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Italian forefathers and mothers

There are so! many! people who have shaped Italian cuisines, but I'm wondering who you think of as influential people in Italian cooking (besides Marcella and Lidia...). In addition, what are the recipes that you find synonymous with them? The people my nonna talks about as beloved Italian cookbook writers are not the ones I might name, and I'm curious to learn more about all the people who've brought Italian cooking to us. Thank you in advance.

asked by Ali Slagle over 2 years ago

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21 answers 2394 views
cv
cv
added over 2 years ago

Pellegrino Artusi
Ada Boni

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cv
cv
added over 2 years ago

Artusi completed his landmark cookbook "La Scienza in cucina e L'Arte di mangiar bene" in 1891 which essentially focuses on Tuscan food. It must be noted that at the time, Italy had only been unified for thirty years and many people strongly associated themselves with their region rather than the country. There was no concept of "Italian cuisine", it was regional. I don't find that there's one recipe that I identify with him, although he covered all the Tuscan classics which certainly had been prepared by countless Tuscan cooks. Unusual at the time, it was intended for housewives. This is the most famous of pre-WWI Italian cookbooks.

There might be other Italian cookbooks that focused on other regions, but the Artusi tome is by far the best known.

Ada Boni was a magazine publisher who published the classic "Il talismano della felicità" in 1929. By the post-WWI era, Italian unification was more widely accepted and with industrialization ingredients were moving freely between the various regions. The Talisman is basically their version of the Joy of Cooking. Again, rather unusually, its audience was housewives.

The third great Italian cookbook is the post-WWII "Il cucchiaio d'argento" (The Silver Spoon) which was published in 1950 by Domus, a design & architecture magazine. There was no single author.

Another great post-WWII cookbook is "Le ricette regionali italiane" by Anna Gosetti della Salda, published in 1967. It's pretty neat in the way that it covers different regions and many recipes have notes about how the dish might vary from one town to its neighbors. This cookbook is not known to American cooks since it was never translated into English.

You can read more about the latter book in this 2006 FoodArts article:

http://www.foodarts.com/news/features/1029/the-italian-cookbook

It's definitely the most delightful Italian cookbook I own with its regional approach.

scruz
added over 2 years ago

cv, where and how do you/did you get your enormous amount of knowledge? i usually learn a great deal from your answers.

cv
cv
added over 2 years ago

Hi scruz,

I'm old. ;-)

I have been cooking for a long time and have a bunch of stamps in several passports. I have to look up certain details like publication dates, but the general knowledge is there. Concerning this thread, I've spend a fair amount of time in Italy: both for language school and vacation over the years and it's a country I greatly enjoy. Why did I select those four books? Because I've been there and talked with people. They mentioned those books and I remembered. A couple of them I own (Artusi and the Gossetti della Salda book).

Of course, food is tied to its people, the region and thus other aspects of culture: war, commerce, history, geography, climate, architecture, music, etc. You might find certain unusual spices in Venetian cuisine because of the city's importance in spice trading. That's a fairly unique situation.

If you want to really understand food you have to have a global worldview, not just understanding where borders lie today, but also knowing some of the history of the world and its people, sort of a holistic vision of what food is.

I have other non-food interests, however much of it ties together. The cooler climate of northern Italy is more suited for cows, so much of the cuisine from that area uses cream and butter. But that cooler climate also means that it snows more in the winter, hence the architecture (steep roofs) is different. That's just one example.

If you just read recipes, you won't get the bigger picture. A recipe is a suggestion (often from one person) using ingredients available to him/her at the time the recipe was written. It's a snapshot of one person's kitchen at one moment.

I would say that world travel is essential in understanding and appreciating how others live. You can read all the books in the world, watch all the videos, however I find that I benefit from seeing other people in other places.

ChefJune
ChefJune

June is a trusted source on General Cooking.

added over 2 years ago

My all-time favorite teacher and exponent of Italian cooking is/was Anna Teresa Callen. If you've not explored her recipes, you have a big treat coming. Also I've been lucky to study with Giuliano Bugialli and Lorenza De' Medici.

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pierino
pierino

pierino is a trusted source on General Cooking and Tough Love.

added over 2 years ago

Oretta Zanini de Vita is an elderly Roman lady who Italian cooks make pilgrimages to visit, including Mario Batali, a great teacher in his own right. Some of the de Vita books can still be found, translated by my friend Maureen Fant.

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scruz
added over 2 years ago

i'm half italian, but did not grow up with the extended family but mom lived with italian grandmother for several years and learned some cooking from her and she passed several recipes down. i've read a lot of cookbooks and recipes on italian food, loved to watch mario batali, eaten italian food in italy and in little italys/north beach. my family is southern italian in origin and a more northern italian neighbor introduced me to polenta and grilled bread, sweetbreads, pasta in both tripe, fava beans and many other dishes. most of my cooking as a has a mediterranean bent although i am really enjoying learning asian cooking from youtube.

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scruz
added over 2 years ago

i also really like mary ann espsito on pbs and youtube.

Windischgirl
added over 2 years ago

Carol Field is the archivist for Italian baking, both savory and sweet

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ChefJune
ChefJune

June is a trusted source on General Cooking.

added over 2 years ago

She has lot of knowledge, but I wouldn't rank her knowledge ahead of the brilliant Nick Malgieri.

cv
cv
added over 2 years ago

Ali,

I suggest you contact some Italian chefs. Professional cooks often are influenced by different cookbook authors (often other professional chefs) than your typical home cook.

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Smaug
added over 2 years ago

Guiliano Bugialli was one that got me more serious about it; he seems to have been largely forgotten, but I liked (if not always imitated) his uncompromising attitude toward materials and techniques.

