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Katie Parla Writes About Her New Cookbook, “Food of the Italian Islands”

Katie Parla driving a boat

Katie Parla. Photo: Ed Anderson

I am beyond excited to debut Food of the Italian Islands, a transportive cookbook inviting readers through Sicily, Sardinia, and Italy's lesser-known island destinations so you can sink your teeth into the secrets of their rustic, romantic dishes. I will take you through the streets of Palermo where my great-grandfather was born, across the caper fields of volcanic Pantelleria, into the kitchens of Sardinia for lessons in ornate pasta making, and to the pristine waters of Ponza to dive for sea urchins. And no island adventure with me would be complete without a jaunt through the Venetian lagoon on my fishing boat Laura!

But Food of the Italian Islands isn't just an island journey with your favorite Jersey girl. There are also over 85 recipes, both original and reimagined, that showcase the allure of the islands, including pane frattau featuring Sardinia’s beloved flatbread; bigoli in salsa, a party pasta popular in Venice; coniglio all’ischitana, braised rabbIt in the style of Ischia; torta caprese, Capri’s flourless chocolate-almond cake; and an array of pesto sauces from Pantelleria, Trapani, Linsoa, and Carloforte that will have you asking, "Pesto genovese? Who's she?" There's a whole fresh pasta section, complete with QR codes to demo videos, that will have you crafting Sicilian and Sardinian shapes in no time.

The cookbook's feature pages delve into the rich cultural and culinary fabric of the destinations, providing historical insight while documenting island pleasures to uncover such as the fried delicacies dominating Palermo’s street food scene and an overview on the boozy choose-your-own-journey to making infused spirits. And obviously there is an ode to my favorite island ride, the FIAT Panda, which handles the unpaved backroads of the islands like a dream.  

The Festa del Redentore takes place in Venice every third Saturday in July and it is the most epic party ever. It was originally established as a religious celebration to mark the end of a sixteenth-century plague, but it has morphed into a secular celebration that provides the hard-drinking Venetians an opportunity to party until dawn under the guise of tradition. It kicks off with locals filling their decorated boats with all the food and beverages they’ll need for the night’s festivities. Then they gather in the lagoon off Piazza San Marco to watch fireworks set off from floating platforms for the better part of an hour, toasting the pyrotechnics as their boats rhythmically bob. A fixture of the celebration is Tupperware containers filled with bigoli in salsa, pasta tossed with an onion-rich anchovy sauce, which soaks up the booze, keeps you drinking, and just might taste even better cold than hot out of the pan (see the recipe below). Whether the Festa del Redentore is happening or not, bigoli in salsa is a fixture on my boat, Laura, during seaborne picnics. I add vinegar for a pleasant acidic counterpoint and although not everyone is on board with the idea (boat pun!), I can report that it is appreciated by nearly 25 percent of my Venetian passengers. Omit the vinegar to satisfy the Venetian traditionalist in your life.

Bigoli in Salsa: Pasta with Oniony Anchovy Sauce

Bigoli in Salsa: Pasta with Oniony Anchovy Sauce

5 from 1 vote
Recipe by Katie Parla


Prep time


Cooking time




  • 1/4 cup 1/4 extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 large 1 white onion, thinly sliced

  • Sea salt

  • 3 ounces 3 salted anchovy fillets, rinsed

  • 2 tablespoons 2 good-quality white or red wine vinegar, plus more to taste

  • 1 pound 1 dried bigoli or spaghetti

  • 1 tablespoon 1 roughly chopped, fresh flat-leaf parsley

  • Vinegar, to taste


  • Combine the olive oil, onion, and a heavy pinch of salt in a large pan.
  • Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and translucent, about 20 minutes.
  • Add water a tablespoon at a time to keep the onion cooking without taking on color.
  • Add the anchovies and cook until they melt into the onion, about 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the vinegar.
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil over high heat.
  • Salt the water until it tastes like a seasoned soup.
  • Add the bigoli and cook until al dente.
  • Drain and transfer the pasta to the pan with the anchovy sauce.
  • Season with salt and additional vinegar to taste.
  • Serve with the parsley sprinkled on top.


  • Recipe photo by Ed Anderson

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