When most Americans think of Italian food, spaghetti with meatballs and pizza come to mind. However, they’re generally unaware that Italy has a very diverse selection of choices. Many of these exotic recipes and techniques are available in books at any major bookstore. Traditional Italian cookbooks often contain detailed directions and color photographs useful for teaching authentic methods to cooks with any level of experience.
Burrata – a fresh cheese with spun dough, similar to mozzarella, but with a consistency that is softer and more filamentous, particularly produced in the Murgia region, where its place of origin, Andria, is located. The burrata is worked by hand with a filling of cream and pieces of spun dough called stracciatella, and it is contained in an envelope also formed of spun dough.
From inception, this was destined to be a classic. Del Conte details – and in 1987 it was the first time anyone ever had – all of Italy’s regions, ingredients, techniques and dishes. The organisation by alphabetical order makes it as perusable and practical as an actual dictionary. If you consider that at that point Italy, as a unifed whole, was a mere centenarian, wrestling the diffuse, intensely regional nature of its geography and its cuisine into something this digestible really took some doing. A herculean effort, lauded as loudly abroad as it was at home.
This book is not so much about traditional recipes as it is about recipes developed by Marcella herself in an Italian style. Hazan goes into detail about how the recipes were created and the particular styles and methods used in each. The detailed instructions and descriptions make this book easy to follow, enjoyable and informative. The 12 full colour photo pages make it fun to look at, too.
Each Italian region and town is proud to have its trademark dishes and ingredients. It is important to be aware that the ingredients used by Italians are highly place specific. Everyone in Italy knows to get their balsamic vinegar from Modena, their mozzarella di bufala from Campagnia, their truffles from Piedmont or Umbria, their cannoli from Sicily, their artichokes from Rome, the most delicious pizza from Naples, the best bolognese meat sauce from Bologna, their saffron risotto from Milan, and divine pecorino from Pienza.
Il timballo del gattopardo – Sicilian pie; pastry dough baked with a filling of penne rigata, Parmesan, and bound a sauce of ham, chicken, liver, onion, carrot, truffles, diced hard-boiled egg and seasoned with clove, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Gattopardo (the Serval) makes reference to the arms of the Lampedusa family and Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s well-known novel Il Gattopardo, not the contents of the dish.
Choosing favorites from your cookbook collection is a bit like choosing a favorite child, but here at Serious Eats, we will take just about any opportunity to talk about awesome sources for recipes. Here are 10 of our favorite Italian cookbooks—books that introduced us to some of our favorite dishes to cook at home. (Warning: acquiring these books is likely to increase your pasta cravings.)