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


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
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.
"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
Mario Batali has stated his belief that, for Italians, the best cooking is done at home, not in restaurants. This cookbook is full of recipes that can be prepared at home. It heavily emphasizes pasta, which Mario believes holds the most importance in Italian cooking. Other chapters include meats, fish, and vegetables. The simplicity of the recipes makes this book good for beginners.

"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.


"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
"It's hard to choose a favorite Italian cookbook: as a child, I used to swear I could eat pasta every day and never get tired of it. And my go-to pasta bible, Giuliano Hazan's The Classic Pasta Cookbook, is sadly out of print. (Plus, Erin snagged Urban Italian! Bah!) But the other Italian cookbook I turn to over and over again is Jamie's Italy, which has gorgeous matte-finish pages and so many appealing, unfussy recipes. The pasta e ceci (chickpea soup) is a cold-weather staple for me: it's rich and savory, with lots of rosemary and a fresh, fragrant handful of basil. The dish is best with homemade chicken stock, but you can use canned chickpeas, so it's totally easy to make if you have stock in the freezer."—Maggie Hoffman, Drinks Editor
Specialised in Italian cuisine, Theo Randall is currently head chef at Theo Randall at the Intercontinental Hotel London Park Lane. My Simple Italian showcases Theo's favourite Italian dishes that he enjoys cooking at home when he's not working in his restaurant. He focuses on what he loves best - a few top quality ingredients making perfectly balanced flavour combination - and offers over 100 recipes with simple methods that work in a home kitchen.
"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.
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