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.
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
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.
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.
From inception, this was destined to be a classic. Del Conte details – and in 1987 it was the first time anyone ever had – all of Italy’s regions, ingredients, techniques and dishes. The organisation by alphabetical order makes it as perusable and practical as an actual dictionary. If you consider that at that point Italy, as a unifed whole, was a mere centenarian, wrestling the diffuse, intensely regional nature of its geography and its cuisine into something this digestible really took some doing. A herculean effort, lauded as loudly abroad as it was at home.
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
Pesto – Probably Liguria's most famous recipe, widely enjoyed beyond regional borders, is a green sauce made from basil leaves, sliced garlic, pine nuts, pecorino or parmigiano cheese (or a mix of both) and olive oil. Traditionally used as a pasta dressing (especially with gnocchi or trenette, it is finding wider uses as sandwich spread and finger-food filler)
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