Cookbook review: Nigellissima by Nigella Lawson

Feb 27, 2013 at 10:45 a.m. ET

It's easy to make traditional, Italian-inspired dishes. In her new cookbook, Nigella Lawson explains how and gives each of these recipes a personal touch.

Nigella serves up traditional Italian fare

Cookbook review: Nigellissima Easy Italian-inspired Recipes by Nigella Lawson

It's easy to make traditional, Italian-inspired dishes. In her new cookbook, Nigella Lawson explains how and gives each of these recipes a personal touch.

From pasta to pork chops to panna cotta, Nigella Lawson provides Italian-inspired dishes in her latest cookbook, Nigellissima: Easy Italian-Inspired Recipes. What she wants readers to understand is that these recipes are traditional in the sense that the ingredients she uses are fresh, and her method of preparation is simple — just as a traditional Italian meal would be made.

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Italian with a personal touch

What gives these recipes a new twist is Nigella's singular style. While you'll find plenty of pasta recipes, you won't find a spaghetti-and-meatballs dish, waiting to be served on a table covered with a red and white checked tablecloth. Instead, you'll find Shrimp Pasta Rosa, a dish with a lighter sauce made with tomato paste, mascarpone and rosato vermouth, which gives the dish a fresh, fruity flavor and is used where red wine might normally be found. You'll also come across Apricot and Almond Crostata made with almond meal, apricot preserves and lemon zest. For this recipe she encourages readers to use the preserves of their choice, as long as they're not too sweet.

Nigella introduces each recipe and expressively describes her rationale for the ingredients used, how the traditional Italian version might be prepared, and what you might serve with it to complete the meal.

Time well spent

At this point you might wonder how Nigella knows as much as she does about traditional Italian food. Granted, she is an internationally best-selling cookbook author and food television personality, but when she was in her late teens, she spent time in Florence, Italy, working as a chambermaid in a family-run pensione. It was there that she learned about Italian cooking from the family's Nonna, not specifically by being taught, but by observing, and by practicing the art of frugal eating due to necessity.

A little help in the kitchen

In the book's Introduction, Nigella reviews several ingredients used to "make my daily (Italian-inspired) cooking life easier." Don't skip over the list. You'll find it useful to prepare (and help explain) the recipes in the book. Each of the 120 simple recipes is paired with a large, colorful photo to give you an idea of what you'll enjoy.

"A tavola!" as they say in Italy: "Time to eat!" Try one of Nigella's Italian-inspired past dishes:

Spaghetti with tuna, lemon & arugula

Spaghetti with Tuna, Lemon & Arugula

Serves 2


  • 8 ounces spaghetti
  • Salt for pasta water, to taste
  • 1 (6-8 ounce) can tuna in olive oil (Ventresca if budget and opportunity allow), drained
  • Zest and juice from 1 unwaxed lemon
  • 1/2 clove garlic, peeled
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or 1/4 teaspoon table salt, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup arugula, packed


  1. Put a big pot of water on to boil for the pasta, and once boiling, salt the water and add the spaghetti, cooking following the package instructions, though it's best to start checking 2 minutes before it should be ready.
  2. While that's cooking, fork the drained tuna into a large bowl and add the lemon zest and juice and grate in (or mince and add) the garlic.
  3. Still using your fork, add and mix in the sliced scallions, then season to taste with the red pepper flakes and salt and, finally, add the extra-virgin olive oil, beating with your fork to combine.
  4. Before draining the spaghetti, scoop out a little pasta-cooking liquid, then toss the drained pasta into the bowl of tuna, scallions, etc., and mix together really well, adding a spoonful or so of pasta-cooking water to bring some starchy creaminess to the sauce.
  5. Add the arugula leaves and gently work them through the pasta before dividing it between 2 bowls.

About the Author

Nigella Lawson, food enthusiast, television personality and journalist, is the author of eight best-selling books which have sold more than 6 million copies worldwide. Her books and groundbreaking iPhone app and television shows on Food Network, E! Entertainment Television, and Style have made her a household name globally. She hosts an innovative new culinary competition series, The Taste, with Anthony Bourdain, Ludo Lefebvre, and Brian Malarkey on the ABC Television Network. She lives in London with her family. Visit her at

More cookbooks to try

From Mamma's Table to Mine, by Bobby Deen
In My Kitchen, by Ted Allen
Small Changes, Big Results, by Ellie Krieger