10 favorite Italian cookbooks & Why Craig Claiborne Matters

Pasta with ClamsToday we celebrate food writing at its best. Our first example comes from Serious Eats, with a look at their 10 Italian Cookbooks We Love. Each member of the Serious Eats staff has contributed a suggested book (or books in some cases), and while some of the authors may be expected (Hazan, Batalli), there are some real undercover gems here as well. And the range is from truly Italy authentic to truly Italian-American authentic.

And we couldn't help sharing this (free) reprint of Why Craig Claiborne Matters from the Southern Foodways Alliance. If you haven't heard of the SFA, it's a wonderful non-profit organization from the University of Mississippi that, "documents, studies, and celebrates the diverse food cultures of the changing American South." Its videos are award-winning, and its oral histories are irreplaceable.

I'm sure I don't have to introduce Craig Claiborne's name to most of our members - as an early New York Times food critic and author of the first New York Times Cookbook he was as important in changing the American public's attitude about food as James Beard and maybe, even, Julia Child. This essay is a must read for anyone interested in food history or culture.

1 Comment

  • Breadcrumbs  on  4/10/2012 at 7:07 PM

    Since Italian food is the cuisine of choice at our (non-Italian) house and, since I have a LOT of Italian cookbooks, I was keen to see seriouseats pics but not before thinking about what my favourites would be. We agreed on: Molto Gusto (though I'd like to include all my Mario books as one choice since I love them all and know I can count on them for delicious, reliable recipes we'll love. Jamie's Italy - I learned to love Jamie during Chowhound's JO COTM. Love this book. I also really like the Top 100 Pasta Sauces and would highly recommend it but it wouldn't be in my top 10. I agree with the comments about Cooking w Italian Grandmothers. A lovely book but I haven't cooked enough from it yet to consider it a fave. Ditto for Cucina Rustica. We differ on: The Silver Spoon - every time I take that book off my shelf (and admittedly that's not too often) it bores me. It's not presented in an appealing fashion & as seriouseats acknowledges, the recipes are "vague....and maddeningly under-detailed". Just not my cup of tea. Marcella - I didn't learn to cook w Marcella or grow up w her. The dishes I've tried have been really good but I just haven't cooked enough of her dishes to call her one of my faves...though I know I'd be in the minority here! Surprised to see: Marc Vetri's Book. Not that I have it but I was pretty disappointed with his first one. I'll be interested to see what others have to say about this. Urban Italian. I've talked to a few people who have discouraged me from purchasing this book (and trust me it takes a lot!!) because they say it has mixed results and, that the return on investment of your time making the dishes isn't great enough to warrant spending the money on this book. What I'd add: At least one but likely 3 Michelle Scicolone's books Stir Ada Boni's Italian Regional Cooking (just indexed in EYB as I type!!!) Definitely something from Giada who rarely disappoints and regularly appeals. On Top Of Spaghetti - just LOVE this book La Mia Cucina Toscana ...and I'll stop there because that's at least 10 w Mario added in!! I hope others weigh in!

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