Bring Back Sunday Dinner!

“Whatever Happened to Sunday Dinner?” Lisa Caponigri asks in her new rustic Italian cookbook.

Good question, but we all know the answer. Life! With mom and dad gone, and one sister in Kenya, the only time my family gets together these days is for a funeral.

But we still have warm memories of Sunday and special-occasion dinners, with homemade buns and pies and the great hunks of meat mom cooked so effortlessly.

Caponigri, a second generation Italian-American, celebrates her grandmother’s cooking in this 250-recipe collection. Her Sicilian nonna would be proud. The recipes are well-written and inspire confidence that you, too, can bake a whole fish and whip up an espresso-hazelnut chocolate cake for dessert.

The only problem is that the recipes are written for 10 to 12, so the ingredient lists can be alarming when you can’t muster more than two or four for Sunday dinner.

So far, downsizing ingredients has been fairly easy – one can of tomatoes instead of four, and I’m thinking of stuffing a pork tenderloin for two rather than buying a four-pound pork loin.

The book offers a year’s-worth of extravagant five-course menus, so you’d better start cooking now for next Sunday. This may be a great marketing tool, but it’s annoying when you’re just looking for, say, a dessert recipe.

I’m starting to think even the author doesn’t expect us to cook an entire meal from her book.

Take Menu 24. It starts with three large balls of fresh mozzarella with prosciutto, then calls for two cups of heavy cream and more prosciutto in the pasta sauce. Another two cups of heavy cream sauce the chicken breasts, there’s a half-cup olive oil in the sautéed spinach and four cups of heavy cream in the berry panna cotta.

Last night I made Lisa’s Famous Stuffed Peppers, which involved making the tomato sauce (no time to simmer it two to four hours), making and seasoning breadcrumbs then assembling and baking the dish for an hour.

It was delicious. I’ve already slipped bits of paper in the book to mark other recipes I’d like to try some Sunday, still our favourite day to spend time in the kitchen.

They all look so simple and tempting, it may be worth inviting a bunch of friends over for a rich, lusty Italian dinner. Though it may take a month or two to find a date that fits everyone’s schedule.

Whatever Happened to Sunday Dinner?
Sterling Epicure/Canadian Manda Group
$29.95 Cdn.

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