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Need Italian Cookbook recommendation

I recently traveled to Italy, and had absolutely amazing food. I didn't take a cooking course while there (which I regret). Can anyone recommend a good Italian cookbook (in English) that focuses on food from Piedmont, Tuscany, Lombardy, Puglia, and Emilia-Romagna? I have no problem buying five different cookbooks if necessary!

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  1. Giuliano Bugialli's Foods of Tuscany and his Foods of Italy. Highly recommended.

    1. The recent COTM (Cookbook of the Month) we cooked from, The Splendid Table: Recipes from Emilia-Romagna, the Heartland of Northern Italian Food by Lynne Rossetto Kasper, is perfect for the areas you mentioned, except for Puglia. Here's a link to the master thread that has links to our reports on what we cooked from the various chapters.

      There was an alternate book as well also by Lynne Rossetto Kasper, The Italian Country Table: Home Cooking from Italy's Farmhouse Kitchens.

      1. Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking includes recipes from all regions, more from some (e.g. Emilia Romagna) than from others (e.g. Puglia). Still unsurpassed, in my opinion, as an introduction for English-speakers to regional Italian cooking.

        1. I agree with the recommendation for Marcella Hazen's cookbooks. I also like David Rocco's cook books. Simple, every day cooking.

          1 Reply
          1. re: jan55612

            I can vouch for at least 1 of David Rocco's books - his latest, "Made In Italy" which I own. It's focus is mainly southern Italy and the recipes are well written, easy to complete and delicious.


          2. If you want to peruse and test a few recipes before buying, you can find many of Marcella Hazan and David Rocco recipes online, and a few from Giuliano Bugialli as well. (I've never looked for Kasper's).

            1. my favorite Tuscany cookbook is Twelve. One of the great features is that there is one chapter for each month, so the recipes are grouped seasonally. I have been using it for over 2 years now and really like it.

              1. Marcella Hazan's Essentials... and Lynne Rossetto Kasper's Splendid Table are two of my favorites as well. For baking, Carol Field's Italian Baker is top-notch, and her Italy in Small Bites is very good, too. A reliable, comprehensive book that touches on various regions
                is Michele Scicolone's 1000 Italian Recipes.

                1. I also recommend Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by M. Hazen as one of the best general Italian cookbook written in English. The book combined and expanded her two earlier published The Classic Italian Cookbook and More Classic Italian Cookbook with revisions. The book is organized by courses (appetizers, pasta, etc). Also any of the G. Bugialli's books are worth having. If you looking for general cookbooks that is organized by regions with a short introduction for each, The Good Food of Italy by Claudia Roden and Ada Boni's Italian Regional Cooking are good.
                  Flavors of Puglia by Nancy Harmon Jenkins
                  Might also sugguest Food and Memories of Abruzzo by Anne Teresa Callen
                  Many of the above are out of print but usually available by searching the internet.

                  1. I have had (and used) a copy of "The Romagnolis' Table" (published in1974) for over 30 years. Franco & Margaret Romagnoli did one of the very first TV cooking shows on Italian food (on PBS) in the U.S. back in the early 1970's. The recipes are fairly simple and straight forward.

                    Matt Kramer's "A Passion For Piedmont" is the only cookbook I have seen in the U.S. that focuses on the foods (and wines) of that region of Italy.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: DavidT

                      LOVE the Romagnolis. I cooked for years from the file cards WGBH made from their wonderful show.

                    2. I would agree that I'd point you to Marcella Hazan or to Lidia Bastianich (who I'm surprised hasn't come up yet). They both have great cookbooks and are very accessible to American cooks.

                      I also highly recommend the Silver Spoon if you like that type of cookbook - tons of recipes, not a lot of flowery descriptions or instructions, very complete but maybe not as regionally targeted as you might be looking for.

