"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.
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.
The only cuisine that deserves to be called Italian cooking, writes Hazan by way of introduction to this celebrated 1992 title, is la cucina di casa: “there are no high or low roads in Italian cuisine. All roads lead to the home.” And it is how she then proceeds to unpick the fundamentals – to map out the way home, if you will – that sets the book apart. Starting with the triumvirate of Italian technique – battuto, soffritto and insaporire, which build flavour from the bottom up – she goes on to list the contents of the Italian pantry, before taking you through the various stages on a menu. Her chapter on soups, for example, opens with the idea that “A vegetable soup can tell you where you are in Italy, almost as precisely as a map.” Through eloquent prose and piercing insight, Hazan manages to unlock her country’s soul.
This is the most basic and simplest cooked pasta sauce, hence it is the benchmark of a good Italian home cook. This one boats of being among the original Italian recipes of pasta. easy and quick, this pasta recipe can be made under half an hour. Serve as a breakfast, pack for kid's tiffin or savour as an evening snack. You can even cook this for a casual and lazy dinner and pair this up with red wine.
Il timballo del gattopardo – Sicilian pie; pastry dough baked with a filling of penne rigata, Parmesan, and bound a sauce of ham, chicken, liver, onion, carrot, truffles, diced hard-boiled egg and seasoned with clove, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Gattopardo (the Serval) makes reference to the arms of the Lampedusa family and Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s well-known novel Il Gattopardo, not the contents of the dish.
But (drumroll please) the winner for me is Marc Vetri's Rustic Italian Food. Every one of his Philadelphia restaurants puts out the sort of Italian food that I want to eat all of the time: simple and elegant, with big, true flavors that showcase not only his passion for all things Italian but also do justice to the top tier ingredients that he sources. Rustic Italian Food is a guide for home cooks to replicate Vetri's unique and really wonderful take on Italian cooking at home. His Rigatoni with Swordfish, Tomato, and Eggplant Fries really is what Sicilian food is all about. Vetri just gets it."—Caroline Russock, Cook the Book editor