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.
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.
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 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
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.
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