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New Italian cookbooks for every type of cook

New Italian cookbooks for every type of cook

by Izzy Burton 03 June 2016

Love Italian food? Read on for a selection of some of the best Italian cookbooks published this year, including new releases from Antonio Carluccio and Nina Parker. Whether your interest lies in pizza, pasta or discovering more about specific regional cuisines, these are the best books to get you inspired in (and out of) the kitchen.


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Izzy writes for Great British Chefs where she combines a lifetime love of food and tricolons.

Whether you're an aficionado or simply looking to hone your skills for some 'fakeaway' action, I have gathered together some of the year's best new Italian cookbooks for your viewing pleasure. Before any cyber pedants out there flex their fingers eagerly and point out that we're not even halfway through the year yet, I hasten to point out that this list is a work in progress (and 'so far this year' wasn't such a catchy suffix to add on the end of my title). These books have been loosely grouped according to theme: all-rounders (those covering a broad range of recipes, whether centred around a particular ingredient or style), regional cookbooks and those which blur the line between kitchen counter and coffee table.

All-rounders

I'm always wary of books with 'everyday' in the title, as it can so often be a sign of a chef struggling to find a concept. A good cookbook, I believe, should be able to balance a broad appeal and great selection of recipes with a strong concept at its core. Pasta by Antonio Carluccio is a prime example of such a book, and the clue to its big idea is very much in the name. Yes, this explores pasta in all its myriad forms, whether big, small, fresh or dried. There's an informative introduction covering the history of pasta, its different shapes and the basic techniques for making and folding your own fresh pasta before the book launches into its recipes proper. Pasta is an impressive all rounder in the sense that Carluccio shares everything from rustic dishes (think a hearty pan of minestrone, or a golden macaroni pie) to elegant plates of crab ravioli perfect for serving up as a starter – there's even a section of pasta desserts for any culinary adventurers out there. Demonstrating the origin of each recipe on a tiny map of Italy is a nice touch, and a great way to learn the different culinary influences at play in the country's different regions.

The Italian Baker - Melissa Forti
The Italian Baker - Melissa Forti
Let's Cook Italian - Anna Prandoni
Let's Cook Italian - Anna Prandoni

The Italian Baker, the first book from Sarzana's effortlessly stylish Melissa Forti, is a fantastic cookbook for those whose interest in Italian food is matched only by their sweet tooth. The book is divided into three parts, covering classic regional desserts (many of which are gleaned from vintage baking texts), Italian spins on some of the recipes she has come across during her time travelling the world and some of her signature bakes. The photography and styling, much like the author herself, are striking and the slabs of dramatic, sometimes even sultry, cakes in low lighting make a refreshing change from the endless plate-of-prawns-by-the-ocean shots which so often make up Mediterranean cookbooks.

Have an army of little cooks that you're keen to deploy over holidays and weekends? Anna Prandoni's bilingual book Let's Cook Italian can take cooking with your children beyond flapjacks and fairy cakes to a number of delicious and simply explained Italian recipes. Despite being billed as a family cookbook, the dishes you'll find have not had their authenticity compromised for the sake of young palates (and if an Italian child can grow up on Milanese breaded veal chops then why can't yours!). This approach to recipes and the child-friendly tips for each comes from the author's own experience growing up in an Italian household where she was regularly put to work in the kitchen helping out, whether grating cheese, rolling dough or shelling fresh peas to serve with prosciutto. The lack of photographs might put some people off, but in my opinion the beautiful illustrations from Emanuela Ligabue are the perfect substitute. Printing the recipes in both English and Italian is a great way to pick up some handy menu-friendly language skills and, with primary colours and accomplished design, the look of this bold and creative book is beautiful, too.

Buy these books

January: Let's Cook Italian – Anna Prandoni and Emanuela Ligabue (Quarry, 2016)

April: Pasta – Antonio Carluccio (Quadrille, 2016)

June: The Italian Baker – Melissa Forti (Quadrille, 2016)

 

Regional cuisine

Whether you're reliving a special trip or your holiday budget extends to drinking Negronis in your own kitchen pretending you're in slightly more exotic climes, regional cookbooks are a fantastic way of expanding your foodie horizons. If you already have some idea of what constitutes Italian cuisine and feel like digging deep to discover how the food of Italy changes in line with its landscape, these picks will help you get to know what gives Italians living in, say, Veneto or Campania their strong sense of regional pride.

