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.
“How we cling to our myths, we English”. The year is 1963, and in the intro to the first Penguin edition of this venerable tome, David is describing the disdain with which her countrymen viewed the culinary cultures of both France and Italy when she set about writing it, in 1954. Research for the book elicited in her a potent sense of discovery, and incredulity: “How wrong they had been, from Mrs Beeton down to my own contemporaries. Where had they been looking? Had they been looking at all?” Given the entrenched supremacy of Italian cookery on our contemporary menus – and the ubiquity of this book on our kitchen shelves – it borders on surreal to think there was a time, pre-David, when we might have been so collectively deluded. The four books that follow here can each be described as definitive, and best-selling, but one suspects they’d be neither, in this country, were it not for Elizabeth David and her ability to find gold, and, with such compulsion, to share it.
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.
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.