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The Tuscan Sun Cookbook: Recipes from Our Italian Kitchen Hardcover – March 13, 2012

4.8 out of 5 stars 129 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Featured Recipe: Giusi's Ragù

Sweet Corn and Basil Lasagna

Slow and easy--long-simmered ragù is the quintessential Tuscan soul food. There are as many ways with ragù as there are cooks. This is ours, learned originally from Giusi, who's made it a thousand times. By now, I think we have, too. On many Saturday mornings, Ed makes a huge pot of ragù--tripling, quadrupling the recipe--and another of tomato sauce. We consider these our natural resources. For lunch, while the pots are still on the stove, we spoon ragù over bruschetta, add some cheese, and run it under the broiler. By afternoon, we're ready to fill several glass containers of different sizes and freeze them. We're then free to pull one out during the workweek. Serve ragù in lasagne or over spaghetti and, as you eat, you know you're participating in a communal rite that's being enacted all over the Italian peninsula.

Serves 10

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound ground lean beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 2 Italian sausages, casings removed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1 to 2 cups red wine
  • 1 cup soffritto (recipe below)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 16 to 20 tomatoes or 2 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes, juice included, chopped

Pour the olive oil into a 4-quart heavy pot with a lid. Over medium-high heat, brown the meats, breaking up the sausage with a wooden spoon, about 10 minutes. Add the salt, pepper, thyme, and 1 cup of the red wine. After the wine has cooked into the meat, about 10 minutes, add the soffritto, and stir in the tomato paste and tomatoes.

Bring the sauce to a boil, and then lower to a quiet simmer. Partially cover, and continue cooking for 3 hours, stirring now and then. Along the way, add the remaining cup of wine if you think the sauce is too dense.


Serves 10

  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, minced
  • 1 carrot, minced
  • 1 celery stalk, minced
  • 1 handful of flat-leaf parsley, minced
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper

Saute the ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until they begin to color and turn tender, 5 to 7 minutes.


I own over a thousand cookbooks, but I have never been so enthralled by a cookbook as I was when I saw and read The Tuscan Sun Cookbook by Frances and Edward Mayes. From the very first beautiful photograph of Frances spoon feeding Edward and the mesmerizing opening paragraph--"The Choreography of the Kitchen"--I knew this cookbook would immediately rank with my all-time favorites. The recipes lure me into my Los Angeles kitchen and soon I feel like I am cooking in Tuscany. Even if there were no recipes, I would love The Tuscan Sun Cookbook for the brilliant photographs of by Steven Rothfeld--they are simply the best I have ever seen in a cookbook. Period. So to lovers of photography and food and Italy and to the simplest and most wonderful pleasures of life, I most enthusiastically say "Get this book."  
- -Nancy Silverton, founder of La Brea Bakery and co-owner of Pizzeria Mozza and Osteria Mozza restaurants in Los Angeles, Newport Beach, and Singapore
Frances and Edward Mayes generously invite us into their Tuscan world, to share in lavish, friend-filled feasts as we gather around the wood-fired bread oven. It’s a book of joy and celebration, stories of the call of the owl, the invasion of wild boars, honest, earthy, and welcoming. We can taste their freshly-pressed olive oil, thrill in the flavor of the neighbor’s lavender honey, want to run into the kitchen to prepare their long-simmered ragù, and plan to duplicate Ed’s caper, anchovy, and mozzarella pizza.  Steven Rothfeld’s stunning photos make their world sing, come truly alive.
--Patricia Wells,  author of Salad as a Meal
Frances and Ed Mayes haven't written some wistful expat's dream; they have done their homework about why Tuscan food is what it is, and what we need to know about it.  In their writing, Tuscany doesn't seem a picture postcard (even though the book is a beauty). Instead it comes off feeling much more like home. As for the dishes, they've captured the essential simplicity that is Tuscan cooking. Frances and Ed know what they're doing and it's a pleasure to read.  This is one of those books that makes you homesick, even if you never had a home like this.
--Lynne Rossetto Kasper, host of national radio show The Splendid Table® from American Public Media

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Clarkson Potter; 2.12.2012 edition (March 13, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307885283
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307885289
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 0.9 x 10.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (129 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #35,215 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Frances Mayes has always adored houses, and when she saw Bramasole, a neglected, 200-year old Tuscan farmhouse nestled in five overgrown acres, it was love at first sight. Out of that instant infatuation have come four marvelous, and hugely popular, books: the bestsellers Under the Tuscan Sun, Bella Tuscany, In Tuscany, a collaborative photo-textbook with her husband, the poet Edward Mayes, and photographer Bob Krist, and Bringing Tuscany Home: Sensuous Style From the Heart of Italy, another collaborative book with Edward Mayes and photographer Steven Rothfeld. All four highly personal books are about taking chances, living in Italy, loving and renovating an old Italian villa, the pleasures of food, wine, gardens, and the "voluptuousness of Italian life." The third book in her Tuscan trilogy, Every Day in Tuscany: Seasons of an Italian Life (due out in spring 2010), is about Tuscan seasons and Mayes' reflections on her Italian life. She was awarded the Premio Casato Prime Donne for a major contribution in the field of letters in 2009.

Her first novel, Swan, a family saga and mystery, returns Mayes to her childhood home of Georgia and was published in 2002. A film version of Under the Tuscan Sun, starring Diane Lane, was released in fall of 2003. Frances Mayes was the editor for the 2002 Best American Travel Writing. She is also the author of the travel memoir entitled A Year in the World: Journeys of A Passionate Traveller, which immediately debuted as a New York Times bestseller in 2006. Working again with Steven Rothfeld, she published Shrines: Images of Italian Worship, also in 2006.

