Tried and Tested: 5 of the best authentic Italian Cookbooks
When you are as obsessed with Italian culture as I am, you love the food as much as the fashion. Therefore, you won’t be surprised to hear that I own a lot of Italian cookbooks!
Whilst I would not describe myself as an accomplished chef, I love having a go, and in my opinion, there is no food on earth more joyful than Italian food. It just does something to my soul. And it’s been so fun passing this curiosity and enthusiasm to my 10-year-old son who has also spent hours trawling through all of the cookbooks I’m going to share in this post.
For me, the best cookbooks include delicious and achievable recipes (meaning no more complicated than strictly necessary) with ingredients I can easily source. But I also need my cookbooks to have a strong sense of place and photos good enough to frame!
So now that you know my strict standards, it’s safe to assume this list is the best of the best. And out of all the Italian cookbooks I own, these are my absolute favourites for authentic recipes and a taste wanderlust.
You may recall that I interviewed Paola for my 12 Flavours of Gelato series. Paola’s roots and family history stem from North Eastern Italy where she visits every year to see family and learn about the food of her Italian heritage.
As the name suggests, Paola’s recipes are inspired by the street food of Italy. I personally love street food! I feel like a defining moment in growing up was realising that authentic and magical food isn’t only served in a restaurant. In fact, some of my favourite food memories are spritz and Cicchetti (Venetian tapas) eaten whilst sat on a step by a canal. Or panelle eaten whilst walking through the markets of Palermo.
My most cooked recipe out of all the recipes in all the books listed here is without a doubt Paola's crostini with Gorgonzola, pear and balsamic. I like to think I’ve perfected it since my first attempt 18 months ago when I burnt the balsamic and charred the saucepan! If you’ve been to dinner at Casa Hogg recently then you’ve probably been served this recipe (minus the charred taste—at least I hope). I’m also fond of the frico (potato & cheese pancake) which works brilliantly when shared on a picnic.
Look out for Paola’s new book, “Adriatico”, the evolution of which is Paola’s study of the food of the Eastern coast of Italy on the Adriatic Sea. It will be released on 25th September and I can’t wait for my copy which is on pre-order. I promise to share more on this soon.
If you follow along on Instagram, you probably know I have recently been indulging in Jamie Oliver’s new TV show “Jamie Cooks Italy” and the accompanying cookbook. Although Jamie hosts the show, I think he’d be the first person to admit that the real stars of the show are the Italian Nonnas that he spends time with in locations from Puglia to Turin, and the techniques and traditions they so generously share. The locations really are spectacular. So much so, my husband had to restrain me from booking an immediate trip to Salina following the first episode!
The first recipe I made from the cookbook was from the pasta chapter (yes, a whole chapter on pasta of course!), and remains one of my favourites. Tortiglioni with freshly podded peas, guanciale, mint and pecorino—fabulous! Anything with mint always wins my vote!
I also love the Chicken Bastardo. It is a simple, oven-cooked chicken dish with garlic, bay, whole chillies and vinegar. I love it because it’s super easy and it pleases all three of my children—including the 10-year-old who adds Cholula hot sauce to everything and complains that it is too mild and our 7-year-old twins who think that matured cheddar is spicy!
If you struggle with these kinds of palettes as well, here’s a tip for you: remove portions of the chicken to keep mild before you chop and mix in the roasted chilies at the end of cooking. It’s bound to please, I promise!
This is a gorgeous cookbook that is also the perfect gift. The photography is amazing and Nina has a fabulous sense of personal style. Spot the white dresses and you’ll understand why I feel an affinity for her.
As the title suggests, Nina has included recipes inspired by the chic Italian island of Capri. Yes, there are lots of things to bake with lemons which Capri is, of course, so famous for. From piazza lemon granita to Limoncello Della Casa and lemon almond cake—you name it! Nina will show you how to make it to perfection.
My favourite lemon recipe is actually a starter—lemon crab with toasted pine nuts and fennel seeds. It’s just as tasty as it is pretty!
I also love, and my children do as well, Capri chocolate almond cake. It’s worth making this cake just for the amazing smell that floats out of the oven!
I can honestly say that this is one of the most beautiful books I have ever seen. From the front cover, to the gorgeous font, to the dusty pink vintage pages. Not to mention Skye’s outfits—wow. Every detail is perfect. To be expected, as are the recipes, which are inspired by Skye’s Venetian childhood and her food memories.
The book is beautifully divided into chapters such as Il Café, Il Mercato and A Tavola. The Il Café chapter is joyfully dedicated to breakfast. It evokes memories of all the tiny and traditional family-run hotels I’ve stayed in over the years where cake and biscuits are served for breakfast. One of my favourites is the tiny family-run Hotel Marconi in the village of Sirmione on Lake Garda—it’s a gem!
But back to food! The jam daisy biscuits shared in the Il Café chapter are the perfect short biscuit. My 10-year-old has cooked up many batches. Personally, I think the cream of pumpkin soup on page 85 with crumbled amaretti biscuits is a revelation!
This bold and colourful book is so Missoni! Francesco is the son of designer Angela Missoni, and he shares the family’s much-loved recipes.
This book is filled with recipes ideal for big, noisy gatherings and the photography has a real Slim Aarons vibe. It is beautifully divided up by seasons so I’ve spent most of my time cooking from estate (summer) recently. I really love the Insalata Eoliana, as it’s inspired by one of my favourite destinations on the planet. I’m also fond of the fact that the recipe is illustrated by a chic photo of gorgeous Margarita in a floaty Missoni kaftan.
Surprisingly, my favourite recipe of this cookbook is a dessert—Pesche alla Piemontese con l’amaretto (peaches prepared in the Piedmontese style with amaretto). I don’t have much of a sweet tooth and I often pass on pudding in restaurants in favour of cheese, but I love this wonderful summer dish as it is not too sweet. I cooked it up recently for 8 very happy recipients and it was truly wonderful with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
And there you have it! Five Italian cookbooks worth getting in the kitchen for. If you have any other recommendations I would love to hear them!