You know how some people collect stamps or spend hours picking their fantasy football teams? Well, we’re the same but with Italian cookbooks!
So, we’d like to tell you about some of our favourites. They are in no particular order. Some you might know. Some might be new to you.
Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well (Lorenzo Da Ponte Italian Library) by Pellegrino Artusi
This is still a cookbook that you find in households all over Italy. It will look worn around the edges and possibly passed on from nonna to granddaughter. It was also the first cookbook that attempted to put together a collection of recipes from the many different regions of a newly formed Italy. Artusi’s recipes are often still the most authentic way to make some of Italy’s favourite, classic dishes.
This book was not intended for professional chefs but rather for middle-class cooks. The tone of the book is cheerful and humous. It’s the perfect combination of witty anecdotes and recipes. You’ll feel as though you’re cooking with a friend rather than cooking alone with a book.
Artusi’s book is more than meets the eye. Dare I compare it to an Italian landmark? Those who are genuinely passionate about Italian cuisine will find this book enlightening and delightful.
Made In Sicily by Giorgio Locatelli
Giorgio Locatelli adores Sicily. In this cookbook he waxes lyrical about its lush greenery. He enthuses about its orange and lemon groves, its vineyards and the simplicity of its cuisine.
Made in Sicily is the follow up cookbook to Giorgio’s Made in Italy. He begins by exploring the island’s ingredients, history and people. He does so with such passion that it often reads like a guide book. The recipes are regional and always authentic. They range from insalata di rinforzo (an island salad that celebrates cauliflower). It then takes in all manner of arancini, and pasta with anchovies. It obviously includes that most famous of Sicilian desserts, cassata.
The ingredients used are always Sicilian. So expect plenty of aubergine, capers, olives, beans, artichokes and anchovies. It’s heaviest on pasta, vegetables and fish (as per a Sicilian’s diet). There’s not much room for meat. Giorgio’s suggestions are often simple. For example he suggests chopping garlic and parsley very finely together to mingle the two flavours. This can be used to top almost anything. One of his best pasta sauces is an uncomplicated pistachio pesto. There are seasonal suggestions, too, such as a Christmas caponata.
The Silver Spoon New Edition by the Silver Spoon
This best-selling cookbook needs no introduction. However, I will do my best to do it justice. The Silver Spoon is easily one of the most powerful and influential Italian cookbooks written in the last 50 years. This book could easily be considered the bible of authentic Italian home cooking that provides over 2,000 recipes. It also has full-colour, glossy photographs all bound into one beautiful masterpiece.
Known in Italy as Il Cucchiano d’Argento, this book was published in 1950 by Domus, a famous Italian architectural magazine. The book immediately gained popularity and soon became a classic reference for Italian cuisine.
The book is colour-coded and contains different recipe chapters. Out of the many Italian cookbooks some people consider this the bible of Italian cuisine.
The Italian Baker by Carol Field
Not so much a cookbook as a bible of Italian baking! As I’m a keen baker as soon as I saw this I had to have it!
One of the most revered baking books of all time. The Italian Baker is a landmark work that continues to be a must-have for every serious baker.
Carol Field introduces artisanal doughs and techniques used by generations of Italian bakers. Every city and hill town has its own unique baking traditions. Field spent more than two years traversing Italy and reading regional cookbooks to capture the regional and local specialties. She then adapted them through rigorous testing in her own kitchen.
Field’s authentic recipes are a revelation for anyone seeking the true Italian experience. Here’s a chance to make golden Altamura bread from Puglia. Bake chewy porous loaves from Como. Wonder at the smell of rosemary bread sprinkled with coarse sea salt. Everything from the dark ryes from the north to Sicilian loaves topped with sesame seeds.
The Italian Regional Cookbook by Valentina Harris
Valentina was our second guest on our new podcast. What she doesn’t know about Italian cooking is not worth knowing!
