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  • A Free Barilla Cookbook Brings Italian Cuisine to America
    One of the world's most well-known pasta makers teams up with cooking and entertaining experts to donate money to charity and teach people about authentic Italian style
    Our Paesani

    by Francesca Di Meglio

    Barilla pasta, one of the most famous Italian pasta makers, recently teamed up with entertaining expert David Tutera and chef Mario Batali to create an e-cookbook, The Celebrity Italian Cookbook offers delightful Italian recipes and tips for creating parties and menus inspired by some big-name celebrities. The best part is that every time you download the cookbook for free, Barilla donates $1 to America's Second Harvest, the nation's food banks - up to $100,000. A similar project last year provided more than three million meals to families in need, according to the 2008 book.

    I first discovered the book by watching the Lifetime series Get Married, which is hosted by Tutera. He shared table setting ideas that are in the book as inspiration for brides and grooms who are planning engagement parties, bridal showers, or other get togethers leading up to their nuptials. Celebrations with an Italian twist - and lots of delicious Italian food - are appealing to me for obvious reasons. So, I logged onto the getmarried.com site and downloaded the cookbook. With my wireless connection, the book took seconds to download and came in an easy-to-read PDF file. I printed out all 32 pages with no problem at all. And I was able to decide if I wanted the $1 to go to the national bank or one closer to my home. By typing in your zip code, you could choose from the nearest food bank locations.

    What makes the cookbook so special, however, is the content. Barilla's choice of chef and entertaining expert certainly helped. Both Batali and Tutera are renowned in their respective fields and are quite creative. As a bride to be myself, I certainly will be using some of these suggestions to entertain my bridesmaids, maintain romance with my groom, and thank my parents for helping me organize not one but two weddings. (I'm getting married in Italy and the United States.) The recipes that caught my eye include the Torta di Arancia Caprese or orange tart Capri-style and Spaghetti al Tonno or spaghetti with tuna. I have eaten the lemon version of the Caprese tort in Ischia, and it always melts in my mouth and leaves a refreshing after taste because of the citrus. The tuna, spaghetti combo intrigues me because my groom Antonio is a big fan of both tuna fish and pasta. I imagine this will become among his favorite dishes.

    The best table setting, in my opinion, is the first one Tutera flaunts in the book. It is inspired by Venice, replete with Venetian carnevale masks tied to the back of the chairs and a sea of red roses topping the table along with ribbon-adorned gold candelabras. Rich in color and fantasy, the scene is set for romance - and I think I might just have to create this table setting for my first wedding anniversary. That particular table and its menu - which included eggplant involtini with ricotta and scallions, rigatoni with basil and gorgonzola, and a cherry jam tart - was inspired by singer Chris Daughtry. The other celebrities who served as inspiration for the menus and tables in the book are Debra Messing, Natalie Portman, Stanley Tucci, and Marisa Tomei.

    You're guaranteed authentic Italian recipes because Batali and Barilla are authorities on the country's cuisine. The simplicity of the food and the table settings makes the recipes and tips accessible to everyone from a novice entertainer to a professional. It's another way of bringing Italian culture to the masses while helping a good and important cause.

    Di Meglio is the guide to Newlyweds for About.com, where you can get relationship advice, meet others, and learn about everything from better communication to improving romance. You can also get more information on Di Meglio's career at www.francescadimeglio.com.

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