Recommend a good Italian food book please

Discussion in 'Cookbook Reviews' started by gobblygook, Nov 7, 2010.

  1. gobblygook

    gobblygook

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    I've read through "sauces" and there's just not enough about Italian food for my taste.  Of course, the whole book could have been about Italian food and I'd still want more.  I tend to read the book like a novel, so a book of just recipes isn't of interest.  The book can lean heavily on sauces as I'm more of a pasta guy than a "main entree" guy when it comes to Italian food.  I'm a victim of the "pasta IS an entree" mentality.

    Thanks for any suggestions you can provide.
     
  2. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    Silver Spoon is a classic italian text. There is little discussion of the culture or cuisine. It's very light on the how to. But recipe after recipe. Densely written compared to modern cooking texts.

    While you say a book of recipes isn't of interest, and this is just that, it's so full of things usually not touched on and so broad that it's a pleasure.
     
  3. gobblygook

    gobblygook

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    Thanks for the suggestion phatch.  I'm looking for Americanized Italian more than authentic Italian.  I'm also looking for mainstream dishes.  I want to stay in the league of food served by Olive Garden and Macaroni Grill.  I don't think either would be considered authentic, but my area doesn't have a lot of Italian immigrants, so I'm trying to appeal to the masses, not the "old country" folks.  For instance, if I tried to serve "meat sauce" with small pieces of cut beef instead of ground meat, I'd be accused of "screwing it up". 
     
     
  4. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    I agree with Phil. Silver Spoon is the definitive work on Italian cooking, and is often given as a gift to new brides, much as we'd give a copy of Joy of Cooking. But it's strictly recipes.

    I assume you have Marcella Hazan's Classic Italian Cook Book? Many people think of it as the seminal English-language book on Italian cooking. But that honor more properly belongs to Waverley Root's The Food of Italy.

    More recently, and one that combines the cultural and historical insights with recipes, is Lidia's Italy, the companion book to her PBS series.
     
  5. ishbel

    ishbel

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    Elizabeth David.  Her books, written in the 1950s are classics.  They were the books that my Mum used to try 'foreign' dishes before we moved abroad!  They are wonderful books.
     
  6. gobblygook

    gobblygook

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    My food book collection consists of two right now /img/vbsmilies/smilies//smile.gif --  "On Food and Cooking" and "Sauces".  I enjoyed Lidia's Italy when I could watch it, but I'm not sure her books would be what I'm looking for.  There's something about her personality that makes her seem to be trying to hard to prove it's authentic that it feels like she's not authentic.  So, for a book to read cover to cover, pick one on Italian food /img/vbsmilies/smilies//smile.gif.  My focus would be on creating good sauces and seasonings.
     
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2010
  7. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    makes her seem to be trying to hard to prove it's authentic that it feels like she's not authentic

    Just shows how people can see the same thing and interpret it 180 degrees apart. To me, Lidia comes across as everybody's Italian grandmother.

    But if you want to talk a personality that screams "phony," you go no further than her son, Joe.
     
  8. chrisbelgium

    chrisbelgium

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    I have The Silver Spoon -in dutch version- and I have to say I only use it as a reference book. There are dozens of non-Italian origin recipes in it also, but it's still Italy's foodbible!

    However, not my favorite book.

    There's one book I very, very, very, very much like, since it contains all the main Italian wellknown dishes. I frequently cook recipes from it. It's also the very, very, very, cheapest book on Italian cooking!!

    They also have a book on french cooking in the same series; again an absolute must have. Last sunday I cooked a real classic, "clafoutis aux cerises" from the french book... yummie!

    This is the Italian book, scroll down on that page for book on other cuisines. Check the "look inside" option on that website!!!

     

    Also to recommend; "L'Italia del gusto". Don't know if there's an english version. Sniff around the webpage of these guys; http://www.gruppofood.com/en/books/  
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2010
  9. gobblygook

    gobblygook

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    I want a good peak inside Silver Spoon and haven't seen that yet.   "The Food of Italy", from what I can access on Amazon looks like more of a discussion of the foods without any recipes.  I know, I said I don't care about recipes, but I need more than generic descriptions too.  I need to be able to create the dish to understand what it's supposed to taste like.  Also, I don't see goat and lamb as being viable proteins for my target customer base.  Marcella Hazan's book appears to be a great example of what I am looking for.  The only negative to that book is being "short".  My other two books are pretty blamed thick, although, having skipped almost all recipes in "Sauces", I don't know how much actual text there was. 
     
     
  10. kcz

    kcz

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    gg,

    Look for Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.  It combines her 2 books, The Classic Italian Cook Book and More Classic Italian Cooking, into one volume.  It covers Italian food terms, ingredients, and cultural tidbits with tons of recipes.  There are a lot of pasta sauce recipes.  If you want just one substantial book, this is the one, IMHO.  No color pictures though, if that's important to you.
     
  11. chrisbelgium

    chrisbelgium

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    GG; " ..."The Food of Italy", from what I can access on Amazon looks like more of a discussion of the foods without any recipes...."  

    No it's not, GG! The first 8 pages are blabla, the rest is recipes, I would guess 200 in total, all of them very well known classics.

    Here, take a look at the pictures I took this morning; minestrone alla genovese and another page about saltimbocca and veal milanese. Maybe these random chosen classics ring a bell?

    GG; "... I need to be able to create the dish to understand what it's supposed to taste like.... " 

    What can I say? Follow the recipes step by step, taste and you'll know. Best option would of course be you asking for political asile at Siduri's place, at least for a month or three. I gladly volunteer to join you.

    Oh, and please, do get the Food of France book from the same series too.

    The Silver Spoon will keep you literally in the dark; it's a 3ton weighing cookbook with almost no pictures at all!

