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Mar 19, 2011 09:48 PM

Your Favorite Italian Cookbook and Why

I have more Italian cookbooks on my bookshelves than I could possibly ever hope to cook through. Yet, I feel compelled to collect more and more. Here is my list:

The Splendid Table
Cucina of Le Marche
The Tra Vigne Cookbook
Michael Chiarello's Casual Cooking
Trattoria Cooking
The Flavor of Italy By the Chamberlains
The Il Fornaio Baking Book
Cucina Simpatica
The Little Dishes of Italy, Antipasti

Never Cooked Out of:
Trattoria Grappolo
Olives and Oranges
Italy The Beautiful Cookbook
Cucina Ebraica
James McNair's Pasta Cookbook
Harry's Bar

I have made many recipes out of a few of these books; a few recipes out of most of these books; and none out of the remainder. If I had to whittle down my collection, I would be hard pressed to say which ones I would keep and which I would toss.

I would love to know which Italian cookbooks in your collection are your favorites and why? What are your favorite recipes out of these books?

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  1. Here are a few of my favorite recipes:

    Splendid Table:
    Imola's Risotto of the Vigil p. 214
    Frozen hazelnut zabaione with chocolate Marsala sauce p. 436-37
    The entire Ragu section, p.33-57

    Casual Cooking:
    Entire homemade pantry section, p. 21-39
    Warm Peach Salad, p. 84
    Bitter Greens with Poached Eggs, p. 91
    Planked Salmon, p. 144
    Forever Roasted Pork, p. 161

    Tra Vigne:
    Whole Citrus Vinaigrette, p. 143
    Chicken with Roasted Lemon and Rosemary Sauce, p. 145
    Entire pantry section: p. 190-202

    Other Chiarello recipes off website:
    Basic risotto and polenta

    Potato and Artichoke Cake, p. 266-267
    Beet Greens and Zucchini Soup, p. 160-61

    Ivvoltini di Zucchine, p. 22
    Sieved Tomato Sauce, p. 134

    Cucina Simpatica:
    Crostata crust, p. 182

    La Marche:
    Cinghiale con le Pappardelle, p. 72-74
    Bucatini al Guanciale, p. 70-71

    Il Fornaio;
    Baci D'Alassio, p. 144-145
    Biscotti Da Te, p. 147-148

    If nothing else, starting this thread will give me a quick reference guide to my go to recipes from each book.

    5 Replies
    1. re: dkennedy

      My favorites:
      1. Jamie's Italy
      2. North End Italian
      3. Frankie's Spuntino
      4. Union Square/Second Helpiongs
      5. Maybe my most trusted: Sicilian Gentleman's Cookbook
      6. Bravo! The Sylish Man's Guide to Italian Cooking. Not a bad book at all. So far, everything has been great. nice, clear instructions

      1. re: Westy

        What an interesting list! I have never heard of 2, 3, 5, or 6. I will have to check them out.

        1. re: dkennedy

          Frankie's Sputiono came out last year and was nominated for a James Beard award this year.

        2. re: Westy

          I love Jamie's Italy, also. I am drawn to his casual conversational style of describing recipes steps (throw in a couple of handfuls of basil...).

          1. re: Westy

            Hi Westy, I was fortunate enough to find The Sicilian Gentleman's Cookbook at a thrift store this weekend and your recommendation immediately came to mind. If you see this, I'd love to hear which dishes are your favourites!

        3. Great thread dk! Thanks so much for sharing some of your favourites. Like you, I have more Italian Cookbooks on my shelves than any other cuisine. (114 according to EYB!)

          A lot of my recipe notes are in my books so it would definitely take a lot of time to do a thorough job w this question. That said, I thought I could do a quick scan in EYB and see some recent notes I've made. I figure I can post now and then add to this as I come across books & recipes down the road.

          Here are some books I've cooked recipes from recently that have produced great results:

          Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen

          - Rigatoni Woodman’s Style
          - Beef Short Ribs Braised in Red Wine

          Molto Italiano: Simple Italian Recipes for Cooking at Home

          - Ricotta Gnocchi with Sausage and Fennel
          - Spicy Sicilian Chicken

          Mario Batali Simple Italian Food: Recipes from My Two Villages

          - Barbecued swordfish with black olive-cucumber salad

          Molto Gusto: Easy Italian Cooking by Mario Batali and Mark Ladner

          - Leek Ragu Bruschetta
          - Ceci Bruschetta
          - Cauliflower w Olives

          In Nonna's Kitchen: Recipes and Traditions from Italy's Grandmothers by Carol Field

          - Spaghetti w Lamb Sauce

          Italian Easy: Recipes From The London River Cafe by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers

