Yes, that is a recipe for frog risotto in the picture. Rane is Italian for frog and the recipe calls for 24 frogs. It comes from my favorite cookbook, Le Ricette Regionali Italiane, which includes more than one frog and rice recipe. Although I have admittedly never cooked frogs. I prefer vegetables in my risotto.
While I enjoy the beautiful cookbooks with gorgeous photos of perfect food and inspirational recipes that line bookstore shelves today, they aren’t the ones that I rely on. I don’t choose my favorite cookbooks for their beauty, but for what they can teach me about a cuisine and its history, frogs included.
Here are my three favorite cookbooks:
- Le Ricette Regionali Italiane by Anna Gosetti della Salda – This is hands down my favorite Italian cookbook. It’s only available in Italian as the author felt that if you really want to learn to cook the cuisine, you should bother to learn the language too. The cookbook is a snapshot of Italian eating in the 1960s when Gosetti della Salda drove the length of Italy and recorded the recipes region by region. At over 1200 pages in length, it’s a tomb and a bible of Italian cuisine. There are no photos, just some rough sketches of a handful of dishes and ingredients. It’s pricey, but if you really want to get into the ins and outs of Italian regional cooking, it is an incredible resource, and thanks to google translate, you no longer need to take an Italian language class to dig into its pages.
- Sauces & Shapes: Pasta the Italian Way by Oretta Zanini de Vita and Maureen B. Fant – I love this cookbook so much that I bought both a hardcopy and a kindle version to make sure that I always have it on hand. The authors, undeniable experts in Italian history and food, wrote the book to teach non-Italians how to cook like an Italian. It’s a great deep dive into how to eat and prepare pasta in an Italian way, covering everything from ingredients and where to buy them, to the history of pasta dishes and appropriate wine pairings. There are a couple of full page photos, but the content stands on its own.
- Nonna Genia: One hundred recipes of Alba and the Langhe by Beppe Lodi – The Italian region of Piedmont, where Alba and the Langhe are located, is home to some of my favorite foods and wines and this book offers up a wonderful collection of regional classics. I bought my first copy while visiting the city of Alba. Alba is famous for many extraordinary things, including the best white truffles in the world, but it’s also the home of the famous chocolate and hazelnut spread, Nutella. On the Saturday that I bought this book, the entire city smelled like a candy factory or a cup of hot cocoa. According to the store clerk, this aroma fills the city when Ferrero, the company that makes Nutella, roasts nuts. The book has no photos, just some rough sketches of wine glasses and flowers. Make the bagna cauda or hot bath in Italian, a flavorful anchovy and garlic sauce traditionally served warm as a communal dish for dunking vegetables. But perhaps merely reflect on the recipe for Bruss or fermented cheese. While Bruss is delicious and intense, the recipe asks that the milk sit on your balcony in a jar in the sun for three months. These recipes are the real deal.
What’s your favorite Italian cookbook?