This cookbook has a copyright of 2010. I bought this cookbook from Amazon.com. I have never cooked from this before.
I admit, that most of the recipes I have for the slow cooker or "crockpot" don't involve a lot of prep. You take ingredients, toss them all in the slow cooker, set it for 8 to 10 hours and then you come home to dinner. When I first got this cookbook it threw me off a bit. Pretty much every dish has some sort of prep you have to do before you start. Searing meat. Sauteing onions. Adding wine to ingredients and then simmering for a bit on the stove before you add it to the crockpot. All a bit labor intensive and not the "quick" kind of slower cooker "set it and forget it" meals I expected.
There was also the cooking time of these dishes. As a working person, it's at least 9 hours from the time I leave for work until I get home. Rarely does a dish in this book take even eight hours. Timing ranges from 30 minutes on high, 3 hours on low, six hours on low...definitely not something I can toss together on a weekday.
Scicolone's reasoning on this is that dishes will taste better if you do some prep before you toss everything in the slow cooker. Browning the meat will get you a depth of flavor that tossing it in raw won't. Same thing for cooking the veggies or reducing some of the liquid before using, it's to bring out a flavor that traditionally adding raw items to the cooker won't get you. She also states that the slow cooker helps with the lengthy cooking time that a lot of Italian dishes normally take using traditional cooking methods. As for the reduced crockpot times, I've learned from experience that if a dish says six hours on low, keeping it on low for eight hours doesn't always work (ie the thought that the meat will be even more tender). Many of the new slow cooker cookbooks reiterate this thought. But I did keep thinking why use the slow cooker for three hours for a dish when I could just cook it on the stove or in the oven for three hours? The slow cooker concept for these will come in handy when it's too hot out to cook I guess.
The Italian Slow Cooker starts out with a page about slow cookers, specifically essential features...which mine has few of...I don't have a warm temp setting, nor does my cooker have a timer, a beeper, flexible programming or an after cooking warm period (though honestly I don't think not having these features will be a problem most of the time). There are a few pages on Techniques and Tips (following temperature instructions, what to do if the polenta gets too thick); a page on slow cooker safety (never heat an empty slow cooker); and several pages on The Italian Pantry (like what Burrata is).
Chapters are Soups; Sauces for Pasta; Risotto, Polenta, and Grains; Seafood; Eggs, Chicken and Turkey; Beef, Veal, Pork, and Lamb; Vegetables and Dried Legumes; Desserts. Recipes seem easy to read and understand. Most of the ingredients shouldn't be hard to find though some might have difficulty in some of the cuts of meat and fish (cleaned calamari with tentacles). Most of the recipes have full page color photos.
Recipes I'd like to try: Creamy Cauliflower and Potato Soup; Mushroom Soup with Marsala; Cauliflower, Pancetta, and Pasta Soup; Chickpea and Porcini Soup; Tomato and Red Wine Sauce; Meat and Mushroom Ragu; Spicy Tuscan Sausage Ragu; Chunky Pork Shoulder Ragu; Three Mushroom Risotto; Creamy Polenta with Gorgonzola and Marscarpone; Polenta with Pork Ragu; Pasta Frittata; Chicken with Rosemary and Garlic (using a whole chicken); Chicken with Vinegar and Garlic; Sweet Peppers Stuffed with Turkey, Prosciutto, and Cheese; Beef Goulash; Beef Shanks with Red Wine and Tomatoes; Balsamic-Glazed Short Ribs; Sausage and Beef Meat Loaf; Osso Buco with Red Wine; Milk Braised Pork Loin; Cauliflower with Prosciutto and Olives; Apricot Baked Apples; Pears in Masala; Dried Fruit Compote; Panettone Bread Pudding.
The book surprised me in some of the dishes cooked in the slow cooker. I'm not used to vegetable and fish dishes being cooked this way (though something like the Seafood Stew you cook the sauce for 3 hours and only add the seafood in the last 30 minutes so I guess that works). Same thing with risotto and polenta. I do like the fact that most of the ingredients used here are fresh...you make your own sauces, nothing is coming from a can. I guess I'm still questioning why some of this stuff couldn't just be cooked on the stove or in the oven for the same amount of time. The recipes do sound intriguing though.