          - Penne, Sausage, Ricotta

          La Mia Cucina Toscana: A Tuscan Cooks in America by Pino Luongo

          - Roughly cut pasta with white bean sauce
          - Garganelli and chicken ragout with saffron

          Stir: Mixing it up in the Italian Tradition by Barbara Lynch

          - Butcher Shop Bolognese
          - Rigatoni with spicy sausage and cannellini beans
          - Pappardelle with tangy veal ragu

          Twelve: A Tuscan Cook Book by Tessa Kiros

          Tuscan Cookery by Elizabetta Piazzesi

          I'd also add that I have all of Giada's books and have cooked many recipes without ever being disappointed. I posted a list of some in CH recently and if I find that list, I'll link to it here.

          14 Replies
          1. re: Breadcrumbs

            I love Stir, got it when it first came out. I remember the first recipe I made out of it was Braised Lamb Shanks with Winter Root Vegetables (p.255). I had bought my first lamb shank and this recipe was delicious. Made two others (gotta make more more!!) - Taleggio-Stuffed Proscuitto-Wrapped Chicken with Tomato and Olive Salad (p. 210) - and Chicken Meatballs (p. 149) which I served with a homemade kind-of alfredo sauce. Really good and DH loved 'em. Going to keep this one off the shelf and in the kitchen for now. It would make a good COTM, too.

            1. re: bayoucook

              I've made note of your recipes from Stir bayoucook, thank-you. I just rec'd Stir at Christmas but it's become a fast favourite here. It's funny that you said you're keeping it in the kitchen because that's just where mine's ended up. . . and that's pretty "high end real estate" here at casa bc because I only keep 6-8 books in the kitchen!

              Speaking of lamb shanks, not sure if you happen to have The Stinking Rose cookbook, do try the "Silence of the Lamb Shanks" recipe. We first enjoyed this dish at their restaurant in San Fran and I bought the cookbook just for that recipe. It was worth it!! Best lamb shank dish we've ever had!

              1. re: Breadcrumbs

                Oh Lord, back to amazon to check it out. The cookbooks in my kitchen right now, besides Stir, are In The Kitchen With A Good Appetite (Melissa Clark), Real Cajun (Donald Link), Falling Off The Bone (Jean Anderson), and recently The Splendid Table. The books are in constant rotation but these may stay for a while. I'm still trying to gear myself up to try bread baking again and have those cookbooks set by, along with my new (Christmas gift) Artisan KA mixer with dough hook: Lord, give me strength!

                1. re: Breadcrumbs

                  Saw three versions on amazon, is this the one:
                  Looks good - we love garlic!

                  1. re: bayoucook

                    Hi bayoucook, Yes, that's the one. It's a great little book w lots of straightforward, tasty recipes. If you get it, let me know and I'll pull my book and share any recipe notes I've made. We love garlic as well and this book has it, in spades!!

                    Your kitchen bookshelf is VERY similar to mine! At the moment: AMFT, Stir, In the Kitchen w a Good Appetite (I'm really enjoying reading this one . . .love it!) The Splendid Table, The Antipasto Table (Scicolone), Italian Family Cooking (Giobbi) and Quinoa 365 and The Clinton St. Baking Co. Cookbook.

                    1. re: Breadcrumbs

                      Wow. Going to check out the Giobbi book since people have been liking him. I forgot to mention I also have AMFT - meant to cook so much more than I have out of it. Stir - two I'm looking at for this week - Pasta with Turkish-Style Lamb, Eggplant, and Yogurt Sauce (201), and Sweet and Sour Salmon (308) (want that now!).

                      1. re: bayoucook

                        I have a tab on that Salmon dish as well bayoucook!!

                      2. re: Breadcrumbs

                        In the Kitchen with Good Appetite is a keeper, all the recipes I have tried so far have been great.

                        1. re: Breadcrumbs

                          Breadcrumbs, have you cooked a lot from Quinoa 365? I have it too but have not made anything yet which is a shame. I was thinking about making something veg/quinoa for a sick friend - would love suggestions!

                          1. re: herby

                            Just made the Quinoa dried fruit and nut salad out of AMFT and it was wonderful. If you need the recipe let me know.

                            1. re: herby

                              Hi Herby, I've only made 3 dishes from this book so far but I'd recommend all of them as they were terrific. They were:

                              Mushroom and Herb Quinoa - p. 43 I also added some fresh thyme to this as I was serving it w a roast chicken. Delicious.

                              Pomegranate, Almond and Feta Salad - p. 50 - Quick & easy and the honey Dijon dressing was a perfect compliment.

                              Salmon and Red Quinoa on Asparagus w Lime Dill (Cilantro) Sauce - p. 97 - I subbed dill for the cilantro as I've been cursed w an allergy to cilantro. This is a really yummy dinner dish.

