Posted by: Lisa Hill | March 23, 2017

Wow! It’s Italian (2013), by Hilda and Laurie Inglese

Yesterday I went to a pasta cooking class, an event organised by the Kingston Library at its Clarinda branch.  The presenters were husband-and-wife team Hilda and Laurie Inglese who used to run a cooking school in the Yarra Valley.  I learned why our ravioli fall apart, and I learned a few tips for making great pasta – the most important of which is that you should roll the pasta at least 20 times, maybe more, and that you should always, always, always weigh the ingredients so that you get the ratio of flour and liquid right.  (Did you know that in a packet of a dozen, eggs can vary by 6 grams from smallest to largest?  If you’re working with only 100g flour and the 50g egg is only 44g, that’s enough to spoil your pasta.)

And I bought the cookbook: it’s called Wow! it’s Italian, because that’s what Hilda’s cooking students used to say when they got to taste what they’d cooked.

You could be forgiven for wondering why I did that, when you see my existing collection of Italian cookery books…

I learnt to cook Italian from the Leggo’s Italian cookbook back in the 1980s.  It’s a commercial publication, produced by the manufacturers of tomato paste and pasta sauces, but only a small section of the book involves ready-made sauces; the rest of the book taught me how to make the classic dishes from scratch, apart from using the tomato paste.  From there I went on to acquire the other books, learning all kinds of interesting recipes from various different regions, and I make a superb Mushroom, Red Pepper and Ricotta lasagne from The 90s Vegetarian.

Wow! It’s Italian is a collection of really simple recipes, with ingredients all available at the local supermarket.  It’s a book that’s perfect for beginners because (quite apart from the fact that Italian cooking is pretty easy anyway) it sets out instructions step-by-step with lots of photographs. I don’t really need a beginner’s cookbook these days, so that’s not why I bought it…

It’s because these recipes are from a little village called Roccacaramanico in the Abruzzo region, high in the Italian alps, and the recipes are unique to that place.  They are Laurie’s mother’s recipes, adapted for an Australian context.  These days their little village is cultivating a tourist industry and many of the houses are just  seasonal holiday homes owned by wealthy lawyers and doctors, but when Laurie left there as a boy aged four the village had a barter-based agricultural economy.  Because the climate is very, very cold, and the village is abutted by a national park, land for farming is limited, and so is firewood.  Rather than light an oven every day the villagers shared a communal oven and were rostered to have a turn once a fortnight.  The women would get up at one in the morning on the day it was their turn, and prepare the dough for thirty loaves to get them through the fortnight.  They were huge loaves so that they would have a very thick crust which kept the bread fresh for the full two weeks. (Though they also had some great bruschetta recipes for if it did get a bit stale!)

The cold weather was no joke.  The photo of Laurie’s house in the book shows that the houses had balconies on the upper storeys so that when they were snowed in on the ground floor, they could use the doors on the upper storeys to get in and out. A really bad winter meant that they had to use the third storey doors.   So they cultivated staple foods that they could store, like potatoes and borlotti beans, and they kept a pig on the ground floor, the people living in the upper storeys.  (They didn’t just use the pork meat, they used pork fat to preserve foods until the next harvest).  Their recipes were hearty but simple, but they ate only once a day.  They were, Laurie said, slender people.  Not malnourished, but they went to bed a little hungry all the same.

It was from Laurie’s mother that Hilda learned to cook, and their cooking school and this cookbook was the result…

Well, today I tried making their Napoli sauce. It’s a bit different to how I usually make a sauce, mainly because there’s a lot more olive oil in it, including a tablespoon of extra EV stirred into the completed sauce.  The onions had to be cooked for 8 minutes, and a roasted red capsicum for four more, and (I’ve never done this before) the tomato paste had to be stirred into and cooked with the onions, garlic and capsicum for a whole minute before adding the tomatoes.  The recipe says that gives the sauce a lovely sweet taste, and it’s true, it does.  I departed from the recipe at this point because I have tomatoes harvested from the garden and didn’t want to use tinned tomatoes, and I also used vegetable stock instead of stock cubes because I think stock cubes are horrible salty things and I never use them.  I also used fresh herbs from the garden (basil, parsley and oregano) instead of dried, but while I usually add a glass of whatever red wine is open, this recipe doesn’t call for it so I left it out.  It’s a beautiful sauce.  I’ll be making this recipe again.

