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Cook the Book: 'Bottega Favorita' by Frank Stitt

bottega.jpgItalians and Southerners have one important thing in common, a love and respect for food. Both cultures share the belief that nothing can compare with the food that comes from your land or out of your kitchen. Think about it: Georgia peaches, San Marzano tomatoes? Frank Stitt has taken this reverence for the best ingredients and opened three definitive restaurants in Birmingham, Alabama.

According to the late, great R. W. Apple, Stitt has turned Birmingham, Alabama, into a "sophisticated, easygoing showplace of enticing, Southern-accented cooking." In 1982, after studying philosophy at Berkeley and cooking all over San Francisco, and in France in Burgundy and Provence, Stitt returned to his hometown and opened the French-accented Highlands Bar and Grill. Cooking with Alice Waters at Chez Panisse and working as an assistant to Richard Olney helped Stitt realize that the agricultural bounty of the American South was ripe for the picking and ready to be put to use in something a little more refined than classic Southern cooking that he had grown up with.

After a few years of cooking up French classics with distinctly Southern ingredients, Stitt branched out. His goal was to marry Italian and Southern traditions, and so he opened Bottega, a grand Italian restaurant housed in a former department store. Bottega serves regional dishes from all over Italy using local and sustainable ingredients from the South. Bottega has a an expansive patio that is perfect for an apertivo, a casual cafe serving wood-fired pizzas, and a formal dining room for more elaborate meals.

The recipes in Bottega Favorita, taken from the menu of Bottega, are simple, fresh, and delicious. As is the case with most Italian cooking, the success of a meal depends on the quality and freshness of its ingredients. This week are are going to be bringing you a full Italian meal—apertivo (cocktail), antipasto (appetizer), pasta, secondo (main), contorno (vegetable side dish), and dolce (dessert). We are also going to be making good use of seasonal spring vegetables in dishes like Garganelli with Spring Onions, Asparagus, and Pea, Crushed Spring Pea and Ricotta Bruschetta, and Lamb Ragu with Artichokes, Oven-Roasted Tomatoes and Basil. —Caroline Russock

Win 'Bottega Favorita'

We are giving away five (5) copies of Bottega Favorita this week. All you have to do is tell about your favorite, make at home pasta in the comments section below.

Five (5) people will be chosen at random among the eligible comments below. Comments will close Monday, May 18 at noon ET. The standard Serious Eats contest rules apply.

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