                              Like dk below, I've also made the Quinoa salad from AMFT and we loved it. Here's a link to my review (and photos in my post directly below):


                              I hope your friend is feeling better soon Herby, I'm sure they'll appreciate your kindness.

                              1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                Thank you for your suggestions, DK and BC! Do you think AMFT recipe (I have the book) will tast OK without the nuts? Her son has severe nut allegy, not sure about seed and will ask. I will get mushroom tomorrow and will try Mushroom and Herb Quinoa recipe. I do not know why the book does not inspire me to make anything:(

                                1. re: herby

                                  Herby the nuts aren't imperative but they do help balance the dish. If seed are ok, I'd add some toasted sunflower seeds and maybe a few toasted sesame seeds too. Let us know how you make out!

                                  1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                    I agree with BC. I have made the dish twice. Once, I did everything according to the recipe. I let the quinoa cool, I toasted the nuts, I let it sit for 1 hour before serving. It was perfectly balanced. Later in the week I threw it together a second time but this time in a hurry. I didn't measure the nuts and fruit ratio, nor did I let it cool before adding the fruit and nuts. Though it was still good, it was not a dish I would ever of made again. I think you should save the AMFT version for when you can use toasted nuts and a variety of dried fruits.

                  2. I actually only have three: Olive Oil From Tree to Table by Peggy Knickerbocker, The Four Seaons of Italian Cooking by A.J. Battifarano, and my favorite - Italia in Cucina by McRae books. It's my favorite because it has some of seemingly everything. It's permanently bookmarked at page 503 for the Salsicce e Fagioli all'Ucelletto (pork sausages and beans with garlic, sage, and tomato sauce). Peposo (black pepper stew) is on page 498. I combined some of the tomato sauces to come up with my own Bolognese sauce. Oh, then there's Cornetti di Salmone Affumicato con Insalata Russa (smoked salmon cones with potato salad).

                    1. Oh my!! You DO have a library, don't you?! I also have many Italian cookbooks but find that I rely on the Giada DeLaurentis books (I have all of them) because I like fresh and simple and they fill the bill. I especially like her marinara sauce, although I admit that I add thyme, oregano and 4-5 cloves of fresh garlic (instead of the 1 her recipe calls for), double or triple the recipe and bag what I don't use for the current meal in 2-person bags with my FoodSaver.

                      I'm also a fan of Mario Battali and find that many of his recipies have an authentic (IMO) taste and, if you're organized, not all that difficult.

                      I would NEVER part with any of my cookbooks. I'd rather build (or harrass my husband into building) another bookshelf.

                      Buon Appetito!!

                      Oh Lord, I almost forgot Lidia Bastianich!! Her stuff is unstuffy, simple and GOOD!!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: caiatransplant


                        Our tastes overlap.

                        Have you tried Giada's roast balsamic chicken? Pieces (bone-in skin-on thighs, breasts, a mix) are marinated overnight in Dijon, balsamic vinegar, garlic, a few other goodies and then roasted. AS you say -- fresh and simple. Tasty enough for guests, moist. Excellent chicken salad material.

                        I cooked Batali's hunter's style chicken aka chicken cacciatore with COTM a few years back and when I made it for a potluck at work this year, it won me my first paid catering job! Excellent recipe using his basic tomato sauce (with shredded carrot and fresh thyme) and building flavors with pancetta in addition to the usual suspects -- mushrooms, celery, rosemary, garlic, homemade broth, and chicken thighs of course.

                        1. re: MMRuth

                          Marcella Hazan's the one Italian book I dumped last year. After last month's COTM discussion, I checked it out of the library to see what I missed. It's funny how we all have such varied tastes.

                          1. re: MMRuth

                            I learned to cook out of Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. I think it's a very good choice for a beginner. The recipes are easy and Marcella instills a lot of cooking wisdom. Many recipes are absolute classics. But some recipes are too austere and bland for most American palates (including mine). So I cook less out of it these days.

                            1. re: MMRuth

                              Hazan's Classic Italian Cookbook taught me how to cook perfect basics - tomato sauce, manicotti, the best bolognese EVER and many more. This is the textbook for Italian cooking IMHO.

                              1. re: EM23

                                I am not sure if I ever cooked out of Hazan's when I had it on my shelf. As you can see, now I have a lot of others to replace it out. But back then I think I probably only had Hazan's book and The Flavor of Italy. I love The Flavor of Italy. It is out of print, but if you find a copy 2nd hand it would be a wise investment.

                                1. re: dkennedy

                                  And I got rid of The Flavour of Italy awhile back and replaced it with Hazan's books:)