The Sopranos Cookbook, Written by Allen Rucker, Recipes by Michele Scicclone
200 pages; Color photographs Hardcover
Warner Books, An AOL Time Warner Company, New York, New York, 2002
Reviewed for Good Cooking by Charles Mackem 12/02

So It's like this, all right? You and a few associates are hangin around your place, waiting for the appropriate time to take care of this thing . Time s passing, and the troops are getting restless and hungry, and as everybody knows, a hungry wiseguy is an angry wiseguy. So what to do?

In this kind of situation, there s only one thing you can do: pull out The Sopranos Cookbook. Whether you re cooking for a mob, or just a mobster, the cookbook inspired by the HBO series The Sopranos offers a number of fairly simple yet quite tasty Neapolitan-inspired recipes that should soothe the most savage members of any organized crime family, and all but the most savage members of your own, organized or not. I'll give you a for-instance: the other might, my crew came over to my place, looking for their cut of our most recent economic activities. As soon as they came in the door I had a sitdown with them, some Braciole , a little ziti, and a couple bottles of Valpolicella.

A couple hours later they left, fat and happy, having completely forgotten why they d come over in the first place. Now, I got juice coming in off the streets from their share, at two points a week, for another seven days. And that should just cover what I owe Big Paulie. Thanks, Sopranos Cookbook, ya saved my life. Oh yeah here's the recipe:

Braciole, Stuffed Beef Rolls in Tomato Sauce
Serves 4

4 thin slices boneless beef round (about 1 pound) 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino Romano 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 thin slices prosciutto 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, lightly crushed 1 cup dry red wine
4 cups tomato puree, or canned Italian tomatoes passed through a food mill 4 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
1 pound ziti or penne, cooked and still hot

Place the beef between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound gently with a meat pounder or rubber mallet to a 1/4- to 1/8-inch thickness.

Sprinkle the beef with the garlic, cheese, parsley, and salt and pepper. Cover with the prosciutto slices. Roll up each piece like a sausage and tie it with kitchen string.

Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the braciole and garlic. Cook, turning the meat occasionally, until it is browned on all sides and the garlic is golden. Add the wine and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove and discard the garlic.

Stir in the tomato puree and basil.

Cover and cook over low heat, turning the meat occasionally, until it is tender when pierced with a fork, about 2 hours. Add a little water if the sauce becomes too thick.

Serve the sauce over the hot cooked ziti as a first course, followed by the braciole.

Good Cooking really is impressed with the photography, and no wonder, with AOL Time Warner behind the book it better be first class! For that alone, Good Cooking recommends this book for your collection. The recipes are well written, ingredients appropriately authentic and the results are more than good. The recipe below for mussels is so simple and so good, although Good Cooking prefers more salt than recommended.

Zuppa di Cozze Mussels in Spicy Tomato Sauce
Serves 4

4 pounds mussels (or substitute small clams)
4 garlic cloves, very finely chopped, plus 1 whole garlic clove 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 small pepperoncino, crumbled, or a pinch of crushed red pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup dry white wine
3 pounds ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped, or two 28- to 35-ounce cans Italian peeled tomatoes, drained and chopped
Pinch of salt
8 slices Italian bread, toasted

Place the mussels in cold water to cover for 30 minutes. Drain and scrub them with a stiff brush. Scrape off any barnacles or seaweed. Discard any mussels with cracked shells or that do not shut tightly when tapped. Remove the beards by pulling them toward the narrow end of the shells.

In a large saucepan, cook the chopped garlic, parsley, and pepperoncino in the oil over low heat until the garlic is golden, about 1 minute. Stir in the wine and bring to a simmer. Add the tomatoes and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is slightly thickened, about 20 minutes.

Gently stir in the mussels. Cover the pot. Cook until the mussels open, 5 to 10 minutes. Discard any that refuse to open.

Rub the toast with the garlic clove. Serve with the mussels.

So It's like this, all right?