Choosing favorites from your cookbook collection is a bit like choosing a favorite child, but here at Serious Eats, we will take just about any opportunity to talk about awesome sources for recipes. Here are 10 of our favorite Italian cookbooks—books that introduced us to some of our favorite dishes to cook at home. (Warning: acquiring these books is likely to increase your pasta cravings.)
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.
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
Marcella Hazan wrote this book based on her master classes and gives a wealth of tips and information on Italian cooking techniques and philosophies. There are 120 recipes that allow the reader ample opprtunity for practice. Hazan’s style is eloquent, if at times blunt, and makes the book a pleasure to read. This is the book for anyone who wants to learn why a recipe works, instead of just following simple directions on a page.
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.
Tim Siadatan is the chef behind two of London's most popular Italian restaurants, Trullo and Padella. His first cookbook presents a British take on Italian cooking, marrying the best of the Italian cuisine together with British produce. Trullo is about enjoying every element of Italian cookery, whether than be putting on an impressive dinner party spread or simply mastering the perfect, silky pasta sauce.