In a word, The Italian Regional Cookbook is monumental. Simply and perfectly monumental. Valentina Harris was born in Italy but has lived for four decades in London. There she has taught, been on radio and TV, and written over 30 cookbooks. This book shows how each region in Italy has specific regional dishes. In fact each region’s cuisine is distinct from the next. Even recipes within the same region can be different!
The recipes in this book cover places you know and places you don’t! There are over 1,500 colour photographs to help you along the way! It’s a big book, but definitely not “restauranty.” It is designed for the home cook.
Southern Italian Family Cooking by Carmela Sereno Hayes
Carmela, a recent guest on our podcast, is an Italian food writer and cookery tutor. She was raised on a small farm in the north of Bedfordshire. However. her family originates from the regions of Puglia and Molise, in southern Italy.
Cucina povera is about making great food with simple, fresh, seasonal produce and available ingredients. Carmela’s Southern Italian Family Cooking shows you how to bring the delicious food of this region to your home. Healthy food on a sensible budget is important to many of us today. However in Southern Italy, “la cucina povera” has been a philosophy for generations!
It’s not just about the food. it’s about the whole ethos of Italian family life. These are delicious, filling recipes that will become family favourites in your own home!
Carmela’s other cookbooks include A Passion For Pasta and Northern and Central Italian Family Cooking. She also published How To Make Your Own Pasta in 2020. This was published as an ebook at the start of the pandemic. It shows people that they can make pasta using common storecupboard ingredients.
La Cucina: The Regional Cooking Of Italy by The Italian Academy Of Cuisine
Fifty years ago, a group of Italian scholars gathered to discuss a problem.This was how to preserve traditional Italian cooking. They formed the Italian Academy of Cuisine to document classic recipes from every region. The academy’s more than seven thousand associates spread out to villages everywhere, interviewing grandmothers and farmers at their stoves, transcribing their recipes. Many of these had never been documented before. This is the culmination of that research, featuring 2,000 recipes that represent the patrimony of Italian country cooking. Each recipe is labeled with its region of origin. However, it’s not just the ingredients but also the techniques that change with the geography. There are microregional nuances of the same dish that are not covered in other Italian cookbooks. For example there are dozens of recipes just for anchovies! Sprinkled throughout are historical recipes that provide fascinating views into the folk culture of the past. However, there are no fancy flourishes here, and no shortcuts. This is true salt-of-the-earth cooking. The book is an excellent everyday source for authentic and easily achievable Italian recipes. For ease of use there are four different indexes! La Cucina is an essential reference for every Italian cook’s library.
Italian Food by Elizabeth David
No list of Italian cookbooks would be complete without Italian Food by Elizabeth David. This was one of the first books to demonstrate the enormous range of Italy’s regional cooking. She introduced the British public to foods beyond the usual minestrone and ravioli. She explained the complex traditions of Tuscany, Sicily, Lombardy, Umbria, and many other regions. This, more than any other of the Italian cookbooks at that time, showed people that there was no such thing as “Italian food.” It is particular to that region, and is defended fiercely!
Gino’s Islands in the Sun by Gino D’Acampo
Out of all of his cookbooks I prefer Gino’s Islands In The Sun. because some of the recipes are local to us! He sails to Sardinia, and to Sicily to explore delicious, local food by the sea.
This book features dishes from Olbia on the North Eastern edge of Sardinia, to Alghero on the North West of the island, famous for its Spanish influences. Ranging from authentic Northern dishes from the mountains, to delicious Southern Sardinian seafood dishes. It encapsulates the essence of Sardinian food, famed for promoting longevity and healthy way of life.
He then goes to Sicily. His recipes explore the street food of the vibrant city of Palermo. These beautiful dishes capture the rich history of the ancient town. There are also recipes incorporating the famed Marsala from the Sicily’s coastal region and from all over this beautiful island.
These are our favourite Italian cookbooks. If you have any suggestions of your own, please leave a comment below!