Raving Fans in Your Kitchen: My Italian Cookbooks

by Bianca Gignac

I would like to show you my personal arsenal of delicious books to secure you raving fans in your kitchen.

1. Food | Wine: The Italian Riviera and Genova is a must-have book for anyone who loves to eat real food. It is not a cookbook but a guidebook that will make you want to cook.  The guide focuses on regional tipicity and  simplicity with a focus on traditional ingredients and cooking techniques. Guidebooks generally love to pin the clichéd  “authentic” tag to these food experiences. I say, just jump on the trail that the The Terroir Guides travel and you will fall in love with Italian food like Italians eat (on a good day).

2. Twelve: A Tuscan Cookbook is a book you will refer to repeatedly. Tessa Kiros has amassed an arsenal of stunning cookbooks with great designs and delicious ideas. I bought Twelve on a friends recommendation and would like to forward the favour to you. I recommend trying her recipe for cantuccini– those beautiful almond cookies served with a glass of Vin Santo in Tuscany. I made her fagiano arrosto, roasted pheasant with pancetta, last winter and it was ridiculously tasty.

3. Light of Lucia: A Celebration of Italian Life, Love and Food /La Celebrazione dell’anima Italiana. I am an adoring fan of this book; I’ve bought multiple copies as gifts to friends who rock their kitchens. The cookbook is narrated through the central character of Lucia who symbolizes an Italian woman’s coming of age. Chapters are divided by life phases- baptism through to first steps, the festivals, being a young lady, falling in love (with your bello), a wedding day and your mother-in-law. It is just so perfectly done and full of heart I’ve never found a cookbook that nearly had me in tears; it is so darn touching.  If you love books, beautiful design and Italian food you get the full package here. The author, Luciana Sampogna runs an Italian cooking school in Australia.

4. Masterclass in Italian Cooking is a book that I faithfully reference. It feature 21 teacher-chefs,  some of which offer cooking classes in Italy. My favorite recipe in the book is the Potato Gnocchi by Claudio Pecorari. The gnocchi comes out insanely good, and you feel like a proper Italian old-school housewife (just don’t linger in that mode for too long) with your hands in eggs and flour. I love this recipe so much I even packed my potato ricer in my luggage once so I could make it for the friends I was staying with (I agree-weird thing to do). The book is easy to follow with illustrative do-this type photography.

Let’s talk food! What is the best Italian meal you’ve eaten? Do you have any cookbook recommendations that deliver sublime Italian eats? I would love to hear all the wonderfulness in the comments. Thank-you for sharing.


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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }


Hey Bianca,
I sent my sister on the east coast pictures of the garlic I grew recently. This is what she sent back:
A great recipe to use some of that garangatan garlic.

White Tuscan Bean Dip,
I’m just going off memory.
Soak overnight 1 lb.or one bag of the small white beans.
Cover soaked beans in a skillet with JUST enough water to cover. Bring to a boil with cover OFF. When at a boil turn to simmer. Peel an entire 10″ circumference bulb of garlic. Peel cloves and add every single one to skillet. Grab a huge handful of garden sage. No need to chop leaves. Simmer gently only adding just enough water to cover beans. Only stir occasionally as you don’t want to crush beans. When the beans soften add enough coarse salt to tast. Probalby a T. or more. What you will end up with is this creamy savory dip that is so frigging delicous. The garlic and sage will have melted down to where they are indistuishable . Serve in a shallow bowl. Drizzle a healthy dose of fruity green olive oil on the top. Serve with crusty bread and some Red wine. This bean dip is from Northern Italy and is so simple and so delish and so healthy. I love it.
The secret is the slow cooking without a lid in a shallow pan. You slowly want all the water to absorb so at the end you dont’ pour any off. Make sure you add enough salt and peppa. The sage and garlic are very subtle and not overpowering. I don’t think it is possible to use too much of either.


So Bianca, can I use the cannellini beans you gave me???



Wow. Love your recipe Gillian. I am always looking for great yet simple ideas. Beans are just amazing to experiment with as they seem delicious prepared in various ways. Italians add them cold with salads or hot with meals. And yes- this recipe would be great with the small white cannellini beans.


David Downie

Thank you, Bianca! I’m delighted and flattered that you rated my book #1. So glad to know you’ve used and appreciated it. Check out my Liguria website http://wanderingliguria.com and you might also like my big book on the Italian Riviera — “Enchanted Liguria”. Mille grazie e a presto, David Downie



Ciao David. I bought your book a couple years ago, after I had moved back to Canada from Italy. When I lived in La Spezia (my husband’s turf), my husband would take me to all his favourite spots to eat. I never owned a travel guide for the region because I thought I had my own personal guide. But after reading your ideas on several spots to eat I could hardly wait to return to Italy to try them out.

Why your book spoke to me is it’s perspective. I don’t really like fancy starred restaurants with food precariously balanced on my plate and coulis drizzled about. That can be fun once a year but too many times the promises are empty. Hook me up with local ingredients which are cooked in a regional way and I am thrilled. Why Italian food is so fantastic is that it always looks too simple to be divine. It promises little but over-delivers on taste.

Every article I write at Italian Fix goes through this filter: “Would I recommend it to my best friend?” If it’s not, then I don’t touch it. Your book gets that approval.

Thanks David.


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