                      13 Replies
                      1. re: thimes

                        I differ on the Silver Spoon. It is a doorstop book with a lot of generic international recipes along with fairly generic Italian. Ive been disappointed looking for regional recipes and not finding them there. Hazan, (I believe the best starting point for you) Bugialli, Arthur Schwartz (for southern Italian and Kasper (the two books noted above, not her series related Splendid Table books) are very reliable in creating true Italian tastes.Ada Boni's regional Itaian book, long out of print, also has some good recipes. Some of Paula Wolfert's books if you have them (Greens and Grains, Mediteranean Cooking, World of Food, etc) also contain significant collections of Italian, especially southern Italian dishes. There are many other very good books but the mentioned ones are reliable.

                        There are many discussions of this matter over on the Home Cooking Board you might want to check there.

                        1. re: jen kalb

                          Be careful of the recommendations in the Home Cooking forum. I scrolled through the first thread that came up in a search, and at a guess 75-80% of the recommendations were for American-Italian cookbooks or for cookbooks of Italian recipes adapted by celebrity chefs. Neither category will give you what you're looking for.

                          I disagree with the Lidia Bastianich recommendation. Compare her tarted-up, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink version of pasta alla genovese with one from a Neapolitan food writer (despite its name, it's a recipe from Naples and not Genoa):



                          1. re: zerlina

                            Here is one long tecommendation thread on Home Cooking - there are others.


                            Zerlina brings up an interesting and valif point. however, many chef books and American or British "Italian" cookbooks can present a hyped up or modified view of italian cuisine - so when looking for books that document Italian cuisine as experienced in the regions of Italy such books may not be the most reliable or satisfying, however enjoyable their recipes may be.

                            The lidia genevoese is totally ridiculous (red wine? pine nuts??!!) but the pignataro recipe linked , while typical in its symplicity, is also a bit unusual - the genovese dishes we have had in Naples had a predominant onion element, along with the beef and other aromatics - this one has no onion at all..Maybe included in the secred family spices and herbs?)Here is a video of the making of la genovese.

                            1. re: jen kalb

                              Sorry; that was my mistake. I thought the recipe I linked was an English translation of this recipe, but it wasn't:
                              You can put the URL through Google Translate.

                              1. re: zerlina

                                I guess it was just sloppily done, since the onions are mentiioned in the process description, just not the ingredient list. (2 kilos)

                                1. re: jen kalb

                                  You may also notice that Luciano Pignataro not only includes the 2 kilos of onions, but that he specifies a particular kind of onion from Montoro in Campania, or else ones from Tropea in Calabria. He writes that it is the choice of onions that is the "secret" of this dish.

                                  And so there's the rub: Even the best Italian cookbook written by an Italian won't produce the same dish in America as it does in Italy, so the OP needs to be prepared for that. The native Italian ingredients have flavors that are matched to and balanced with the other native ingredients in the dish, and when you switch the ingredients or use imported ingredients (whose flavors are altered by long transit), you get something different.

                                  There is no Julia Childs of Italian cooking to turn it into a "science", getting results that can be replicated cross-border, universally. I like Marcella Hazan too, and others, but they are best for giving you a feel for concept and "essentials", not duplicating dishes. As Pignataro points out, the genovese sauce is made differently in households throughout Napoli.

                                  Which doesn't mean the investment in the cookbooks isn't worth it. Just that you can't eat outside of Italy what you do inside.

                                  I have new respect for Italian-American cooking after living in Italy, because many recipes were adapted by skilled cooks who couldn't get their hands on the "right" ingredients, and altered their recipes to suit the flavors of what was available to them in America. I think American cooking would improve overall if it focused more on taking what grows well in America and building upon the flavors of that rather than taking mass market foods and trying to make them tasty with specialty recipes.

                                  1. re: barberinibee

                                    Here are other variations on the Neopolitan pasta genovese recipe, this from a Neopolitan home cook that includes cherry tomatoes and wine:


                                    this one from a Neopolitan cooking school includes whole milk plus wine, and sage and pork ribs


                                    this one (source unknown) adds a bit of salami to the basic onions-meat recipe


                                    Since pine nuts are classically an ingredient in a ragu alla Napoletana, I wouldn't be surprised to see a Neopolitan home cook "tarting up" a Genovese with pine nuts in the secrecy of the home kitchen. The Neopolitan woman who cooked it for me added a vegetable bouillion cube. And maybe more Neopolitan home cooks than just the Pignataros like to add chili powder.

