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Italian books

My sister just moved into her first apartment and is settling into the kitchen quite nicely--I'd like to get her a great book, something like a cookbook with essays I suppose, that will introduce her not only to the cuisine of Italian cooking, but also the philosophy behind it--something that will teach her more about the general concepts than this or that recipe (although recipes are always a good thing for new cooks). Any suggestions?

(If only Mario Batali himself came in book form)

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  1. I'm not sure this is what you have in mind, but a landmark book on the feasts and festivals of Italy that include recipes is Carol Field's "Celebrating Italy." It has more information on the traditions and history of the feasts than it does on cooking technique, and many of the recipes really aren't for beginners, but it's a great read.

    Another classic, which has more emphasis on technique, is Lynne Rossetto Kasper's "The Splendid Table: Recipes from Emilia-Romagna, the Heartland of Northern Italian Food."

    And, of course, for great recipes, you can't go wrong with any of Marcella Hazan's books, "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking" first among them.

    1. But Batali DOES come in book form!
      How about "Molto Italiano"? I love that book, and his voice is all over it.
      His Food Network show should come as a pack of DVDs, but I don't think they do.

      The other author/book I like, less intimidating than the great Marcella Hazan, is
      Biba's Taste of Italy:
      Recipes from the Homes, Trattorie and Restaurants of Emilia-Romagna
      by Biba Caggiano
      It has quite a bit of narrative about places and vibe, and some very doable recipes.

      1. Italian books I like are:
        1. Made in Italy: Food and Stories,Giorgio Locatelli
        2. Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy, Frances Mayes
        3. Italy the Beautiful Cookbook: Authentic Recipes from the Regions of Italy by Press Knapp, Lorenza De' Medici Stucchi, and Patrizia Passigli
        4. Eat Right, Eat Well, The Italian Way by Edward Giobbi
        And.... anything by Faith Willinger.

        1. Look for The Silver Spoon Cookbook, which came out in its first English translation around 2 years ago. It is to Italians what Betty Crocker or Fannie Farmer is to Americans -- a huge collection of the "must know" recipes in Italy from all regions, and has been given to Italians setting up their households for decades.

          2 Replies
          1. re: TNExplorer

            I was about to also recommend the Silver Spoon. It's a frequent wedding gifts when Italian wives have to set about the task of familiarizing themselves with a great regional cuisine.

            1. re: JungMann

              I like the book, but I don't think it has much in the way of essays/discussions about the food, and it is also rather short on instructions - which depending upon the OP's sister's cooking experience may be an issue.

          2. I think the best book on Italian cooking, for recipes, ingredients, method and philosophy, is Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.

            1. Another vote for Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. We've been slowly cooking our way through the book and enjoying it. Have learned a lot from just reading it as well.

              1. Cannot go wrong with Marcella Hazan.
                I have had a lot of luck with Jamie Oliver's Italy - good, usable recipes.
                if she is a new cook, the most approachable cookbooks I have are: The Sicilian Gentleman's Cookbook, and Patsy's. Both are very good. I know they lack essays and context, but there are going to be nights when she needs to get dinner ont eh table.

                7 Replies
                1. re: Westy

                  Wondering what the thoughts are on Lidia Bastianich's cookbook 'Lidia's Italy'? I received a copy for christmas and although I have yet to try out a recipe - I can't say I'm intrigued by it. I'm considering exchanging it for something else and just wondered what the consensus was. BTW, I already own a copy of Marcella Hazan and also love it.

                  1. re: millygirl

                    Looked through her new books at B&N a few months ago, nothing jfood was interested in. Too many others that strike his fancy. Jfood would exchange if he was given this book if possible.

                    1. re: millygirl

                      For some reason, I just don't cook out of Lida's books. The food looks fine, and the techniques are sound. I just have other options available that appeal more.

                      1. re: Westy

                        Agree about Hazan and Batali and Silver Spoon, but also recommend
                        Giuliano Bugialli's The Fine Art of Italian Cooking, recently revised and expanded, and a few regional gems that combine recipes, history, and culture: Mary Taylor Simeti's On Persephone's Island (Sicily), Arthur Schwartz's Naples at Table: Cooking in Campania, and a classic, lyrical account of unadorned country life, Elizabeth Romer's The Tuscan Year: Life and Food in an Italian Valley.

                        1. re: obob96

                          The Bugialli Books are great as well and jfood likes them above the Lindia's. There is a roasted pepper sauce for rotini (not the mook cited butone of his others) that jfood makes in the summer when the peppers are in full bloom.

                          Before making anything Special Italian Jfood reads both the Hazan and the Bugialli books to get his arms around the theories and perspectives from two of his favorites.

                          1. re: jfood

                            I too love Guiliano Bugialli's early book, which has photos of each step and is very easy to cook from...I especially like a ziti recipe he has (from the 1600s?) where you put the dry pasta and sauce together and bake it until it's cooked. He does a lot of step by step work.

                            Recently however, I've started cooking from Lidia Bastianich's Italian-American Cooking, which has the classic recipes that those of us in our forties may have eaten when we were kids going out to dinner with our parents. The recipes are very easy to manage - I made her standard chicken parm recipe for the family this weekend (having never made it before), and it was a hit with the kids. sometimes a red sauce is all you need...

                            Basically, I don't think homestyle italian food needs to be overthought - but maybe that's because I grew up in the Bronx in a classic Italian neighborhood.

                            1. re: Felixnot

                              I think I know that book. I bought it years ago for my Mom. She has never really used it (she is a bigger fan of Lidia, Marcella, and Biba). Agreed: Very complete.