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.
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.
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.
Marcella Hazan wrote this book based on her master classes and gives a wealth of tips and information on Italian cooking techniques and philosophies. There are 120 recipes that allow the reader ample opprtunity for practice. Hazan’s style is eloquent, if at times blunt, and makes the book a pleasure to read. This is the book for anyone who wants to learn why a recipe works, instead of just following simple directions on a page.
In Venice, the restaurateur behind Polpo, Russell Norman, explores the simplicity and wonder of Venetian home cooking across the seasons, from Grilled Spring Vegetable Pizza to a wintry Slow Roasted Veal Shin. Interspersed between 130 inspiring and accessible recipes for everything from pizza, pasta, risotto, meat dishes and plenty of seafood, as well desserts and authentic cocktails, you'll find notes on Russell's favourite markets, suppliers and places to visit, complete with stunning photography of this beautiful city. This book will give you serious wanderlust.
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.
"This might look like your run-of-the-mill glossy celebrity chef vanity cookbook. But instead it's a collection of simple, utterly doable recipes, mostly culled from the menu of Batali's casual pizza and pasta joint Otto. The best recipes here are the vegetable antipasti, which have always been my favorite selections on Otto's menu. Favorite dish: Black Kale with Ricotta. A handful of hearty, virtuous ingredients offset by the rich, creamy cheese. And it works just fine with regular kale."—Ben Fishner, Support
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