Mamma: Reflections on the Food that Makes Us

Mamma: Reflections on the Food That Makes Us by Mina Holland is a charming narrative exploring how the food we ate as a child defines our taste buds as adults along with building our foundation as cooks.

The author profiles eight figureheads in the food industry from Claudia Roden to Yoham Ottolenghi that all agree that childhood is a formative and vital time in forming eating habits. She also breaks down into eight chapters eight core ingredients such as eggs, potatoes, pasta and so on with nearly eighty recipes from Boulangere Potatoes to Roasted Squash and Coconut Soup. 

As a child, my mother was not a cook. She put food on the table but there were no spices, no herbs - just a basic rotation of ten dishes from meatloaf to chicken and there were never any ethnic foods or restaurant meals. Thankfully, I had neighbors with international backgrounds who would offer different foods that set me on the path I am today. Children need to explore different cultures and cuisines to become well-rounded. I can't imagine not cooking Asian or Indian dishes - I shudder to think of a life with meatloaf topped with ketchup every week.

This weekend, I began reading Mamma and am enjoying Mina's style of writing. If you love food writing, tasty recipes and profiles on some of your favorite culinary heroes - look no further. And while our younger selves may have never tried an earthly Lamb Tagine our adult selves can still change the course. 

Special thanks to Orion Publishing Group for sharing the recipe below with our members. Be sure to head over to our contest page to enter our giveaway for two copies of this title worldwide. In addition, one member in the US can win a pasta maker along with a copy of the book. I have an extra of the Marcato Atlas Italian pasta makers (US link) (UK link) and wanted to share one in this giveaway. I can only ship the pasta maker to continential US addresses due to shipping cost. My hope is that one of you will make homemade pasta memories with your children or grandchildren. 

Tagliatelle with Romanesco, Pecorino and Lemon

Romanesco looks like the punky lovechild of cauliflower and broccoli, its gaudy green florets peaking into turrets, its flesh soft and sweet. Half of it is made into a sauce here, a flavourful cloak for long pasta, while the rest - gently fried with some garlic - crowns each plateful.
Serves 4

1 small romanesco cauliflower, broken into florets
400g tagliatelle (or pappardelle, fettuccine, linguine or spaghetti)
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve
1 garlic clove, bashed but left whole
grated zest and juice of ½ unwaxed lemon
100g pecorino, grated, plus extra to serve
salt and black pepper
Bring a large saucepan of generously salted water to the boil, add the romanesco florets and cook for 5 minutes or so. You want them to hold their shape so be wary of over-cooking them. Once cooked, remove the florets from the water with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Keep the water boiling and add the pasta.

While the pasta is cooking, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a frying pan, add the garlic clove and fry over a medium heat for 1 minute. Remove the garlic and tumble in half of the romanesco florets with a good pinch of salt. Fry for 10-15 minutes so that the romanesco takes on a little colour but does not lose its shape.
Blitz the remaining romanesco florets and any stems in a food processor or blender with the remaining olive oil, the lemon zest and juice, the pecorino and some seasoning. You should have a very thick, pale green sauce. Transfer the sauce to a large bowl and add a spoonful or 2 of the pasta cooking water to loosen it up a bit.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain and toss in the sauce. Divide the pasta between bowls then scatter over the fried romanesco florets, drizzle with oil, scatter with more grated pecorino, and grind some black pepper over each bowl. Serve.

Recipe excerpt with permission of the author and Orion Publishing Group.



  • Kristjudy  on  3/21/2017 at 2:53 PM

    Egg, onion, coconut curry sounds so good!

  • sgump  on  3/21/2017 at 9:24 PM

    Childhood memories involving food? My mother was Pennsylvania Dutch of the traditional sort, meaning the only seasonings used were pepper, sage (occasionally), parsley (occasionally), and cinnamon (only in baked goods). (My mother eschewed salt.) Still, she could produce the most remarkable meals--now my very definition of comfort food. Her cheesecake was divine: a zwiebeck crust, a cream cheese layer with *almond* extract, and a sour cream topping layer (baked after the filling had set) with vanilla extract. AMAZING. Sometimes the simplest things are the best.

  • cheftina888  on  3/21/2017 at 9:35 PM

    Tagliatelle with romanesco, pecorino and lemon sounds delicious and quick to make

  • annmartina  on  3/22/2017 at 2:45 PM

    Playing outside on a crisp fall day in my favorite jacket with a pocket full of milk duds. I believe I was only 3 or 4 but it's a memory that sticks in my head for some reason.

  • Nancith  on  3/22/2017 at 6:10 PM

    Summer pool parties at our house with cousins galore always featured, among other things, grilled corn on the cob, grilled chicken or burgers or brats (Cincinnati-style), my dad's slowed cooked onions on the grill with butter & bourbon, & my mom's macaroni salad. That is a memory that my siblings, cousins & I fondly share to this day (& that was a long time ago)

  • gjelizabeth  on  3/22/2017 at 10:37 PM

    I loved turkey gravy on white bread for breakfast the morning after Thanksgiving. Yum!