A widely published poet and essayist, Frances Mayes has written numerous books of poetry, including Sunday in Another Country, After Such Pleasures, The Arts of Fire, Hours, The Book of Summer, and Ex Voto. Her work The Discovery of Poetry: A Field Guide to Reading and Writing Poems is widely used in college poetry classes. Formerly a professor of creative writing at San Francisco State University, where she directed The Poetry Center and chaired the Department of Creative Writing, Mayes now devotes herself full time to writing, restoring an historic garden and to her "At Home in Tuscany" furniture line at Drexel Heritage. She and her husband divide their time between North Carolina and Cortona, Italy.

Biographical note from Steven Barclay Agency

"Tuscany may have found its own bard in Frances Mayes."
-- The New York Times

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I've just finished reading, for the first time, my copy of "The Tuscan Sun Cookbook" (which became available yesterday). I'll be going back to it, of course, later in the day.....but my first thought is "Oh, I'll be giving this to so many friends" .

"The Tuscan Sun Cookbook" is just a lovely, really generously-spirited book. I was immediately reminded of another most-favorite book of mine, Robert Arbor's "Joie de Vivre". Both his and Mayes's books gently (unlike Signora Marcella Hazan's markedly strict skoolmarming) suggest/remind the reader that you don't have to actually be Italian or French, or own a villa or a chateau (or have more-time-on-your-hands-than-God-does) in order to ENJOY cooking and entertaining in a way that eventually might become second-nature to you. Both books remind me of Julia Child's superb (and very useful) "The Way to Cook".

All three books make a basic, quite practical point: Stop turning yourself into some harried, anxiety-filled kitchen-drudge, as though you were opening a restaurant or auditioning for your own Food Network show...when you're supposed to be enjoying your friends, family, and the actual cooking/eating.....and keep it (the food, table-settings, "dinner party etiquette", etcetera) refreshingly simple. The Mayes, Arbor, and Child have all obviously hit the right note....particularly during these days when (as I've noticed all too frequently) folks set themselves up for anxiety/"failure" by acting as though they have to compete with restaurants and whatever-they've seen in magazines.
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I am a huge fan of Frances Mayes' books. This cookbook is a culmination of all of her books. Through the readings, I've come to know Frances and husband Ed, and her friends, and the foods they love and cook together. So glad the recipes included in her books have now come together in a beautifully done book, and beautiful pictures too! I've already made a chicken and wine dish that was absolutely delicious and easy to prepare. I have flagged numerous pages of recipes I plan on making. I love the stories that surround each page and recipe. If you love Frances Mayes, and Tuscany, you must have this book in your collection. You can vicariously travel to Tuscany by reading and cooking these easy-to-make recipes. Enjoy!
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A beautifully written and photographed book that transports the reader to hills of Tuscany. Following the true course of "la cucina povera" (the poor kitchen) you'll learn how to create masterful Tuscan and Italian dishes utilizing only a few quality ingredients. If you enjoyed the luscious prose and delicious artistry of "Under The Tuscan Sun," "Bella Tuscany" and "Everyday in Tuscany," let Frances and Ed Mayes whisk you to a Tuscan paradise in your own kitchen.

Breathtaking photography takes this up another notch and the book inspires creativity in both the food you can create and the inviting tablescapes the authors have prepared for their lucky guests. Accompanying stories and anecdotes allow the reader to sit along side at the Mayes's table as they create their food as you would. Food prepared not by professional chefs but by people who have genuine love for good food, well prepared. A glass of a fine wine is all that is needed to create a total sensory experience. This one is a "don't miss" and sure to become a treasured favorite in your collection.
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Wow! We have made several recipes out of The Tuscan Sun Cookbook and it has already become one of our favorites. Try the Pesto recipe on pg 26,Cannellini Bean and Sage on pg 44, Orecchiette With Shrimp, pg 77, Pappa al Pomodoro, pg 96, Ossobuco, pg 130,Fried Zucchini Flowers, pg 49, Beef Tenderloin with Balsamic Vinegar, pg 135...Sumptuous!
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Ahhhhhhhh, the food of the peasants! Earthy, pure, simple, fantastic! That about sums up my love for the recipes within the Bramasole walls of Frances and Ed Mayes cucina!

In a most simple, but most elegant way of preserving some of the most basic foods that graced the table of those that worked the Italian fields, this is a compilation of dishes that fulfilled, and filled, the souls of the working people, way back when.

In yet another wonderful book offered from the life that is Frances Mayes, and her wonderful husband, Ed, these recipes focus on the Tuscan region of Italy. In her previous books, Frances has taken us into the history of the Tuscany, from the golden days to the current days. This business that began as a journaling of sorts, of buying an old run down farm house, has blossomed into Tuscan life, history, and now, food. And now, through their years of dividing their time between Tuscany and California, they have come to know and love the country, the region, and the food.

Each region of Italy is known for different styles of cooking, with its respective area pretty much dependent on the region it's located, whioh would dictate whether they were strong on seafood, or grains, or wine, etc. For the Tuscan region, which is lcoated just about center of the "boot", it encompasses a little of everything, and the Mayes have done well by their writing to leave you wanting more.

The photography is close and clear; beautifully done through an amateur lens of Frances and her friend, which increases your appreciation of their efforts. The lighting, the settings, the staging of the final dishes are all inviting.
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