Marking The River Cafe's momentus 30th birthday, River Cafe 30 features 120 recipes from across three decades of bold and accomplished Italian cooking at the iconic London institution. From modern updates to some of the best loved recipes from the first River Cafe cookbook to 30 new recipes and plenty of stories and tips from Ruth Rogers throughout.
"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.
"For starters, Urban Italian is a beautiful book. Flip through the pages and the rustic-urban feel and dynamic colors just pop off the pages. You want to invite yourself to every meal Andrew Carmellini is cooking. The recipes are completely accessible with complex, rich, exciting flavors. I come away with recipes that are always filed under: "make this again."
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.
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.
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 quickest way to discover and fall in love with Italy is at the table. Italian cuisine prides itself on simple delicious combinations of the finest, freshest ingredients available. For example, fresh ricotta with tartufo; mozzarella di bufala with basil, tomato and extra virgin olive oil; and San Daniele prosciutto with ripe melon are all extremely simple combinations which are much loved in Italy.
"Being the cookbook guru around these parts, I am the proud owner of more cookbooks than I can count. The Italian section of my library is home to many, many cookbooks that are near and dear to my heart. So whittling it down to just one is a daunting undertaking to say the least. I could easily choose Domenica Marchetti's The Glorious Pasta of Italy for its comprehensive understanding of all things pasta related and unique Abruzzese dishes, or Mario Batali's latest, Molto Batali, which teaches you how to cook Italian-style (for a gathering of ten plus.) Or if we're going to get into pizza, Jim Lahey's My Pizza is absolutely a must for making awesome pies at home.