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Cooking from The Corleone Family Cookbook

by Kira Mesch

[originally published Summer 2021]



My friend, Lily Kohler, is currently renting a house in Oberlin for the summer. The house came with a cookbook entitled The Corleone Family Cookbook, by Liliana Battle (Author) and Stacey Tyzzer (Photographer). The cookbook lives in their kitchen, until now untouched, enshrined in an empty wine rack with the inscription “VINO” on it. We assume it was left either by the landlord, or by previous tenants. It belongs to nobody living in the house. One could say that in a way, Lily is renting the cookbook and living in the house as an added bonus.

The Coreone Family Cookbook in its fine Italian resting place. Photo by Kira Mesch

We walked to and from the IGA for ingredients, cleared Lily’s counters, and put on the soundtrack to The Godfather Part I. As the sweet tones of an accordion played, we reflected on the task in front of us: I am lactose intolerant. Neither of us have ever seen any of the Godfather movies. This is our journey.

The Godfather Part I: Appetizer Course

For this course, we made a bruschetta. We used three tomatoes on the vine, some garlic, some olive oil and red wine vinegar Lily already had in her kitchen, and a little bit of basil.

The preparation of the bruschetta was simple, just cutting up the tomatoes, basil, and garlic and letting it rest to the side in its marinade for about a half hour. We toasted the bread in Lily’s toaster oven, and then it was time to spoon the tomatoes and basil on top. Fellow staff writer for The Grape, Teagan Hughes, came over right as the bruschetta was done. Hughes has not seen any movies in The Godfather Trilogy either.

“That’s so good,” said Kohler of the food. “That’s tasty,” said Hughes, whose favorite part of the dish was the diced tomatoes. In my opinion, the acidic combination of oil, vinegar, and tomato juice was the best part of the dish. The time in which the mixture was left to sit let the flavors infuse together into a red liquid soup that tasted fantastic poured over the toasted bread. Kohler suggested even just dipping the bread straight into the liquid, an improvisation that I would cosign on.

At the end of our simple but delightful feast, we decided we all would want to make it again.

The Godfather Part II: Main Course

For this course we made gnocchi. We first boiled potatoes until they were “tender,” which we joked meant that they were listening to Mitski. Lacking a ricer, I used a hand grater to rice the potatoes, then added the flour, kneaded the dough, and rolled it into long tubes for cutting.

We had been cooking for a while at this point. The Godfather Part I soundtrack had looped through twice; we had queued “That’s Amore” by Dean Martin twice, and the lyrics, “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie / That’s amore,” had lost some of their glimmer and novelty. The cookbook describes the making of the gnocchi as a sensual, passionate process, but for me it was mostly just sticky and flour-y.

Thus, we were relieved when the gnocchi were finally cut and placed into the boiling water, and ecstatic when they floated to the top, signifying they were done. The gnocchi were like soft little pillows of dough—chewy and glutinous and almost sweet, though Hughes noted that the gnocchi were a bit rubbery for her taste.

Like many sequels, this second course did not quite live up to its predecessor, not through any fault of The Corleone Family Cookbook. Not wanting to give ourselves more to do and lacking a food processor for regular pesto, Lily and I bought “pesto paste,” which we mixed with oil in a saucepan to soften it. We ate our oily pesto and gnocchi with some of the leftover tomatoes from the bruschetta out on a couch on Lily’s porch. It was filling and satisfactory. Perhaps I would make the gnocchi again, but next time, I would definitely do it with a tomato sauce.

The Godfather Part III: Reflections

Ultimately, cooking from The Corleone Family Cookbook was a satisfying process. The recipes in the cookbook did not require a very high technical knowledge of cooking—it was mostly red sauces, homemade pasta, and soups. I forwent many of the more involved recipes both out of time constraints and fear of my lactose intolerance. If I had more time, I would have loved to delve more into the dessert section: an Italian rum cake and an olive oil and orange cake were both calling my name.

It was a fun experience overall and my first time making gnocchi. Plus, it was a welcome break from Stevie fare. Cooking with friends? Now that’s an offer I can’t refuse.

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