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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
Thorough ingredient descriptions
Food preserving tips
Some expensive ingredients recommended
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.
Number of Recipes: 100+ | Pages: 704 | Date Published: 2012
Best for Beginners: How To Eataly: A Guide to Buying, Cooking, and Eating Italian Food
Explains Italian food terminology
Each section has background info
Some recipes may be more challenging
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.
Number of Recipes: 100+ | Pages: 304 | Date Published: 2014
Best Modern: The Italian Deli Cookbook: 100 Glorious Recipes Celebrating the Best of Italian Ingredients
Some expensive ingredients recommended
Chef Theo Randall has run restaurants in London, Bangkok, and Hong Kong, but this cookbook is about putting Italian delicatessen staples—fine cheeses, wine, cured meats, smoked fish, and olives—to good use by making memorable lunches and dinners or when entertaining guests. Standout entries include spaghetti alla puttanesca; trofie with pesto, potatoes and green beans; and sausage and squash risotto.
Number of Recipes: 100 | Pages: 256 | Date Published: 2021
Best Regional: The Sicily Cookbook: Authentic Recipes from a Mediterranean Island
Contains many photos
Some recipes too complex for beginners
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 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.
Number of Recipes: 70+ | Pages: 240 | Date Published: 2020
Best Italian-American: Lidia's a Pot, a Pan, and a Bowl: Simple Recipes for Perfect Meals
Recipes with large yields
Minimum ingredients needed
Not a photo for every recipe
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 by the award-winning TV show host and Junior MasterChef Italy judge features more than 100 Italian-American, one-pot recipes, including chicken and eggplant parmigiana, apple cranberry crumble, skillet lasagna and scrambled eggs with asparagus and scallions.
Number of Recipes: 100+ | Pages: 224 | Date Published: 2021
Best Reference: La Cucina: The Regional Cooking of Italy
Useful cooking techniques
Regional variations on dishes
Several recipes without precise measurements
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.
Number of Recipes: 2,000 | Pages: 928 | Date Published: 2009
Best Vegetarian: Vegetariano: 400 Regional Italian Recipes
Has vegan options
Minor typographical and spelling errors
Traditional Italian cuisine is 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.
Number of Recipes: 400+ | Pages: 448 | Date Published: 2018
Best for Pasta: The Glorious Pasta of Italy
Has equipment recommendations
Pasta shape identification list
Small type font
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.
Number of Recipes: 100+ | Pages: 442 | Date Published: 2011
Best for Baking: The Italian Baker, Revised: The Classic Tastes of the Italian Countryside
Good resource for experienced bakers
No pictures of final products
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.
Number of Recipes: 100+ | Pages: 432 | Date Published: 2011
Best for Desserts: Italian Cooking School, Desserts
Metric and imperial units
Recipes not flexible
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.
Number of Recipes: 75 | Pages: 256 | Date Published: 2015
Best New Release: Serafina: Modern Italian Cuisine for Everyday Home Cooking
Includes historical info
Restaurateurs Vittorio Assaf and Fabio Granato are well known for their upscale eatery Serafina, which boasts several locations in popular cities around the globe, including New York, London, and Dubai. Because the restaurants saw so much success, a cookbook of the same moniker was born: “Serafina: Modern Italian Cuisine for Everyday Home Cooking.”
Home cooks will return to this culinary guide again and again to master contemporary renditions of classic Italian dishes, such as penne with butter and sage, spaghetti with bottarga, and Margherita pizza. It’s organized in a similar fashion to how one would dine in an Italian bistro, beginning with antipasti (with at least two main courses between) before finishing with dessert.
Number of Recipes: 100+ | Pages: 304 | Date Published: 2022
What to Look for in an Italian Cookbook
Your knowledge and comfort level when it comes to cooking will help decide what type of cookbook will be best for you. Take the time to review and scan through the introductory section, summary, and look at a few recipes to see if they fit your skill level.
If you're focusing on a type of cuisine, a specific technique, or method of cooking, or you want to learn how to make only desserts or entrées; this information will help decide what type of cookbook you want to purchase. Look through it to see whether the cookbook fits your needs. It should provide you with the enjoyment and culinary learning experience you desire.
Step-by-step images and a visual of the finished product are a big plus when making a recipe. A cookbook that offers large, eye-catching, and colorful photos is great to flip through, especially for beginner cooks and visual learners.
What are the ingredients most used in Italian Cooking?
There are a few ingredients that are common features in Italian cuisine. These include pasta, wine, cheese, tomato, mushrooms, basil, and the all-important olive oil.
What should be in a cookbook?
A good cookbook will not only have recipes to make, but it will give cooking tips, serving sizes and suggestions, an index, a glossary of cooking terms, nutrition information, where to find those hard-to-get ingredients (if needed), and recipe history. It will also provide not only easy-to-follow directions but easy-to-read fonts and stunning images.
What else can be found in a cookbook?
A cookbook doesn't just hold recipes; it can contain a great deal of information on the history of the country or a recipe itself, include travel and cultural data, a glossary of cooking terms, and more.
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.
Rachel Werner is a culinary writer who has been reviewing food-focused books and businesses for almost a decade. Her food photography and recipes are also featured in content she creates for a variety of regional and national publications such as TOPS News, The Gourmet Insider, and Fabulous Wisconsin. See examples of Rachel’s work behind the camera capturing shots of plant-based eats on Instagram @trulyplanted.