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Italian Classics (Best Recipe) Hardcover – September 15, 2002

4.7 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The Best Recipe series from Cook's Illustrated magazine goes from strength to strength. With its formula of exhaustively tested recipes paired with heavily illustrated techniques, the series makes it easy for even beginning cooks to produce successful dishes almost every time. For the casual home cook, Italian Classics might be the single best Italian cookbook to own. The book is, in classic Best Recipe fashion, a great big beautiful doorstop of a thing. Even so, it's not crammed with arcana. For most Americans--who in survey after survey say that regional Italian is the cuisine they most enjoy cooking at home--the recipes here will be pretty familiar; the space is devoted not to obscure dishes but to exhaustive treatments of favorites. Pesto, for instance, gets about three pages. You end up with a delicious, perfectly prepared basil paste, and along the way you learn how to bruise herb leaves, you get a treatise on why a garlic press isn't such a bad thing (despite what the professionals say), and finally, you are led into the intriguing territory of nonbasil pestos such as Toasted Nut and Parsley, and Arugula and Ricotta. All the classics are here, from red-checkered-tablecloth dishes like Spaghetti and Meatballs to regional dishes like Ribollita. Throughout, there's a nice balance between authenticity and accessibility. The book doesn't call for wildly obscure ingredients that other cookbook authors so often claim can be readily found at "specialty stores," and there's no snobbishly overwrought preparation--another boon for the home cook. --Claire Dederer

About the Author

This book has been tested, written, and edited by the test cooks, editors, food scientists, tasters, and cookware specialists at America’s Test Kitchen, a 2,500-square-foot kitchen located just outside Boston. It is the home of Cook’s Illustrated magazine and Cook’s Country magazine, the public television cooking shows America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country from America’s Test Kitchen, America’s Test Kitchen Radio, and the online America’s Test Kitchen Cooking School.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 481 pages
  • Publisher: America's Test Kitchen; 1st edition (September 15, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0936184582
  • ISBN-13: 978-0936184586
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 1.4 x 11.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #376,986 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Brian Connors VINE VOICE on October 25, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Cooks' Illustrated, surely, is many things to many people. I like to think of them as cooking for the hard-core geeks; they slice and dice recipes as well as vegetables, and work the kinks out of them to make what is at least their idea of the best possible version of a meal. To the geek chef, their books are the technical flip side of the theoretical work of Alton Brown, Shirley Corriher, and Harold McGee.
Don't pick this book up thinking that you're going to get someone's Italian nonna's sunday gravy recipe; that's what the Sopranos Family Cookbook is for. This is very technical stuff that involves stripping the great recipes down to their bare essentials and rebuilding them from the ground up. Sacred cows of Italian cuisine, as in everything else they do, are scrutinized very carefully, and slaughtered as often as not. Only the most basic definition of the dish is taken for granted. The end result is sometimes minimalist; the Baked Ziti recipe, for example, has no ricotta in it and is almost vegetarian. The end result is a dizzying book that should be on the shelf of anyone who likes to cook Italian. Finally, the frequent sidebars on cooking equipment, a Cooks Illustrated staple, offer deep background on the techniques in the recipes.
Now with raves like that, why only 4 stars, you might be asking? Well, it's not perfect. The Best Recipe series presents itself as a bible of cooking, and it's not; glaring omissions in this book include meat lasagna (though the big bragging point on the dust jacket is the vegetable lasagna recipe) and cannoli. There is also a tendency to repeat articles from earlier books, an understandable but occasionally annoying situation that tends to leave the reader feeling as though the magazine people are trying to cut corners.
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Format: Hardcover
A passionate home cook that has been honing her cooking skills for the last 25 years, concentrating on Italian cooking for the last 10 years, writes this review. My favorite cookbooks are "The Professional Chef" by the Culinary Institute and "Culinary Artistry". With more than 500 cookbooks in my collection I am usually disappointed in my recent cookbook acquisitions. I am also very tough on Italian cookbooks in particular.

The "Italian Classics" by the editors of Cooks Illustrated Magazine pleasantly surprised me. I expected the typical Italian American recipes that I dislike. This book is much more authentic that I expected it to be. Even as an experienced Italian cook I find it difficult to criticize this book to any large extent.

The editors of Cook's Illustrated write this book in the same manner as their other books. The writers tell you what they tried that didn't work, before they get to the ingredients and techniques that did work. There are very few pictures in this book. The paper is not the glossy stock that you find in my cookbooks today. I would have appreciated if the book had included the Italian names for the recipes. Sometimes they include the Italian name of the recipes in the narrative about the recipe, and sometimes they do not. But, the recipes themselves more make up for these minor disappointments.

The book is outlines as follows:

1. Antipasti

2. Salads

3. Vegetables

4. Soups

5. Pasta

6. Risotto, Polenta, and Bean

7. Poultry

8. Meat

9. Fish and Shellfish

10. Bread and Pizza

11. Eggs and Savory Tarts

12. Fruit Desserts

13. Chilled and Frozen Desserts

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Format: Hardcover
This cookbook is by far the best Italian Cookbook I have ever used. While many Italian cookbooks require ingrediants that are both expensive and hard to find, Italian Classics' recipes are intended to be made with ingrediants that are easy to find in an American grocery store. The recipes, however, don't sacrifice flavor at all. Every recipe that I have cooked, without exception, has been excellent. I was so surprised by the excellence of the recipes that I am in the process now of asking my family to give me other cook books from the Cook's Illustrated "Best Recipe" series for Christmas. They explain the steps of cooking so novice cookers can use the recipes as well. I recommend this book to anyone who loves Italian cooking.
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Format: Hardcover
'Italian Classics' is a 'Cooks Illustrated' treatment of well known Italian recipes. I have reviewed a number of similar 'Cooks Illustrated' books and a fabulous number of Italian cookbooks, and I believe that this volume is both better than the average 'Cooks Illustrated' volume AND better than the average Italian cookbook.

Part of the value of this book is not due to the efforts of the 'Cooks Illustrated' staff, it is due to their applying their usual approach to a body of recipes which are well established and about which there is a great body of writing already available in English.

That means that when they evaluate a pasta Puttanesca recipe, there is little chance they will be going wrong, as they have the writings of Marcella Hazan, Lydia Bastianich, Mario Batalli, Giuliano Bugialli, and Michelle Scicolone to proof their researches against.

This is not to say that they sometimes go off the deep end of fussiness, as when they suggest parboiling the garlic in the pan before adding the oil and other ingredients so as to not burn the garlic when starting out on their Puttanesca.

Still, I am always guaranteed of seeing a highly reliable recipe for the Italian standards in this volume and while I have multiple volumes written by all those other authors, I still refer to this book first every time I want to do meatballs or lasagna or gnocchi or osso bucco.

Recommended for people who like to cook Italian.
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