                                    1. re: barberinibee

                                      Arthur Schwartz's Naples at Table has a canonical recipe for genovese with no tomato except for a tbsp of paste for color, and 2x as much ordinary onion as meat (chuck roast), no pinoli or salumi. For Puglia, Nancy Harmon Jenkins' s Flavors of Puglia, now back in paperback, is an intelligent, refreshing, selective introduction to this wonderful cuisine. Don't overlook Viana La Place's La Bella Cucina, which, despite the title, is an expat cook's loving, smart, and appropriately restrained celebration of Pugliese cooking and Pugliese foodways.

                                      1. re: bob96

                                        Second the recommendation of Arthur Schwartz and Nancy Jenkins. Both are major figures in this biz and truly know their stuff.

                                        1. re: bob96

                                          jen, zerlina, bob96 -- please read:

                                          I only just now read Zerlina's link for Lidia Bastianich's recipe for Sugo alla Genovese and there is apparently some confusion here.

                                          The recipe is for a sugo from Liguria. It is obviously not Pasta alla Genovese from Napoli, not does it claim to be. It says on the right side of the recipe in the link provided by Zerlina that this is a recipe from Liguria. Food preparations from Genova are called "alla Genovese". It is not only the Neopolitan pasta dish that carries a name like that.

                                          Sugo alla Genovese is a dish I recognize as a a type of meat sauce (since I live near Genoa). It generally gets called "tocco" here, a term used in other regions of Italy for long-cooked meat sauces -- but this is the Genovese version.

                                          I have no opinon of Lidia Bastianich one way or the other (except I think she's an interesting guide to Friuli-Venezia-Giulia), and I've never seen one of her cookbooks. But she's not "tarted up" anything here. That's an unfair mischaracterization based on a misreading and a confusion about the variety of dishes with the word "Genovese" in them. She's offered a genuine regional recipe from Liguria, based on beef, not onions.


                                          1. re: barberinibee

                                            thanks for the clarification on the recipe.. Here is another recipe for the Genoese dish bb cited.((n pine nuts,however). I also dont have experience or opinion about Lidia one way or the other. http://www.placidasignora.com/2010/04....

                                            1. re: jen kalb

                                              And here a recipe (in Italian) for the Ligurian "alla Genovese" *with* pine nuts


                                              And that is really my point. I think it is great to know the essential or canonical characteristics of a dish in Italy -- that one is based on onions while another is based on beef, yet another is based on the implements used to make it -- like pesto or testaroli.

                                              But once you've defined the base, you are rarely going to find identical versions of the finished *classic* dish -- and you are also going to find plenty of overlap in how dishes are popularly known. Neopolitans also call their pasta alla Genovese "sugo alla Genovese" too, and there is also pasta Genovese without a scrap of meat in it.

                                              Yesterday I was reading that a study of the Mediterranean diet concluded that the main reason it was so healthy is -- are your ready? -- people tend to each lunch together, and eat more slowly.

                                              We've lived through a spate of studying and analysing the cuisine of Italy as if understanding it were a matter of acquiring a lot of precise knowledge about it -- and then fixing it in memory or following learned authorities. I'm all for precise knowledge (when it is precise, and that's why I posted the correction). But we've ended up with a real forest-obscured-by-trees problem, where what too often is getting lost in translation is what cooking and eating actually is in Italy.

                                            2. re: barberinibee

                                              Thanks for the pointer--missed the tiny "Liguria" on Lidia's page. She is, of course, making the Genovese tocco.

                          2. Naples At Table is the real deal. If you are looking for real recipes from Southern Italy this is the book to get. I have family in Salerno and my Aunts cook just like this.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Nunzio

                              I, very enthusiastically recommend Marcella Hazan's "Essentials".
                              If you want a virtual taste of her recipes check out this blog:

                              I was one of 9 cooks who cooked the whole book and posted, daily, in the Pomodori e Vino blog. We were lucky enough to have Marcella follow along and comment regularly on the posts.

                              It 's great reading.

                            2. The River Café Italian Cookbook! enjoy