

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

1 6.5-ounce jar artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped

4-6 leaves fresh basil, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

cooked pasta

In a large frying pan, warm the milk on low-medium heat. Melt butter in a small saucepan. Add flour to the butter, making a roux. Stir for about one minute, but do not let the roux brown or overcook.

Remove roux from heat and combine with milk in frying pan. Stir continuously for about 1 minute to get rid of any lumps. Bring to a boil, stirring often.

When sauce is thick, turn heat down to low. Add garlic powder, Parmesan cheese, artichoke hearts, and fresh basil. Simmer for 3–4 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Add sauce to cooked pasta.

— "Mormon Mama Italian Cookbook," by Shannon M. Smurthwaite

Heidi Galieti is a freelance editor and book reviewer specializing in the fantasy and science fiction genres. She also owns Custom LDS Scriptures, where customers can have their scriptures and other books custom bound in any of over 55 leather colors

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