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.
"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.
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.
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.
"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