Finally a book that combines the fresh, exuberant flavors of great Italian food with the ease and comfort of a slow cooker. Michele Scicolone, a best-selling author and an authority on Italian cooking, shows how good ingredients and simple techniques can lift the usual “crockpot” fare into the dimension of fine food. Pasta with Meat and Mushroom Ragu, Osso Buco with Red Wine, Chicken with Peppers and Mushrooms: These are dishes that even the most discriminating cook can proudly serve to company, yet all are so carefree that anyone with just five or ten minutes of prep time can make them on a weekday and return to perfection. Simmered in the slow cooker, soups, stews, beans, grains, pasta sauces, and fish are as healthy as they are delicious. Polenta and risotto, “stir-crazy” dishes that ordinarily need careful timing, are effortless. Meat loaves come out perfectly moist, tough cuts of meat turn succulent, and cheesecakes emerge flawless.
Scicolone (The Sopranos Family Cookbook) turns her attention to the slow cooker (or "crockpot") for preparing homey Italian dishes. In this accessible cookbook, she presents unintimidating recipes (which often suggest the ingredients simmer around 165 degrees for six to eight hours) that serve up hearty dishes with a minimum of fuss. The wide variety of main dishes seafood, meats, veggies and legumes and corresponding soups and sauces, capitalize on the flavor that only slow-cooked food can deliver. The sauces are the book's standouts, with recipes for ragus made with chunky pork shoulder or spicy Tuscan sausage, for example. She also includes recipes for a creamy polenta with gorgonzola and mascarpone; risotto-style farro with parmesan; seafood couscous made with halibut, shrimp and scallops; and braised beef with anchovies and rosemary. While her approach is certainly inventive and appealing, some recipes make one wonder whether a slow cooker is actually necessary (the stuffed peppers might be baked just as easily). That said, this cookbook will certainly relieve the time pressure on busy family cooks.