For those who want an overview of Italian recipes and cooking techniques, there is no better choice. This book has extensive information on many areas, including meats and seafood, frittate, vegetables and salads, risotto, polenta, gnocchi, as well as dessert. There are also a few examples of what a typical Italian menu might look like. This book, beautifully illustrated by Karin Kretschman, is a good place to start for a beginner who would like to learn about Italian cooking and try a wide range of dishes.
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.
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
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.
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