Of all of them Florentine and Five Quarters do what all good region-specific cookbooks should – they have you looking up the cost of flights to Italy (one way, no less) before you're barely through the first chapter. That's not to say the others don't bring on extreme twinges of lifestyle envy – the endless shots of dappled seas and azure skies in Nina Parker's Capri throws the grey London drizzle into sharp relief, and the joy with which Tasting Rome's Kristina Gill photographs Rome and its inhabitants had me once again bemoaning the fact that, despite being a card-carrying classicist, I have never managed to visit.

 
 
Florentine - Emiko Davies
Florentine - Emiko Davies
Capri - Nina Parker
Capri - Nina Parker

Five Quarters and Tasting Rome both focus on Italy's capital city, a place where a number of Italy's most famous dishes (think Carbonara, Cacio e pepe and Pollo alla Romana) originate. Both are beautiful books and there are plenty of crossover recipes – including those listed above – but are quite different in their approaches. Tasting Rome is very visual, with each dish photographed and plenty of landscape, reportage and street photography thrown in for good measure. Meanwhile Five Quarters is, unashamedly, as much a personal memoir as it is a recipe book, with Rachel Roddy coming from the Nigel Slater school of text-heavy cookbooks. Keep the former on your coffee table or kitchen shelf, and save the other for your bedside table to dip into every night – if you're lucky you might find yourself dreaming of gnocchi.

Florentine is one of those cookbooks which feels too beautiful to be left on a shelf, rather fitting for a text celebrating one of Italy's major hubs of art and culture. The cover is striking, while the design inside is simple but effective, with each recipe stunningly styled and shot. Baking is a particular highlight of Florentine (and, I'm sure, of Florence), with the first two chapters dedicated to bread, cakes and breakfast pastries to serve alongside a heady shot of espresso.

Finally, a little further south, there's the Campania region which Nina Parker showcases in her latest book Nina Capri. This book is a real celebration of their way of life, a peek into the everyday sort of recipes which people living in close proximity to such glorious produce (not to mention incredible weather) are lucky enough to enjoy. It's nice to have a chapter on breakfasts, a meal that doesn't immediately spring to mind when one thinks about Italian cuisine – now, of course, I can do nothing but think about fruit salads, ricotta pancakes and jams when I dream of Italy. Elsewhere there are plenty of delicious seafood recipes, from fritto misto to baked mackerel and 'nduja, along with colourful salads, fresh sauces and a great selection of cocktails.

Buy these books

March: Florentine – Emiko Davies (Hardie Grant, 2016)

March: Tasting Rome – Katie Parla and Kristina Gill (Clarkson Potter, 2016)

June: Five Quarters: Recipes and Notes from a Kitchen in Rome – Rachel Roddy (Saltyard Books, 2016)

June: Nina Capri – Nina Parker (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2016)

 

Dining and dreaming

These books might be a little more niche, but they’d be perfect for the type of person whose life is consumed by food fantasies and meal planning. Indeed, the first on the list isn't a recipe book at all – Where to Eat Pizza, a vast tome you might’ve noticed doing the rounds on social media lately, is a marvellous compendium of the very best pizza restaurants around the world. The list of ‘regional experts’ who helped compile the book is vast, reassuringly suggesting that this is no desk research job – these people have eaten their way through the best pizza in all corners of the globe and they’ve got the greasy fingers and heartburn to prove it. The entries for each venue are small, but the concise paragraphs give you all the information you need to know before tentatively going out on a limb in pursuit of a perfect pizza: address, opening hours, pizza style, recommended order and, handily, whether or not the restaurant accepts credit cards.

 
 
Where To Eat Pizza - Phaidon
Where To Eat Pizza - Phaidon
Gelato Messina
Gelato Messina

Like so many others who find themselves with an in-depth understanding of Julio-Claudian literature and absolutely no idea whatsoever what they want to do with their lives, a few years ago I spent several months living in Australia. While I might not have found myself I did find Messina, a far more useful discovery. Messina is famed for making quite possibly the best gelato in Australia, and the creativity with which they come up with new flavours regularly (I went one week and they'd created gelato to reflect the personalities of Game of Thrones characters) and design spectacular gelato-based patisserie is breathtaking. If you're looking for more inspiration for working with your ice cream maker this probably isn't the book for you (try the first Messina book, Messina Gelato) as many of these creations are complex feats of patisserie (such as a so-called 'Bombe Alaska filled with chocolate gelato, raspberry sorbet and Italian meringue). Instead, this book appeals to a curious mind, keen to learn what goes on under the glossy, smooth finish of a domed dessert and satisfy an appetite whetted by weeks of watching silicone moulds and spray glazes on Bake Off: Crème de la Crème.

Buy these books

March: Where to Eat Pizza – Various (Phaidon, 2016)

June: Gelato Messina: The Creative Department – Nick Palumbo (Hardie Grant, 2016)

 
 

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