I went to Rome this week. I savored local specialties like spaghetti alla carbonara and saltimbocca alla romana. I strolled through the lively markets of Testaccio and Campo de’ Fiori. I garnered tips on cooking pasta al dente (it should resist the tooth—but the tooth should win). I delighted in stories of Italian men who courted their future wives with irresistible meals such as pollo al limone (chicken with lemons) and piselli e prosciutto (Spring peas with onions and prosciutto).
No, I didn’t travel on a beam-me-aboard space ship that eluded all Covid-19 restrictions. I made my journey in a new cookbook: AWAR’s Roman Kitchen: Food and Memories from the members of the American Women’s Association of Rome. The courage and dedication of brave health care workers in Italy during the pandemic inspired this collaboration by women who have lived, loved and cooked in the Eternal City.
In the Spring of 2020, Maureen Fant, an award-winning cookbook author, assembled a team of eight AWAR members with diverse talents. Collaborating almost entirely online via WhatsApp and Zoom, they tested, tasted, wrote, photographed and designed a 256-page compilation of 130 international recipes (about half Italian) with several versions of regional dishes like panzanella (bread salad) and pasta e fagioli (pasta with beans).
AWAR’s Roman Kitchen transports readers into the open heart of Rome. The contributors share stories of conquest, surrender, identity, acceptance, love, perseverance, acculturation, nostalgia and friendship. An added delight are the stunning four-color illustrations and photographs by members (and one husband). My favorites are the luscious watercolors by AWAR member Alleyne Caponera.
Organized around the traditional Italian meal structure, AWAR’s Roman Kitchen serves up a complete menu: drinks (including a frutti di bosco smoothie and three spritzes); starters (from insalata di arance to a shrimp, tomato and olive cocktail); variations on classic pasta dishes (such as carrot gnocchi and farfalle with tomatoes and avocado); main dishes (including classics such as rabbit or chicken alla cacciatora as well as an original dish called “eatsy fusion”—a combination of “eat” and “easy”); vegetable sides (among them radicchio timbale and capellini di zucchine); and desserts so tantalizing that one reviewer swore she gained ten pounds just reading the chapter.
Best of all is the spirit of the authors, who welcome readers as warmly as if they were guests in their homes. You quickly feel that you are indeed in a Roman kitchen, savoring food and conversation with dear friends.
AWAR was founded in 1955 by Clare Boothe Luce, the only woman so far to have served as United States ambassador to Italy. Its nearly 200 members include professional women, diplomats, artists, authors, historians, readers, chefs, translators, travelers, musicians and others who come together to celebrate their time in Rome and “experience culture, volunteer, support charitable work and have fun, too!” I’m sure you’ll enjoy sharing both their food and their company.
AWAR’s Roman Kitchen is available as a spiral-bound paperback and an e-book. For information or to order, visit awar.org/cookbook or write firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dianne Hales is the author of LA PASSIONE: How Italy Seduced the World; LA BELLA LINGUA: My Love Affair with Italian, the World’s Most Enchanting Language; and MONA LISA: A Life Discovered. You can download my most recent book, “A” Is for Amore, for free at diannehales.com.