Our 11 Favorite Italian Cookbooks

December 19, 2014

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.

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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!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Picasso
  • Victoria Carr
    Victoria Carr
  • Carol
  • sandy goldcross
    sandy goldcross
  • mgeller604
Marian Bull

Written by: Marian Bull



Picasso April 27, 2015
Nice article. Have you tried out Sunday Sauce by Daniel Bellino .. I bought it last year. Love it. I've cooked almost half the dishes in the book and everyone loves them. If you're Italian American, you'll love this book, and I'd say it's a must have. Lots of great recipes and the stories the author writes about the dishe, Italian AMericans, the people and the table, kitchen, and rituals is quite lovely. He has a wonderful style. Check it out.
Victoria C. February 7, 2015
Marcellas Essentials if my favorite cookbook of all time. (Nigella's How to Eat is my second favorite.) As to other Italian cookbooks, you would be hard pressed to pry Marcella's first two books, which were meshed into Essentials off my shelf. I also LOVE her second book, Marcella's Italian Kitchen, and use it a lot. The other book, out of print, I can't understand it, is Guiliano Hazan's The Classic Pasta Cookbook. I make it my business to find this second hand for all aspiring young cooks I know. It is simply superb.
Carol January 9, 2015
My very favorite Italian cookbook is "The Splendid Table" by Lynne Rossetto Kasper. It is cooking from the Emilia-Romagna Region in Northern Italy...amazing. I think I have a sticky note on every page at this point.
sandy G. December 31, 2014
In Nonna's Kitchen: Recipes and Traditions from Italy's Grandmothers by Carol Field author of Celebrating Italy and The Italian Baker "I love how Carol Field has portrayed these lovable grandmothers and conveyed so vividly their wonderful personalities! And I love how their experience and wisdom breathe so much life into these recipes"--Alice Walters
ustabahippie January 1, 2015
I had this one and it was great. Gave it to my daughter-in-law!
mgeller604 December 28, 2014
i love the Romagnoli's Table cookbook from the hosts of the WGBH series of the same name. Best minestrone and bolognese recipes.
dgourmet September 12, 2021
Their recipe for Caponata is the best...I've been making it for 40 years.
Irenehope December 27, 2014
Asparagus & Shrimp Risotto from "Marcella Says" makes this my favorite Marcella book.
peartart December 24, 2014
Ada Boni's "Regional Italian Cookbook" is my go-to source for anything Italian. The Bolognase ragu is worth the price of this book (alas, now out of print) alone.
Christine H. July 2, 2015
Love, love this one. Have been using it at least 38 years.
Lorraine F. December 22, 2014
Love all my cookbooks (+250). Separated my Italian favorites on one shelf. #1 is...Culinary Arts Institute Italian Cookbook (1977). This was my Mom's favorite too and she gave it to me. I cherish all the side notes she wrote and her comments. #2...all of Lidia's books are great. #3...Nick Malgieri's Great Italian Desserts.
Napie December 21, 2014
A Tuscan in the Kitchen by Pino Luongo. A wonderful cookbook that will stretch you and make you a better cook.
mooch92 December 21, 2014
is there such a thing as an Italian Vegetarian cookbook? I have Silver Spoon but...
ustabahippie December 22, 2014
I have Cooking from an Italian Garden by Paola Scaravelli and Jon Cohen. It's pretty good.
cookinginvictoria January 5, 2015
Red White and Greens by Faith Willinger (published by Harper Collins) is an Italian (mostly) vegetarian cookbook. It is one of my favorites.
ustabahippie December 21, 2014
Lidia's Commonsense Italian Cooking...wonderful accompaniment to her TV show.
bonniedalyan December 21, 2014
All time favorite is Trattoria by Patricia Wells- uncomplicated, straightforward, and recipes and methods that I use again and again
linda H. December 21, 2014
I do agree. I have been making Gobbi's pestos and marinara sauce among others for nearly 35 (?) years. Still a go-to for me ... along w. E. David & Hazan's Italian Kitchen... and, of course, all by Field. CF's Small Bites is also terrific.
melp December 21, 2014
More Italian-American than strictly Italian, but the wonderful "Italian Family Cooking" by Edward Giobbi has always been a particular favorite - his stories about his 'Uncle' Tommaso, "a giant of a man . . . who did all his own cooking, and made a superb meat sauce, a fish sauce and a marinara sauce" are evocative and funny. The drawings and recipes reflect a purity and simplicity that are at the heart of all the best things of Italian culture.
Rachel December 21, 2014
You said it first - no only is Marcella's book by favourite Italian cookbook it is my favourite book full stop!
Joel J. January 9, 2015
I agree!!!!
JemsFootsteps December 21, 2014
all of Marcella,all of Biba,Joyce Goldsteins books featuring Italian dishes, in Nonna's Kitchen by Carol Field. Add to the list the old classics named at top.
sandy P. December 19, 2014
La Cuccina Siciliana di Gangivecchio and Red, White and Greens by Faith Willinger
Joel J. December 19, 2014
I really don't like The Silver Spoon cookbook at all. I bought a copy and after looking through it decided to return it. I don't see what the fuss is about. Recipes with curry????
Maggie N. December 19, 2014
This is such a great list! I would add Cook's Illustrated Italian Classics to this - they really break down techniques so you know exactly WHY you're letting tomatoes simmer for 5 hours or adding white sandwich bread to your meatballs. Bon Apetito!
JohnL January 4, 2015
Cook's Illustrated has the best Tiramisu recipe I have ever tasted.
Ashley December 19, 2014
Italian Two Easy: Simple Recipes from the London River Cafe
lisa C. December 19, 2014
Marcella Hazan, Biba Caggiano, Lynne Rossetto Casper, and Joyce Goldstein are my favorites.