Ahoy there Lovebirds! It exists! A genuine Italian cookery book written by- cue trumpet fanfare- one Sophia Loren. In the Kitchen with Love was first published in 1971 by Doubleday (or at least the American edition, translated from the Italian original):
To open this book is to join Miss Loren in her own kitchen, where she talks about the art of preparing, serving and enjoying fine food. With customary spontaneity, she relates intimate details pertinent to the background of her favorite dishes...
Suprisingly, it’s actually quite good: I had automatically assumed that it had been ghost-written and then changed my mind on a first reading; that was until I came across a technicolour plate showing "Miss Loren with her cook, Livia, preparing tomato sauce”, and then you do begin to wonder who the true author was...
It reminds me enormously of one of my all-time favourite feel-good films, How To Murder Your Wife, and if you’ve seen that wunderwerk you’ll know what I’m getting at. Except that it stars the devastatingly beautiful Virna Lisi. Bachelor Jack Lemmon marries her during a drunken stag night (she comes out of a cake), and then plots her murder. Why? Because she lovingly over-feeds him with delicious- if fattening- provincial Italian home cooked food. Okay, Virna comes with a Wagnerian mother-in-law in tow and a tiresome, yappy little lap dog, but even so, it still has to be one of the most barmy, bonkers, crazy, ridiculous, implausible and bizarre motives for murder ever devised on celluloid.
Anyway, here’s Sophia Loren’s recipe for Gnocchi Alla Romana:
These gnocchi have a more delicate flavor than the others, as will be quickly seen from the ingredients.
For six people melt 3 tablespoons of butter in 1 quart of milk over a low flame, then increase the heat, and when the milk comes to the boil, pour in 1 cup of semolina, sirring it the entire time, when the mixture thickens and threatens to solidify, pour in another dash of milk; stir again, turn out the fire, add 2/3 cup of grated Parmesan, two egg yolks, without ever ceasing to stir.
When you see that the mixture, now very hot, has a uniform consistency, pour it out onto the marble top of the kitchen table, which you have previously dampened with cold water; shape it into a flat “cake”, about a quarter of an inch high, and leave to cool. Then with the rim of a glass cut the pasta into circlet: these of course are the gnocchi.
To cook them greasproof a fireproof dish and dust it with breadcrumbs; lay in it the gnocchi in tight rows wach with its edge resting on the next one, cover with melted butter and grated Parmesan, add another layer of gnocchi, then more butter and Parmesan; and bake uncovered in a moderate oven for one hour.