"For starters, Urban Italian is a beautiful book. Flip through the pages and the rustic-urban feel and dynamic colors just pop off the pages. You want to invite yourself to every meal Andrew Carmellini is cooking. The recipes are completely accessible with complex, rich, exciting flavors. I come away with recipes that are always filed under: "make this again."
The thesaurus to Del Conte’s dictionary. At 2,000 recipes and counting, it is the enduring bestseller that lists every variant of baked sea-bass, every way with a shoulder of lamb, 17 different types of pastry and 14 distinct courgette sides … which is to say, it is comprehensive. The book started out in 1931 as a slim Milanese publication, and expanded with each new edition to incorporate ever more regions and ever more recipes. If David, in Italian Food, had to discard most of the material she’d collated, for sheer want of space, the Silver Spoon takes the opposite tack. Published in English in 2005, it is as heavy as a book subtitled Eating Is A Serious Matter ought to be, and bound only to get heavier.
The only cuisine that deserves to be called Italian cooking, writes Hazan by way of introduction to this celebrated 1992 title, is la cucina di casa: “there are no high or low roads in Italian cuisine. All roads lead to the home.” And it is how she then proceeds to unpick the fundamentals – to map out the way home, if you will – that sets the book apart. Starting with the triumvirate of Italian technique – battuto, soffritto and insaporire, which build flavour from the bottom up – she goes on to list the contents of the Italian pantry, before taking you through the various stages on a menu. Her chapter on soups, for example, opens with the idea that “A vegetable soup can tell you where you are in Italy, almost as precisely as a map.” Through eloquent prose and piercing insight, Hazan manages to unlock her country’s soul.
Pesto – Probably Liguria's most famous recipe, widely enjoyed beyond regional borders, is a green sauce made from basil leaves, sliced garlic, pine nuts, pecorino or parmigiano cheese (or a mix of both) and olive oil. Traditionally used as a pasta dressing (especially with gnocchi or trenette, it is finding wider uses as sandwich spread and finger-food filler)
This is where it all started, and by all accounts, it’s the best place to start yourself. Written in 1891, Artusi’s was the first cookbook for the home cook to be published in Italian. And to this day, you’ll be hard pressed to find an Italian home without a copy. Its relevance is in no way frustrated by its grand old age, as was duly noted by Emiko Davies in her recent Kitchen Encounters: the dishes are exactly what you’ll find at dinner tables and trattoria counters today. Artusi is the surefooted guide you can trust.
There are three prominent Italian cookbook authors in the United State today. Marcella Hazan, Giuliano Bugialli and Mario Batali have written books for people with limited familiarity with traditional Italian cooking. A few of these volumes are listed below. Picking up any of these books will give the reader a head start in creating sumptuous Italian food. Most of these cookbooks include basic recipes and methods. These simple techniques can teach even the most inexperienced cook valuable skills. With the aid of these invaluable cookbooks and some practice, basic ingredients can be turned into sublime dishes. Pick one up and try it today.
"Cooking with Italian Grandmothers is so much more than a cookbook. I read it cover to cover, enthralled by the stories of these women; their lives and their food. And the dishes are just what you'd expect: earthy, comforting, delicious. Favorite dish: spaghetti con pomodori scoppiati (spaghetti with burst tomatoes). This recipe pulls off that Italian magic trick where a recipe with almost no ingredients tastes deliciously complex. The key is searing whole and halved cherry tomatoes over high heat until they burst. Their juice, along with pureed sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil, and garlic, form a simple summer sauce."—Carrie Vasios, Sweets Editor
The Chiappa sisters grew up in Wales in the heart of a close-knit Italian community where food was always at the centre of family and social gatherings. Whether searching for porcini in the hills near their parents' home, making pasta with the whole family, or sharing food at the annual Welsh-Italian summer picnic, they have been immersed in the Italian way of cooking all their lives. Here they share their cherished family recipes, including all the pasta dishes featured in their Channel 4 series.
Perhaps one of the simplest dishes in the book, but the one I revisit the most, is the whipped sheep's milk ricotta. You can make this in your sleep. Just whip up the ricotta with some good whole milk and it becomes ethereally fluffy. Accented with sea salt, fresh herbs, and olive oil, it's ready to be slathered all over crusty bread. I serve this at just about every party I have. Another favorite is this cauliflower with brown butter, pear, sage, and hazelnuts. It has to be one of the best ways to eat cauliflower. "—Erin Zimmer, National Managing Editor