"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
But (drumroll please) the winner for me is Marc Vetri's Rustic Italian Food. Every one of his Philadelphia restaurants puts out the sort of Italian food that I want to eat all of the time: simple and elegant, with big, true flavors that showcase not only his passion for all things Italian but also do justice to the top tier ingredients that he sources. Rustic Italian Food is a guide for home cooks to replicate Vetri's unique and really wonderful take on Italian cooking at home. His Rigatoni with Swordfish, Tomato, and Eggplant Fries really is what Sicilian food is all about. Vetri just gets it."—Caroline Russock, Cook the Book editor
My favorite dish in the book is definitely the pasta carbonara, which taught me that you don't need heavy cream to make a great version. It's slightly more involved that the simplest of recipes with only pancetta or guanciale, cheese, and egg, but the changes are worth it: slivers of caramelized onion for sweetness, a little white wine for a balance of acidity, and parsley for freshness. I've made this recipe more than any other since I learned how to cook."—Blake Royer, Dinner Tonight columnist
"This book by Diane Seed completely changed how I approach pasta. Before, I just assumed that the more ingredients stuffed into a sauce the better it had to be. Also, if you cooked those ingredients for a long, long time, it'd get better after each passing minute. But Diane Seed taught me restraint and economy. It's all about taking a few ingredients, mostly vegetables, and letting them shine. Cook them too long and they lose their essence. I'd always heard that there were hundreds of kinds of pasta, but this book taught me that there are just as many sauces. Favorite recipe: Spaghetti Alla Boscaiola, which you can find on Serious Eats here."—Nick Kindelsperger, Chicago Editor and Dinner Tonight columnist
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.
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.
Maccheroni con la Trippa – A traditional savonese soup uniting maccheroni pasta, tripe, onion, carrot, sausage, "cardo" which is the Italian word for Swiss chard, parsley, and white wine in a base of capon broth, with olive oil to help make it satisyfing. Tomato may be added but that is not the traditional way to make it. (Traditional ingredients: brodo di gallina o cappone, carota, cipolla, prezzemolo, foglie di cardo, trippa di vitello, salsiccia di maiale, maccheroni al torchio, vino bianco, burro, olio d'oliva, formaggio grana, sale.)
Tim Siadatan is the chef behind two of London's most popular Italian restaurants, Trullo and Padella. His first cookbook presents a British take on Italian cooking, marrying the best of the Italian cuisine together with British produce. Trullo is about enjoying every element of Italian cookery, whether than be putting on an impressive dinner party spread or simply mastering the perfect, silky pasta sauce.
"The books that guide you in your very first steps of learning to cook, that help you overcome fears and fall in love with the process, always earn a special place on the shelf. So it is with Cucina Rustica, the book that taught me that a recipe called Spaghetti with Oil and Garlic (the very first Dinner Tonight column I wrote) could be the most delicious thing in the world, and that most recipes would probably improve if you took out a few ingredients. This is a general lesson of Italian cooking that has informed the way I choose recipes. Yet while Cucina Rustica's recipes suggest simplicity, they are pitched perfectly between approachable and challenging. So I've never been bored cooking from it.
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