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cv
cv
added over 2 years ago

I've thought about this a little more. If there's one Italian recipe that I associate with one author more than any other, it would be Artusi's crostini di fegatini di pollo (chicken liver crostini). Sure, there probably as many recipes as there are cooks who make this, however, I like the Artusi version. Admittedly, I do not follow the recipe word for word, but my version is very, very close.

I've had these crostini many times in many bars/caffès/etc. in Florence and the Artusi version is authentic, the benchmark recipe because of its legacy 125 year old status.

Emiko Davies has posted her own glammed up version of crostini here at Food52, but I prefer the plain rusticity of the Artusi version.

Here's the Artusi version both in the original Italian (not paraphrased) and English translation versions:

http://www.italymagazine.com/featured-story/italy-celebrates-gastronome-pellegrino-artusi

As for the Gossetti della Salda book, it is a unique and massive cookbook (2161 recipes + 13 base recipes).

There are two indexes. The first has a primary grouping by region, then by course, and finally concluding with lists of typical regional wines (DOC, DOS, and other notable non-denominazione wines).

The second index ("Indice analitico") is by course: antipasti, pizza, etc. The dishes are alphabetically listed along with region, recipe number, and page number.

Cookbooks that highlight regional cuisine are pretty rare. Another one is Diana Kennedy's "The Essential Cuisines of Mexico" but her book is grouped by course so you might find tacos from the Yucatan Peninsula next to tacos from Nayarit.

The Gossetti della Salda book is brilliant because each chapter is regional starting with Piemonte & Val d'Aosta working all the way down the Italian "boot" to Sicily, and ending up in Sardegna. Because of this grouping, just perusing the recipes (or the first index) feels like a culinary roadtrip down the Italian peninsula. This is really why I consider this the most enjoyable cookbook on my shelves to peruse.

Each regional chapter has a hand-drawn map of Italy and the featured region prominently highlighted. As mentioned before, within each regional chapter, the recipes are grouped by course and many of the dishes are attributed to a single town ("specialità di Grosseto").

Many of the recipes have notes and/or variants that suggest ingredient substitutions or how another nearby family or town would prepare the dish. Sometimes she calls out a similar dish in a different region (Tuscany's "pan molle"/"panzanella" is similar to Lazio's "panzanella" that has the same name.)

The notes sometimes include observations on how modern versions of the dish are prepared or how seasonality of a certain ingredient will require the cook to change the procedure. From time to time, you'll find a note -- particularly in desserts -- that the dish in question is made on a specific day (like the town's specific saint's feast).

The fact that she mentions modern interpretations means that many of these recipes are legacy: probably late nineteenth century,

The book itself has a unique aesthetic: cream-color paper and ink drawings, often more thematic (like a lamb for a recipe that uses lamb) than illustrative. The effect is timeless.

I love Your Guardian Chef's children's cookbook suggestion! I learned to bake as a kid (something I no longer do as I lost my sweet tooth as a young adult) but yes, children should learn to become comfortable in the kitchen. I do remember going to a cooking class as a pre-schooler or kindergartener though.

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Windischgirl
added over 2 years ago

CV, thanks for the recipe link. My mom gifted me with 2 lbs of frozen chicken livers and the Artusi recipe sounds fab.
Only I'm going to have to invite some friends to help me eat it all...

Nancy
Nancy

Nancy is a trusted home cook.

added over 2 years ago

In addition to all the teachers and writers mentioned so far, here are a few who helped introduce, familiarize and chronicle Italian food in English speaking Western countries. These are mostly post WW2, when people had more exposure to foreign cuisines and long distance travel became more available to the middle classes.
Thomas Jefferson, both at the White House and Monticello
Waverly Root, Food of Italy...wide ranging intro to Americans
Elizabeth David, Italian Cooking...ditto for Britains
Anna del Conte, Italian Pantry,
Jack Denton Scott, Complete Book of Pasta (there is more than spaghetti and macaroni?)
Maria Pace, Little Italy Cookbook (recipes that were made both at home and in Italian immigrant restaurants)
Esther Aresty, The Delectable Past (culling of anecdotes & recipes from historical cookbooks. Here, useful for Apicius & ancient Roman cooking).
Angelo Pellegrino, Unpredjudice Palate (Tuscan immigrant to USA, whose day job was as university professor)
The Gallo brothers (reviled as they were), for restoring vineyards and the place of wine at table
Robert Mondavi and his family, ditto

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cv
cv
added over 2 years ago

Note that any book about Italian cuisine written in the last 30-40 years in any language will have the Artusi book, Talisman, and Silver Spoon (and probably Gossetti della Salda) listed in the bibliography. The overwhelming influence of these cookbooks to Italian food writing is indisputable.

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pierino
pierino

pierino is a trusted source on General Cooking and Tough Love.

added over 2 years ago

Another book not to forget is Lynne Rosetta Kasper 's SPLENDID TABLE which is both a cookbook and culinary history of the Emilia-Romagna region. Most educated Italians consider Bologna to be the country's gastronomic capital.

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ChefJune
ChefJune

June is a trusted source on General Cooking.

added over 2 years ago

Amen to "The Splendid Table!" I'm slapping myself for forgetting to mention Lynne Rossetto Kasper's wonderful book.

ChefJune
ChefJune

June is a trusted source on General Cooking.

added over 2 years ago

And lest you think she's not Italian, Kasper is her married name. She's a Rossetto... :)

Shannon
added over 2 years ago

Antonio Ceccuni

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luvcookbooks
luvcookbooks

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added over 2 years ago

Elizabeth David, Italian Food

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