The 10 Best Italian Cookbooks in 2021

Cook your way around the Bel Paese

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Best Classic: Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan

“An indispensable and comprehensive guide for cooks of every level.”

Best for Beginners: How To Eataly - A Guide to Buying, Cooking, and Eating Italian Food

“An in-depth, illustrated guide to Italian ingredients, techniques, and classic dishes.”

Best Modern: Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef by Massimo Bottura

“Unconventional, avant-garde recipes from the rock star of Italian chefs.”

Best Regional: The Sicily Cookbook - Authentic Recipes from a Mediterranean Island by Cettina Vicenzino

“Lush, colorful photos guide you on this tour of Sicily’s food and people.”

Best Italian-American: Lidia’s Italy in America by Lidia Bastianich

“The companion cookbook to the popular public television series of the same name.” 

Best Reference: La Cucina - The Regional Cooking of Italy by The Italian Academy of Cuisine

"A massive collection of thousands of authentic recipes from every Italian region."

Best Vegetarian: Vegetariano - 400 Regional Italian Recipes by Slow Food Editore

“Traditional vegetarian and vegan recipes from all around Italy.”

Best for Pasta: The Glorious Pasta of Italy by Domenica Marchetti

“Everything pasta, from pairing dried pasta with sauces to making fresh, handmade noodles.”

Best for Baking: The Italian Baker by Carol Field 

“An award-winning book covering Italian breads, pastries, cakes, pizza, and focaccia.”

Best for Desserts: Italian Cooking School - Desserts by The Silver Spoon Kitchen

“A compact and easy-to-follow guide to making traditional Italian desserts.”

Simple and hearty, with a focus on quality ingredients, Italian cuisine is one of the world’s most popular and one of the most accessible for home cooks just starting out. But it’s also incredibly diverse, with many facets and regional variations. There’s an overwhelming wealth of Italian cookbooks available, with different focuses and features.

Here are our picks for the best Italian cookbooks currently available, from classics to new releases, for every level of cook from novice to connoisseur.

Best Classic: Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan

This book tops many Best Italian Cookbook lists and for good reason: It’s widely considered to be one of the most authoritative books on Italian cuisine and is a “desert island” pick for many chefs and food writers. Marcella Hazan, originally from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, is credited with being one of the first to introduce U.S. and U.K. home cooks to traditional Italian dishes and cooking techniques.

The book compiles The Classic Italian Cook Book and More Classic Italian Cooking, both written in the late 1970s, and offers an expert overview of classic dishes and techniques from across Italy. The recipes are clearly written, simple (her famous tomato sauce recipe, calls for only three ingredients: tomatoes, butter, and an onion), and accessible to cooks of all levels.

Best for Beginners: How To Eataly - A Guide to Buying, Cooking, and Eating Italian Food

This sleek book, from the popular international chain of high-end Italian food halls, offers a thorough introduction on how to shop, cook, and eat like a true Italian, with color photos, illustrations, and 100 recipes for classic Italian dishes. It’s packed with helpful tips for tasting and buying ingredients, cooking techniques, cultural tidbits, and profiles of the local producers whose goods line the shelves in Eataly stores. A thorough index by ingredient and region helps you find things to make with your favorite gourmet ingredients and explore regional specialties.

Best Modern: Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef by Massimo Bottura

Avant-garde and unconventional are not words often associated with Italian cooking—Italian chefs are often quite conservative and proud guardians of tradition—but Michelin-starred Massimo Bottura, the bold, inventive chef and owner of award-winning Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy, is unafraid to turn tradition on its head. In his restaurant and this book, he offers his inventive, whimsical takes on classic Italian dishes and ingredients, with touches of inspiration from unexpected places like Thailand, Japan, jazz, and modern art. With full-page color photographs and lyrical descriptions of his creations, the book looks more like a contemporary art coffee-table display than a cookbook, but it does include recipes.

The recipes are not for the faint of heart, as some require elaborate restaurant techniques or professional equipment like a rotary evaporator or sous vide machine. But even if you just admire the photos and read the stories, it’s an inspiring and entertaining look at how Italian cuisine is no longer bound by the past.

