“How we cling to our myths, we English”. The year is 1963, and in the intro to the first Penguin edition of this venerable tome, David is describing the disdain with which her countrymen viewed the culinary cultures of both France and Italy when she set about writing it, in 1954. Research for the book elicited in her a potent sense of discovery, and incredulity: “How wrong they had been, from Mrs Beeton down to my own contemporaries. Where had they been looking? Had they been looking at all?” Given the entrenched supremacy of Italian cookery on our contemporary menus – and the ubiquity of this book on our kitchen shelves – it borders on surreal to think there was a time, pre-David, when we might have been so collectively deluded. The four books that follow here can each be described as definitive, and best-selling, but one suspects they’d be neither, in this country, were it not for Elizabeth David and her ability to find gold, and, with such compulsion, to share it.
COMMENTSGeorge Miller had rightly said, "The trouble with eating Italian food is that two or three days later you're hungry again". A four-course meal is served with a variety of 400 types of cheese, and every bite speaks of its origins from the 4th century BC. Did you know that Italians are known to take their food very seriously? The lunch hour is the most important meal of the day. It starts with antipasti (before the meal) like cheese, olives, salad etc. The main course mostly comprises of the most popular Italian recipe pasta or risotto. Fact: There are more than 600 shapes of pasta produced across the world.
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.
"It's hard to choose a favorite Italian cookbook: as a child, I used to swear I could eat pasta every day and never get tired of it. And my go-to pasta bible, Giuliano Hazan's The Classic Pasta Cookbook, is sadly out of print. (Plus, Erin snagged Urban Italian! Bah!) But the other Italian cookbook I turn to over and over again is Jamie's Italy, which has gorgeous matte-finish pages and so many appealing, unfussy recipes. The pasta e ceci (chickpea soup) is a cold-weather staple for me: it's rich and savory, with lots of rosemary and a fresh, fragrant handful of basil. The dish is best with homemade chicken stock, but you can use canned chickpeas, so it's totally easy to make if you have stock in the freezer."—Maggie Hoffman, Drinks Editor

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.


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.
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.
The ultimate Italian dish has to be this recipe of Lasagna. A secret to the best lasagna recipe lies in the perfectly made, home made bolognese sauce and this bacon and lamb lasagna boasts of a delicious one! Loaded with parmesan cheese and layered with a mix of vegetables, bacon strips and minced lamb, this lasagna recipe is nothing short of perfect.
I'm going to have to go with the classic Silver Spoon book. Yes, it's got a lot of problems—the recipes are maddeningly under-detailed and under-tested. The instructions rely on vague timings instead of specific visual cues (how do I know my Coda Di Rospo Con Salsa D'Acciughe looks the way it's supposed to after baking for 30 minutes? What if my half lemon has less juice than yours?). There aren't a whole lot of pretty pictures, nice illustrations, or clear instructions on how to select ingredients, implement techniques, or any of the other details that make for a great, informative cookbook. What it does have, on the other hand, is a ludicrously comprehensive index (over 3,000 recipes) that spans throughout Italy. I'd never rely on it for a usable recipe, but as a database for ideas and as an encyclopedia on Italian dishes, it can't be beat."—J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, Chief Creative Officer
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