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Can’t Get to Italy this Summer? Whisk Yourself Away With 10 Italian Cookbooks

If you can't make it to Italy this summer, at least your tastebuds can be transported there.

Whether your budget has been busted by soaring travel costs or you just can’t stomach the airport chaos of this summer’s constant cancellations and endless delays, there’s a good chance your dreams of sipping wine in Tuscany or strolling the fashionable streets of Milan have been dashed. To get you there in spirit, we’ve rounded up the 10 most fabulous Italian cookbooks that will transform your kitchen, sofa, or garden into that Italy escape you’ve been longing for, even if just for a moment. From exhaustive classic compendiums to modern guides of previously unexplored niches, you’ll find a whole lot more than just pasta on this list (although there’s plenty of that, too!).

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'La Cucina Italiana'

If you’ve always wanted to go to Italian cooking school but never had the opportunity, here’s your chance to teach yourself with this encyclopedia of all things Italian cuisine, compiled by the editors of the authoritative La Cucina Italiana magazine.

The book comes packed with more than 3,000 step-by-step diagrams meticulously detailing the stages of more than 500 recipes and techniques within a range from beginner to advanced. No matter what level of home cooking degree you’re looking to award yourself, you’ll find the proper courses throughout the nearly 500 pages of this Italian kitchen compendium. This isn’t just a vast collection of essential recipes but a complete how-to for each step of every dish.

2 OF 10

'Liguria'

You’ve probably heard that Northern Italian cuisine differs considerably from Southern Italian, but this is hardly the only necessary distinction between Italy’s many diverse regions. Among the country’s most overlooked gastronomic traditions is that of Liguria, the Italian Riviera. Aside from pesto and focaccia, not much else from Ligurian tables has made its way to global bellies, but this veggie-forward cuisine is packed with bright, fresh recipes developed by generations of Italian nonne (grannies), just like those in this ode to Liguria. Many of the recipes in Liguria are likely to be new to you, but none are especially complicated, and, yes, you’ll also score the definitive pesto and focaccia recipes within.

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'Simple Pasta'

If you haven’t yet taken the plunge into homemade pasta, this cookbook is required reading for you. The foundation for almost every classic Italian meal, good pasta will make or break any feast, and this guide isn’t just comprehensive; it’s simple. Williams shares essential techniques in an encouraging, conversational style before unveiling the only three dough recipes you’ll ever need to make pasta from old favorites to new discoveries. From here, it’s a treasure trove of shapes, sauces, and seasonal menus from cocktails through desserts, with pasta as the star of each, of course. And hey, it’s okay if you do decide to just buy the pasta—these recipes will still take your pasta nights to the next level. 

4 OF 10

'Italian Street Food'

Let’s just start by saying there’s an entire chapter of fried snacks in this book, and they’re not even the desserts (there are another 60 pages of those). From top to bottom, Bacchia traversed the alleyways of Italy, scoping out the most authentic street bites in each stop and learning not just their recipes but their histories. Here, she shares both, presenting a side of Italian cuisine rarely explored in cookbooks but certainly worthy of your attention. Street food has never been more popular worldwide, but it seems Italians even eat better than the rest of us when they’re on the go. As Bacchia is quick to point out, Italian street food is not fast food; there’s no bite Italians take lightly.

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'La Cucina'

When you’re craving Italian but just don’t know where to start, turn to this massive volume of Italian cuisine. All Italian cuisine. This massive tome is home to 2,000 recipes compiled by the Italian Academy of Cuisine, founded for this very project with the express purpose of representing every region of Italy within its pages. While it may appear daunting a place to begin when you’re not sure what you want, the 900+ pages are divided not just by course (with a helpful thumb index on the side) but a pair of reference indexes also sort recipes by principal ingredient and by region. Whether you just know you’re looking for a light pasta, something rustic from Umbria, or the best way to use your black truffles, it doesn’t take much input on your part for this book to guide you in the right direction.

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'The Pesto Cookbook'

If you’re an Italian cuisine purist or one of those famously angry Instagrammers who love to yell at everyone posting Italian cooking that isn’t authentic enough, you can just move on now before you get uncomfortable. For the rest of us, The Pesto Cookbook acknowledges that pesto alla Genovese may be the most famous, but it isn’t the only pesto, and it’s not even the only one in Italy. Don’t worry, it’s still the first recipe in the book, though!

The first third is dedicated to the art of making pestos, and how to expand your vision beyond the classic green paste you already love, and the remained provides dozens of recipes for using your new pestos in all types of cooking. Pasta is included (of course!), but you’ll also learn how to use pesto in soup, salad, entrees, and even desserts.

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'The Silver Spoon Classic'

“Authentic” may be the most overused word in regional cooking, and it’s hard to say exactly what anyone means when using it anymore, but we can probably agree that a cookbook made by Italians, for Italians, and in Italian is a pretty good place to start. The Silver Spoon, the English counterpart to that oh-so-Italian cookbook, features Italy’s favorite home-cooked recipes and has inspired a few Silver Spoon spinoffs that have added to the millions of copies sold since the original’s 1950 release.

The Silver Spoon Classic is the best of the best from across the collection, packaged elegantly for collecting, displaying, or thoughtful gifting, but still very much a usable guide to Italy’s most important and beloved dishes. Bonus: Clever symbols throughout quickly identify the most convenient recipes, like those made in 30 minutes or less, those containing 5 ingredients or fewer, and those that can be made in a single pot!

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'The Sweetness of Doing Nothing'

Okay, this one isn’t a traditional cookbook, and it’s not even entirely about food, but you’ll learn more about how to eat (and live) like a proper Italian by reading it, so this is definitely one to check out. Plus, there are a few recipes for classic staples like pasta carbonara and the perfect Sunday sauce within. Still, the focus here is on embracing the age-old Italian ethos of dolce far niente, the philosophy of enjoying life while taking it slow, and the 70 pages devoted to food (the first chapter, obviously) will teach you essentials like how to shop for proper ingredients, which pasta to choose when what to serve with pizza, and why Italians would rather skip a meal than rush it. 

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'Old World Italian'

Most of Italy’s classic dishes are mysteriously free of complicated instructions or difficult-to-find ingredients. Somehow, though, when we try to make them ourselves, they never taste quite the way we remember them. Why? Italian cooks (and we’re looking at you, grandmothers) have been notoriously coy with measurements, timing, and their personal techniques for centuries, keeping their secrets within their own families. Old World Italian shares many of them. Revealed to Thorisson by restaurant owners and grandmothers themselves, these tiny tidbits pack a major punch in producing the time-tested Italian dishes of your dreams, just the way you remember them.

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'The Italian Deli Cookbook'

Have you ever walked into an Italian delicatessen and felt simultaneously inspired and overwhelmed by the sheer variety of cured meats, salads, and imported ingredients? Of course, you have, and if you felt joyously overwhelmed, this book is for you. Following the philosophy of “simple food made using exceptional ingredients,” Randall presents 100 recipes featuring the tantalizing products of the Italian deli, once a saving grace frequented almost exclusively by Italian immigrants and now a treasured stop for any foodie. Today, versions of many of these ingredients can even be found in supermarkets, but you’ll want to head to a real Italian deli to find the best version in most cases—these perfect picks are what make Randall’s easy-to-follow recipes pop.

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