    [​IMG][​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2010
  12. missyjean

    missyjean

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    I highly recommend the cookbook from Mama Leone's Restaurant



    I first acquired this book in 1970 and cooked from it the length of my marriage.

    After my husband passed away, I gave this book to my son

    I have since remarried and was able to find a reprint on Amazon

    If you want your "gravy" to taste authentic, I would try this book.

    The meatballs are fantastic, the marinara is great, the sausage and pepper delicious, the master salad dressing is outstanding...I could go on and on
     
  13. halmstad

    halmstad

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    "The Encyclopedia Of Sauces For Your Pasta" by Charles A. Bellissino is a pretty good book. As the title suggests it is only sauces, but a great many of them. It is however, a very good "Americanized" book of Italian sauces. Most can be interpreted as sauces for food other than pasta. If you are interested in pasta and it's sauces this is a great book to check out. You won't get bored with it.

    "Chez Panisse: Pasta, Pizza And Calzone" by Alice Waters is another good book on pasta. the pizza and calzone portion of the book is very short (and the actual part of the book that I bought it for. Very disappointing), but the pasta section is very good. Several dough and sauce recipes.

    I will always recommend "1080 Recipes". Mario Batali's cookbooks are also pretty good. 
     
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2011
  14. happy cooker

    happy cooker

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    When I first started preparing Italian food, I was about to buy Silver Spoons and read too many negatives about it on amazon.com and

    went with Marcella Cucina by Marcella Hazan.  I've made many of her recipes and really like her book. 
     
  15. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    Looking at Amazon, only 21 people out of 190 gave it less than 3 stars. That's a pretty good rating. The critiques are true however. The Silver Spoon assumes you know how to cook and supplies just ingredients, timing and temperatures. But if you know how to cook, that's all you need.  Sure I enjoy the headnotes and backstory in other coobooks too but Silver Spoon is an excellent resource.
     
  16. siduri

    siduri

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    This is really interesting.  I always heard of "the silver spoon" and thought it was some california low-fat cookbook!  (Don't ask me why!  that's what the title and the cover picture looked like to me). 

    Having the original of Ada Boni's Il Talismano della Felicita' (and the reduced translated american version -The Talisman) i can say that though it has tons of recipes it tells you nothing about them, there is no injection of anything personal at all, it aims to be a compendium, and presumes you know how to do everything already. Most people I know here distrust cookbooks, because the recipes are often not even tested, and they don;t explain anything so particularly in baking, the stuff just doesn;t come out.  (They are always surprised when i give a cake recipe how much detail i put in it, then they say, with wonder and surprise, "It worked!".

    Moreover, the index is ridiculous. It's typical of Italian books - when there is an index - that it's almost useless (and i can't tell you how difficult it was to do research here, pre-internet, pre-amazon, practically in the stone age, where even the scientific and academic books had no index at all) 

    But the index of the Talismano is very literal.  Say you want to know what to do with Eggplants and you look up melanzane in the index.  You will only get recipes where the first word in the name of the recipe is melanzane - you will find melanzane alla parmigiano, melanzane in barchetta, but you will NOT find pasta alla norma, which is with an eggplant sauce, and indeed if you want pasta with eggplant, you have to know which kind of pasta they say is the right kind to find any recipe - if you want a recipe for arrabbiata sauce, you have to look under "penne all'arrabbiata" and if they think the sauce calls for rigatoni (or fusilli or farfalle or whatever) the index will show it under rigatoni, or fusilli or farfalle!

    I imagine the translations are better, and I never saw Il Cucchiaio d'Argento here, but from the experiences i have, I steer clear of any italian cookbook made here because of the lack of description, the lack of technique and the horrendous indexing, when it exists at all.  But perhaps the later editions have improved.  The talismano I have is very old. 
     
  17. happy cooker

    happy cooker

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    When someone writes:  horrible as a cookbook better as a doorstop, that stopped me in my tracks.  Then I read this:

    Just to give a few examples: metric measurements are awkwardly translated (one recipe suggests adding 11.35 ounces of cheese to a dish, another says the cook should add "1 to 4 portions" of salt -- without saying how large the portions should be), vocabulary is inexact (the words "pot," "pan," and "skillet" seem to be used interchangeably, as do "glass" and "cup"), no suggestions are made for meat and vegetable ingredients difficult to find away from Italy's shores, and basic information such as how many people a certain dish will serve and how long it will take to prepare (all of which is in the original) are just left out. There are typographical errors and misspellings galore, several of them comical. But my favorite mistakes include some that just left me scratching my head: one marinade must be "stirred frequently and infrequently for 5 to 12 hours" (the Italian says it must be "stirred regularly but not often for 5 to 6 hours") and there's a cake that upon completion must be "carefully cooled, or not" when in Italian it must be "cooled until warm to the touch." 

    I'm not here to promote books - came to learn more about pie crusts (*.*)  I read each and every entry on amazon.com and ran across

    Marcella Hagan's name.  I can't tell you how many cook books I have that were 'stinkers' in my library.  Is the reason I read the pros & cons

    before a book becomes either an expense or an investment.
     
  18. dobzre

    dobzre

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    Bottega Favorita- Frank Stitt

    Contemporary Italian Cusine _Bruno Ellmer 
     
  19. butzy

    butzy

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    Since you say that you are more interested in pasta than the other Italian dishes, maybe have a look at  "the essential pasta cookbook".

    Lots of recipes, but also background info etc. Nice book to read through.

    By the way, I also read cookbooks like a novel.....
     
  20. brianshaw

    brianshaw

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    I'd suggest this one too.  If I were to pare down my book collection and could only have one cookbook on Italian cooking, this would be it!