We still have pumpkins left over from last year’s harvest, so I’m going to try their Roasted Pumpkin and Onion Pizza, and next summer when we are drowning in zucchini I shall try their Zucchini Fritters.  Their minestrone is interesting: the protein is borlotti beans, not meat.  It looks nice but I’ll use spinach not silverbeet, I think.

Update 4/4/17 : This time The Spouse did the cooking. (Should have added more zucchini IMO).

We have a zillion cherry tomatoes from the garden, so I’m going to try the Pappardelle with Roasted Cherry Tomato and Zucchini, and yes, I’m going to have a go at making the Pappardelle myself.  And I’m definitely going to make the ravioli, because that’s why I went to the cooking class in the first place!

Desserts include Nonna’s Apple Pie, Zia Mary’s Lemon Cheesecake, Pears poached in Marsala, and (oh, yum!) Nonna’s Ricotta Cake. There are also recipes for Biscotti, including one with fruit, nuts and chocolate.

The 101-page book is divided into sections for Entrée; Sides, Soup, Sauces, Pasta, Mains, Desserts and Biscuits. It has an index and full colour, full page illustrations for every recipe, something I really like in a recipe book.

The only disappointment is that there aren’t any recipes is only one recipe with potatoes, (gnocchi) which is a bit strange considering that potatoes were a staple in the village diet!

Update 26/3/17 I was wrong, there are potato recipes, they are just not indexed separately.  I’m going to try these ones

  • Roast veg and Baby Spinach Salad
  • Minestrone (I should have realised this, Minestrone always has potato in it’!)
  • Pasta e Fagioli soup, and of course
  • the gnocchi.  I love gnocchi!

BTW I used the Napoli sauce to make a Bolognese sauce and we had it for our Sunday night dinner with home made pasta using Hilda’s recipe.  With a glass of shiraz, crusty bread from the Europa supermarket and a salad using tomatoes, cucumber, capsicum fresh from the garden, it was divine.  I’m going to use up the rest of the Bolognese sauce in ravioli tomorrow night. Will try to remember to take photos…

PS 27/3/17 I have permission from Hilda to share this extra recipe using potato with you:)

This is a good vegetarian option with meat as the chickpea is the protein.

Serves 6

Cube vegetables approximately the same size.

200g pumpkin,  300g potato, sliced 180g brown onion, 1 large red and green capsicum, 1/2 medium eggplant and 1/2 large zucchini, 1 tin rinsed  chickpeas, 1/4 cup evoo, season to taste (chilli optional).

Place in baking dish.  Toss vegetables with oil to coat and bake for 30 minutes at 220C. After 15 minutes turn vegetables over to cook evenly. Season to taste. Vegetables should be golden to maximize flavour.

Serve with couscous and feta. Enjoy!

Authors: Hilda and Laurie Inglese
Title: Wow! It’s Italian
Publisher: self-published, 2013
ISBN: none
Source: Personal recipe book collection, purchased at the cooking class, $35.00

Only available from the author’s website.


  1. My only experiment with making pasta was a disaster – way too thick. But one day I will get out that roller and give it another go. By the way there was a fuss here (a rather minor one in the scheme of things) because a TV chef who we are supposed to think of the nation’s favourite made a bolognaise sauce and added cream and white wine. You’d have thought she had blasphemed during an audience with the pope….


    • Ooh, I think I know just who you mean….
      I’ve used white wine when I haven’t had any red. But it’s a bit pointless because a white isn’t (generally speaking) robust enough to add any flavour to beef…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m not a cook and between being away from home 200 nights a year and a family full of chefs it’s not something I have to worry about. I do remember learning spag bol at Uni – mince, onions and tomato paste – and I can make zucchini fritters.


