You know how some people are obsessed with stamp collections or fantasy football teams? Well, we're obsessed with cookbooks. Here, in Books We Love, we'll talk about our favorites.
Today: When we're dreaming of Italy, these are the books that we turn to.
It should go without saying, but when we think “Italian cookbook,” we think Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Italian Cooking. It’s as much a resource for weeknights as it is for dinner parties and special occasions. It's an encyclopedia and a firm, guiding hand. We consider it an essential addition to any self-respecting cookbook shelf.
A list of our favorite Italian cookbooks should include more than one title, though -- and the topic of Italian Cooking is so broad that even Marcella the Superhuman couldn't fit it all into one book -- so we’ve compiled a list of favorites from our staff and contributors. We even asked our community to weigh in on the Hotline -- you can join that conversation here.
Here’s what Emiko Davies, Regional Italian Food columnist, had to say:
Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well, Pellegrino Artusi (1891)
This is still a book that you find in households all over Italy, well worn around the edges from lots of use and possibly passed on from nonna to granddaughter. It's often considered the “bible” of Italian cooking because it was also the first cookbook that attempted to put together a collection of recipes (790 of them!) from the many different regions of a newly formed Italy. Despite the age, Artusi's recipes are often still the best and most authentic way to make some of Italy's favourite, classic dishes -- in short, it's my go-to for any Italian recipe. And, it's a good (often hilarious) read too.
The Talisman (known in Italian as Il Talismano della Felicita, the Talisman of Happiness!), Ada Boni (1929)
Another classic, historical cookbook by Roman writer and magazine editor, Ada Boni. This, like Artusi's book, was often given to new brides as a wedding gift, something of a reference book for their kitchen repertoire. The recipes are simple, short and down to earth -- family cooking at its best.
Italian Food, Elizabeth David (1954)
Following Elizabeth's recipes is like being taken on a trip through Italy with her, standing beside you in the kitchen. It doesn't matter that this was written sixty years ago, her insight into the dishes and the places they come from is still just as valid today.
…and then Julie Myers, Editorial Assistant and graduate of Italy’s University of Gastronomic Sciences, weighed in with some oldies-but-goodies:
- The Pasta Bible
The Complete Italian Cookbook
Both of these are out of print now but can be found used or even new from resellers. That being said, they're from the good old days when cookbook writers used to thoroughly test and research every recipe they published -- and I know that my husband’s grandfather traveled with Italian chefs to both Italian grandmothers' kitchens and famous restaurants alike for the recipes. In other words, legit.
And here are the rest of our staff favorites:
What are your favorite Italian cookbooks? We want to hear all about them in the comments!