  • JenE  on  3/23/2017 at 11:50 PM

    Christmas, mom was baking, dad was the candy maker. We had the busiest kitchen on the block and shared with all the neighbors

  • edyenicole  on  3/25/2017 at 8:52 PM

    For me, it's learning to cook/bake with my grandma.

  • fiarose  on  3/29/2017 at 7:36 PM

    that's so hard, i have so many--all connected to my mother, the cook in our family restaurant. I'd have to say the most simple and the first, though: eating raw cabbage, prepped and sliced thinly for the line, right out of the big bucket on the prep table. things like that, learning how to appreciate and know each ingredient just because it was around, really formed the way i like cooking now.

  • anastasiiap  on  3/30/2017 at 4:49 PM

    I love to remember how mom made a lot of food for holidays and anticipation of eating it

  • obbigttam  on  3/31/2017 at 10:12 PM

    Learning how to cook Asian food with my mother. She taught me how to cook early on saying that no son of hers was going to chain a woman to a kitchen lol. But being the 70's in Australia it was basically meat & 2 veg style cooking. Then she discovered Charmaine Solomon and we travelled through Asia together via the recipes we cooked and the flavours we tasted. She is gone now but our handwritten notes are still on the pages of the cookbooks we used together, and I see her smile each time I cook from those pages.

  • echilt5  on  4/1/2017 at 12:23 PM

    Baking cookies with my mom for birthdays & holidays.

  • Uhmandanicole  on  4/4/2017 at 4:28 AM

    this sounds SO good!

  • MeganGarcia  on  4/4/2017 at 12:31 PM

    My fondest childhood memories are of cooking with my grandparents. We have so much cultural diversity in my family. My dad's mother was from Italy, and we would make gnocchi every Christmas. My mother's father was a non-practicing Jew from Manhattan NY. We would make latkes with sour cream. My mother's mother was from Mobile, AL and we'd make collard greens, grits, chicken fried steak, potato salad, sweet tea, etc. I hope to pass down all our wonderful tradition. Every child deserves to know their roots.

  • t.t  on  4/8/2017 at 12:26 AM

    the cookies my mom made at christmas

  • FireRunner2379  on  4/8/2017 at 4:52 AM

    My dad always worked in the evenings and on Friday nights my mom and I would go to the grocery store, out to eat and then bake cookies when we got home. I always loved her chocolate chip cookies!

  • Krisn8  on  4/8/2017 at 8:53 AM

    My fondest food memory is making sugar cookies with my great-grandma. There were also the summer days were my extended family would come together to put up corn, green beans or applesauce.

  • earthnfire  on  4/9/2017 at 7:17 PM

    Taking over the grilling duties from my dad

  • ejsimpson  on  4/10/2017 at 12:45 PM

    This sounds like a wonderful addition to any cookbook collection.

  • trudys_person  on  4/14/2017 at 6:03 PM

    My mom cooked without any seasoning than salt and pepper. I love all the international influences and products available to me now! But she did teach me that you can make your own food ....

  • lgroom  on  4/15/2017 at 9:56 PM

    My mother and grandmother were the BEST bakers on the planet. Grandma Andrew's refrigerator rolls were beyond compare. Sadly, my mother passed away this fall and although I have six siblings, none of us QUITE have the hang of those rolls.

  • RSW  on  4/17/2017 at 7:26 AM

    My Great Aunt making 'dough balls'

  • ddenker  on  4/18/2017 at 9:29 PM

    Decorating sugar cookies with my mom at Christmas is probably my favorite childhood memory of food.

  • imaluckyducky  on  4/21/2017 at 8:48 PM

    My mom making apple pies, and me getting to use the pie dough scraps to make cinnamon sugar cookies

  • AnnaZed  on  4/22/2017 at 11:23 AM

    I rememberwatching my nanny Tina make pralines in our New Orleans kitchen; pouring the molten hot sugar and nuts on to a marble table. I can recall being amazed that it was ok to make a mess directly on the table.

  • hippiechick1955  on  4/23/2017 at 5:31 PM

    I always loved watching my mum cook and bake, I still do whenever I go to Texas for a visit. At 90 years old she is still constantly in the kitchen over the stove or in the oven. She never uses recipes and makes it seem so effortless . There were times growing up when we were poorer than dirt. Seriously. My mum would bake cornbread with a couple of beans thrown in and would make a game of it for we five children: find the bean. It made our meal seem more appealing. Or sometimes we had nothing in the house at all and we would climb the coconut trees and bring home a couple for mum to concoct into a delicious meal By golly, she'd do it too! Believe it or not, these are fond memories because it brought us closer together, gave us empathy, and taught us to waste not.

  • Teruska  on  4/26/2017 at 8:22 AM

    I don't have many childhood cooking memories. However, I have cooked with the children in my life starting with my youngest sister and going on to the kids I babysat, teaching math to the kid I tutored, to the 4H group I taught to make sausage and to can, to the nieces and nephews and now the grands. I love to cook with kids.

Post a comment

You may only comment on the blog if you are signed in. Sign In

Seen anything interesting? Let us know & we'll share it!