Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Italian Cookbooks

Italian Cookbooks

When it comes to Italian food, the true measure of whether a recipe is authentic is whether it's the way your Italian mamma made it. It's hard to say whether a cookbook is ever truly authentic, unless of course your mamma wrote it. With Italian food, I think you need to get a feel for how Italians approach food and then use recipes as only a guide. Here are three Italian cookbooks I like very much, each for a different reason.

It's been a couple of years since the American edition of The Silver Spoon was published, but it remains one of my favorites. It is still the most comprehensive Italian cookbook I have ever come across with over 2,000 recipes. It has very traditional recipes but more modern ones as well. For example, while not a traditional Italian ingredient, Italians are crazy about Scottish smoked salmon and it is featured in several recipes.

It disturbs me that the brand-new edition of The New Regional Italian Cuisine Cookbook is written by a Bavarian author. But perhaps only a foreigner can take a fresh look at the wonder of Italy? Certainly the book has an almost German-like attention to detail. What I like least about this book are the 200 recipes which seem a little bit fussier than I recall from my time in Italy. What I love about the book are the images.The book is almost like a travel guide with more than 650 color photos which really give you a sense of the regions, the recipes and perhaps most importantly the ingredients.

Each region in the book includes many two page spreads on the local products. Italian cuisine is intensely "ingredient-driven" so this is a great feature of the book. In planning an upcoming trip to Italy, it's quickly become the book I refer to when trying to familiarize myself with the region of Campania. You can check out some sample pages here.

If The New Regional Italian Cuisine is a book only a foreigner could have written, than perhaps Italian Regional Cooking by Ada Boni is the book only an Italian could have written. It is familiar to me because it's the book I grew up with, and frankly I have never had any problems with the recipes. It is perhaps the most detailed regional Italian cookbook of the three with 600 recipes divided by region, and it has a very Italian sensibility.

Today I reviewed an utterly charming and brand new Italian cookbook called Massimo's Italian Kitchen. You'll find the full review and a recipe on Bay Area Bites.