I love Italian food – eating it, but most of all cooking it. To get me in the mood while writing my Italian-set The Echoes of Love, Italian was often on the menu at home. For me, cooking Italian doesn’t just mean throwing some dried fusilli pasta in a saucepan, but endeavouring to create meals that are as close to the authentic dishes as I can manage. And to achieve that I turn to three important books that are culinary bibles.
The Silver Spoon
From the blurb:
The Silver Spoon was the first English edition of the bestselling Italian cookbook of the last fifty years, Ilcucchiaiod’argento. With over 2,000 recipes, its simple style and authenticity has made it the definitive, bestselling book on Italian cooking, for both gourmets and beginners. Following its phenomenal success, this new updated and revised edition is illustrated with newly commissioned photography and includes new menus by celebrated Italian chefs.
The book was first published back in 1950, and the fact that it is still selling strongly today says everything: this is regarded as the culinary bible by Italians. As the Wall Street Journal put it, ‘It’s not so much one more Italian cookbook as the one-volume encyclopedia of Italian home cookery.’ I find the book wonderful, a real treasure trove of information – but I do think it’s for the more accomplished cook; there is no hand-holding here, and at times methods and ingredient quantities are a little vague.
Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well
From the blurb:
First published in 1891, PelegrinoArtusi’s La scienza in cucina e el’arte di mangiar bene has come to be recognized as the most significant Italian cookbook of modern times. Not merely a popular cookbook, it is a landmark work in Italian culture.
I love this book because it is written with such passion with an edge, sometimes, of humour. He begins the book:
Cooking is a troublesome sprite. Often it may drive you to despair. Yet it is also very rewarding, for when you do succeed, or overcome a difficulty in doing so, you feel the satisfaction of great triumph.
This is a wonderful collection of around 800 regional recipes of yesteryear that sits beautifully on the modern dining table. Interestingly, the author self-published the book because he could not find a publisher willing to take the risk on it: one of history’s earliest independent publishing success stories!
The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking
From the blurb:
Marcella Hazan is widely regarded as one of the greatest Italian cookery writers in the world and The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking is her masterpiece, now reissued with a gorgeous new cover design. Aimed at cooks of every level, be they beginners of accomplished chefs, it is an accessible and comprehensive guide to authentic Italian cuisine and should find a place in the kitchen library of anyone who is passionate about good food.
So well-respected was Marcella Hazan for her food writing that she was given a knighthood by Italy’s president! She lived in New York, but kept a second home in Venice.
I rather like the authoritarian tone in the book. Marcella tells me what to do with firmness and confidence, I obediently follow orders, and the results are invariably delicious!