Best Regional: The Sicily Cookbook - Authentic Recipes from a Mediterranean Island by Cettina Vicenzino

Though it’s often viewed and described as a sort of monolith, Italian cuisine is strongly regional and each of its 20 regions retains many distinctive local specialties. One of the most unique and rich regional culinary traditions, with influences from the Middle East, Greece, Spain, and France, is that of the island of Sicily. This attractive book, by Sicilian-born Cettina Vicenzino, features traditional Sicilian specialties such as Pasta alla Norma, arancini, and cannoli, but with Vicenzino’s unique personal touches and modern twists. The book is filled with gorgeous color photographs and intimate profiles of Sicilians and their connections to the food world.

Best Italian-American: Lidia’s Italy in America by Lidia Bastianich

Celebrity chef and restaurateur Lidia Bastianich, who immigrated to the U.S. with her family as a child, started out in the family’s New York Italian-American restaurant business and eventually became a well-known cooking show hostess on public television and a partner in the U.S. branches of Eataly. Many traditional Italian dishes brought over from the Old World often evolved into distinctive new forms in America, only distantly related to their Italian ancestors.

This cookbook is a companion to her PBS series of the same name and features more than 175 recipes, including uniquely Italian-American staples like garlic bread, Chicago deep-dish pizza, chicken parm, shrimp scampi, and rainbow cookies. Exploring the Old World origins of each dish and the local communities where each specialty thrives, it’s a thorough and joyful celebration of Italian-American food all across the country.

Best Reference: La Cucina - The Regional Cooking of Italy by The Italian Academy of Cuisine

This hefty tome is the first English translation of the encyclopedic cookbook published by Italy’s most respected authority on food, the Accademia Italiana della Cucina (Italian Academy of Cuisine). In nearly 1,000 pages, it collects more than 2,000 authentic recipes from antipasti to desserts, from every corner of the boot from Trieste to Sicily. It’s more of an exhaustive reference than a pretty coffee-table book to thumb through. The recipes are brief, with minimal directions and headnotes, and there is not a single photo in the book.

Such a dense book might be overwhelming for novice cooks or those unfamiliar with more obscure dishes, but for those hungry for authenticity or hunting for lesser-known, traditional regional specialties, there is no richer resource.

Best Vegetarian: Vegetariano - 400 Regional Italian Recipes by Slow Food Editore

Traditional Italian cuisine is naturally one of the best for vegetarians, featuring a wealth of produce-focused dishes and many that are naturally vegetarian or even vegan. This expansive cookbook from Slow Food, the Italian organization launched in 1986 to promote traditional cooking and local ingredients as an alternative to fast food and industrialization, is a collection of hundreds of vegetarian recipes from restaurants and home cooks across Italy. Some are traditional regional specialties, others are creative and modern personal inventions. The book includes soups, salads, casseroles, meat-free mains, and (of course) a wealth of pasta dishes. 

Best for Pasta: The Glorious Pasta of Italy by Domenica Marchetti

This unabashed love letter to pasta by Italian-American food writer Domenica Marchetti is a thorough guide to everything pasta. It includes a guide to ingredients and equipment for making your own fresh pasta by hand, tips on pairing dry pasta and sauces, and a glossary of pasta shapes. Recipes range from fresh pasta doughs, sauces, and quick dishes to whip up using dry pasta to elaborate and impressive “showstopper” dishes worthy of serving to guests. There are even some sweet pasta recipes to close out the book—and your meal.

Best for Baking: The Italian Baker by Carol Field

This comprehensive text covers every type of Italian baked good, from breads, breadsticks, pizzas, and focaccias to tarts, pastries, cakes, and cookies. It includes a history of Italian baking, recipes for some of the many Italian savory dishes and desserts designed to make use of hardened, leftover bread, and even a list of some of the many Italian proverbs and idiomatic expressions involving bread, attesting to its importance in Italian culture.

Best for Desserts: Italian Cooking School - Desserts by The Silver Spoon Kitchen

This compact book is part of the Italian Cooking School series from the publisher of the venerable and respected Silver Spoon (Cucchiaio d’argento) cookbook. It offers step-by-step instructions for classic Italian desserts, from rustic tarts and cookies to simple cakes, with a color photo of each finished dish.

Final Verdict

If you're looking for a classic Italian cookbook for yourself—or to gift—it doesn't get much more authentic than Essentials of Classic Cooking (view at Amazon). For those who want a more modern take, we suggest Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef (view at Amazon).

Why Trust The Spruce Eats?

This article was written by Danette St. Onge, formerly the Italian Food Expert for The Spruce Eats and a features editor at Cook’s Illustrated magazine (part of America’s Test Kitchen). Her cookbook collection includes a large number of books on Italian cuisine and culinary history.

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