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Dec 2, 2012 11:29 AM

The "Go To" Italian Cookbook(s)?

I didn't see a "cookbook" board so thought I would post here. I realize there can never be only one cookbook that represents an entire culture but I am wondering if there are some few "go to" cookbooks for Italian cooking like "The Bread Bible" or "The Bread Makers Apprentice" is to baking?

Understood they may be region-specific (i.e. Tuscan, coastal, etc.)

My wife and I both love cooking and eating Italian and have a decent collection of cookbooks, but we're always looking to expand the repertoire!

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  1. Lots of people will tell you to go first to Marcella Hazan. Early on, she changed my way of thinking about cooking, putting forth the idea that you should plan your menu as you shop rather than being slave to a shopping list. Invaluable advice. If nothing else, you should learn to make her Lasagne Bolognese.

    But let me also suggest Giuliano Bugialli's cookbooks, starting with THE FINE ART OF ITALIAN COOKING. As much as I like Marcella, and even though I discovered her first, I make pasta Bugialli's way, with salt and a little olive oil. Giuliano made pasta making so much easier for me.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Jay F

      Plus one on both of these reccos. Years ago, my mother went to Marcella's and Giuliano's cooking schools, at the time in Bologna and Florence respectively. We've eaten well ever since, and in our house, they are just referred to as She and He (as in, "well, She says to put nutmeg in . . . ).

      1. re: Splendid Spatula

        She and he...that's it. Thanks a million.

        1. re: Jay F

          I should note that it is all about context. If we're not in Italian mode, then She is Julia (there are no other She's) and He might be Jacques Pepin, or in the old days someone like Craig Claiborne or James Beard. They are all worthy!

      2. re: Jay F

        I learned to cook from Giuliano Bugialli's Classic Techniques of Italian Cooking, I think I made almost every dish in that book. His lasagna recipe is the best one I've ever used. I've probably bought 150 cookbooks since then but that is still my favorite.

        Hassan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking is also great.

        1. re: calumin

          I'm glad to see Giuliano getting a little love. It seems like Marcella usually gets the majority of mentions.

      3. I agree with Jay F and I would add "The Romagnoli's Table". It's old but has a lot of basic recipes in their original, and basic, form.

        3 Replies
        1. re: sallen

          Thank you both for the replies. We've been relying on TV/Celebrety Italian too much and know we are missing something here!

          1. re: coakes

            Look, Coakes - You can get Giuliano's first book in VG condition for $4.00 (0.01 for the book, 3.99 shippping) on Amazon Marketplace. It might be the most interesting four bucks you spend all month.


          2. I think Italian cooking is an American construct, and that may help you wend your way through the boatload of Italian cookbooks available. Ed Giobbi is still a wonderful resource for this side of the pond. Ada Boni is another resource for cooking in Italy.

            14 Replies
            1. re: sr44

              sr44: <<I think Italian cooking is an American construct>>

              Do tell.

                1. re: Jay F

                  I'd be delighted to.

                  Cooking in Italy is an intensely regional practice. In fact, Italy only dates back to 1848 when the various components were united politically. When Italian immigrants came to the US, very few of the regionalisms crossed over into the general public. Red sauce, pasta, meatballs...

                  With the advent of Ada Boni and others, we began to see some of the tremendous variety in the foods of Italy.

                  1. re: sr44

                    I've never read Ada Boni. I should. I know there's a difference between a lot of what I've learned from Marcella and Giuliano (or "her and him") and the food my grandmother's next-door neighbor from Naples used to make, the red sauce, pasta, and meatballs of which you speak.

                    1. re: Jay F

                      Ada Boni is wonderful. In fact, her Talisman Cookbook was the only Italian cookbook my Italian-American mother owned. And the the first cookbook I ever bought for myself was her Regional Italian Cooking. To a certain extent, they are a product of their times when many, now-common, ingredients were not widely available. Because of this, you will see recipes call for bacon instead of guanciale, for example. But her regional Italian book opened my eyes to the breadth of Italian cooking. But, Jay F, you will never see Spaghetti and meatballs in any regional Italian book, since that is one of many dishes created here in America, the land of abondanza. I call it Italian Fusion food, but it is also wonderful and delicious, but quite different from anything you'll find in any part of Italy! For that food, I bought We Called it Macaroni, which is very much the food of the Italian Americans.

                      1. re: roxlet

                        Thanks, Roxlet. I've gone ahead and ordered We Called It Macaroni.

                        1. re: Jay F

                          There is a recipe for a crostini that is fantastic. The base is a mixture of mascarpone and ricotta, and the topping is tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes, garlic and basil, and I forget what all else. The recipe makes a ton--too much, really-- but you'll be tempted to figure out a way to eat it any way you can -- on toasted bread or even on pasta.

                        2. re: roxlet

                          Italian Regional Cooking was also my first Italian cookbook and I still refer to it often.

                          1. re: roxlet

                            Roxlet, I've been reading my copy of We Called It Macaroni, and to say this is a book I've been looking for all my life is not an overstatement. I'm thoroughly enjoying the stories and recipes. This is the kind of cooking I loved in childhood.

                            Though I've loved Italian food practically since birth, I'm not Italian. My father was the one who introduced me to it, via his growing up next door to an Italian woman from whom he learned to cook, Lina, whose food was always my favorite in the world.

                            When I was grown up and learning to cook on my own, I bought Marcella's first book, and though I realized her cooking was different from Lina's, it was so good I didn't explore much further.

                            In the back of my mind, I'd always kind of wondered about Lina's cooking, but until now, I'd never read a book about it. Of course, We Called It Macaroni is that book.

                            So thank you, Roxlet. I think this is my favorite Christmas present this year.

                            1. re: Jay F

                              I'm so glad you are enjoying it, Jay F! And glad that you have, at last, found the book that reminds you of Lina's Italian food when you were growing up. A lot of people denigrate Italian-American food as being not Italian, which is why I call it "Italian Fusion." It's the food of Italy (and mostly southern Italy) fused with the abundance of the U.S. It's different, but still wonderful.

                        3. re: sr44

                          That's a bunch of Bologna!


                    2. "Zuppe' by Mona Talbott. These three I use all the time:

                      1. I keep returning to the Splendid Table by Lynn Kasper. The recpies havn't failed me yet if I follow them

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: mike0989

                          I LOVE that book! And you're right -- every recipe I've ever tried from there has always turned out GREAT!

                            1. re: angelsmom

                              Yes, that's the one. Excellent book.