    • With a beer batter? My (first) FIL used to make *divine* fish fillets with a beer batter!


  3. Loved this post Lisa, though Italian food, of all cuisines, is the hardest one for me. I can only go to Italian restaurants which do grilled fish and chicken dishes. Those that focus on pizza and pasta are a no-no as I can’t eat wheat, cheese or tomato. I was heartbroken because I had an array of Italian recipe books, including Elizabeth David’s book which was my first go-to book for Italian recipes. But I had several others, including my other favourite, Ada Boni’s Italian Regional Cooking.

    But, back then, in the late 70s/early 80s I didn’t think of trying to make the pasta as well, and am always astonished by the aplomb with which those MasterChef whip up some pasta. However, I can believe that about eggs. My engineer husband, when he wants to make sure he can replicate a recipe (particularly baked recipes – like cakes) will weigh the eggs and record it on his recipes. (He makes a very good Black Forest Cake – not that I can eat it). He also feels the same about lemon juice. Juice of one lemon – how much is that? It doesn’t matter in some dishes but cakes and doughs and batters I think, these measurements can, as you say, be critical.

    And, no potatoes? One of my favourite roast potato recipes is Italian inspired – potatoes, rosemary and garlic. Yum. My other favourite Italian cooking that I do now is antipasto. I love coming up with new ways of preparing and marinating veggies and putting together pretty platters.


    • One of my favourites is what we just call Italian roast vegies. Potatoes, onions, garlic, small beets, drizzled in olive oil and sprinkled with rosemary and black pepper. I could live on that for weeks and eat nothing else, I reckon.
      But actually, I must amend this post: there is a recipe for gnocchi, I must have turned two pages over at once.
      BTW I made a Bolognese with the Napoli sauce tonight, a double quantity so I can use the other half for a lasagne, and it really was very nice, gently sweeter than the way I usually make it. It reminded me a little of a recipe I used to make in the days when we worried less about fat: my sister’s first MIL gave me the recipe which she said came from Florentino’s, and it used 80z/250g butter to a kilo of mince and all the other ingredients. It was divine, silky in the mouth the way this Napoli recipe is, which is because of the extra olive oil in it I suppose…


      • Oh yes, I could live on those roast veggies too, Lisa. That sauce sounds really yum. I do miss great pasta dishes. I was given a few Italian recipes by a couple of Italian women in my team way back in the 1970s. It was wonderful learning from Italian women, but I’ve forgotten most of that now through disuse!


        • BTW I have a mystery. Whenever I comment on your site (and other wordpress sites I think) my little gumblossom gravatar shows but it doesn’t show when I comment on my own blog! Whereas your gravatar shows on both yours and other blogs. I’ve searched and searched and I cannot work out what I have to do to make is show on my blog. It’s not a biggie but it’s frustrating not to know why.


          • I’m afraid you’re only an attractive purple square on TheAustralianLegend!


            • Well why? Why does it work here, and on some other sites and not others, where yours and Lisa’s seem to work everywhere? I research it every now and then, go to the My Gravatar site where it seems to be my gravatar. I hate not understanding it. A google search hasn’t seemed to bring up the right answer so I’m probably asking the wrong question.


              • Have you uploaded it at WP, in Settings – General?


                • Yes, Lisa, that’s where it is, under Site Icon. I assume that’s where yours is? And it’s at the En Gravatar site too …


  4. That is indeed very strange. My advice would be to try deleting it altogether, and then uploading it again. As is so often the case with the unfathomable digital world, it just might work.
    (Yesterday my phone just wouldn’t respond to touch. There can’t be any logical reason for that, especially not after I tried cleaning the screen umpty-million times.) I rebooted it, and lo! it works. Like a child who miraculously stops crying when a bandaid is produced…)


  5. Reblogged this on The Logical Place.


  6. […] I’ve barely had time to try more than a few recipes from Wow! It’s Italian when lo! into my PO box came Julie Goodwin’s Essential Cookbook […]


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