Are you looking for the best Tuscan cookbooks to give as gifts?
Cookbooks are a wonderful present to give or receive. And Italian cookbooks are full of recipes that delight bellies and bring joy to the table. After all, who doesn’t love to sit down for an Italian meal?
I often have friends, family, or clients ask me for my Italy cookbook recommendations.
But, it’s not so easy… Italy’s 21 regions have different ingredients, recipes, and styles of cooking. A delicacy in Sicily may be non-existent in Emilia Romagna. An ingredient found in a staple recipe in Friuli may not grow in Puglia. Remember, in Italy, the grocery stores aren’t full of every fruit and vegetable imaginable every day of the year. Italian cooks plan and prepare meals using local and seasonal ingredients.
There are also plenty of cookbooks that sit on the shelf untouched because they have strange ingredients, have complicated recipes, are boring to read, or they’re poorly translated.
Our family is based in Tuscany, and while I have cookbooks from all over the Italian peninsula, today I’m going to share some of the best Tuscan cookbooks to gift that:
- are written in understandable English
- don’t have crazy ingredient lists
- have recipes that are likely to be cooked
Tuscan cookbooks are great to gift because the recipes are not complicated and they rely on a few fresh, simple ingredients – think tomatoes, basil, pasta, beans, bread, cheese. There’s no need to head to the grocery store with a list of 30 ingredients or to seek out strange ingredients in specialty shops.
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The Tuscan Sun Cookbook: Recipes from Our Italian Kitchen by Frances Mayes and Edward Mayes
I remember reading Under The Tuscan Sun as a teenager. I daydreamed about traveling to Italy and eating fresh tomatoes and mozzarella and having my time ‘under the Tuscan sun.’ Years later, I’m here, living my daydream and using Mayes’ cookbook.
She says at the beginning of the book, “If you came to visit me in Tuscany, we would cook the food described in this book.” And she’s right – the recipes she’s chosen to share truly reflect the recipes we use here in Tuscany on a regular basis.
I love the photographs she’s chosen and the anecdotes about the food culture in Tuscany. She explains how we do things here in Tuscany in a clear and enjoyable way. I love sitting down with this book and flipping through it even when I’m not in need of a dish to make.
She also uses US measurements, so you won’t need to convert from the Italian metric measurements.
Extra Virgin: Recipes & Love from Our Tuscan Kitchen: A Cookbook by Gabriele Corcos & Debi Mazar
This Tuscan cookbook has a great combination of simple and more complex recipes, so it could work for beginners or more experienced cooks.
While it does have classic Tuscan dishes, there are also some recipes that include the author’s take on Tuscan cooking. I appreciate it because cooking the same general recipes over and over again can get boring. But, if you’re gifting a cookbook to someone who only wants traditional Tuscan recipes, you may want to pass on this one.
Other things I appreciate about Corcos and Mazar’s book:
- They give ideas for substitutes, which is so helpful when you’re cooking outside of Italy. Some of the ingredients we use here (like Tuscan pecorino or Sorana beans) are tough to find outside of specialty Italian shops or markets like Whole Foods. Giving substitutes makes Tuscan cooking more accessible to cooks outside of Italy.
- They explain how to stock your pantry for Italian cooking. Having a pantry with some Italian/Tuscan cooking staples will make it easy to cook a recipe when you want without having to run to the store.
- This is one of the best Tuscan cookbooks for a beginner cook or someone who doesn’t want to get bogged down with complicated recipes or ingredient lists.
From The Markets of Tuscany: A Cookbook by Giulia Scarpaleggia
This cookbook is a wonderful gift for someone who loves shopping at Tuscan markets – smelling fresh tomatoes, choosing plump summer peaches, finding a small wheel of pecorino stagionato from a local producer, or snagging a newspaper full of freshly-caught prawns.
Giulia takes the reader into the markets of twelve areas of Tuscany.
It’s a joy to read if you’ve already been to Tuscany, because it will help you relive your memories. Someone planning a trip to Tuscany will appreciate it as well.
The recipes are simple, easy to follow, and use fresh ingredients. But, I wouldn’t gift this to a beginner cook or someone who isn’t interested in sometimes seeking out kind-of-hard-to-find-outside-of-Italy ingredients, like pecorino cheese.
Twelve: A Tuscan Cook Book by Tessa Kiros
At its heart, Tuscan cooking is based on the season and the ingredients that are available that season. So, no cherry tarts in November, roasted asparagus in December, or fresh tagliolini al tartufo (truffle pasta) in July.
Twelve is divided into 12 sections based on the months of the year and the recipes for each section are based on what’s in season. It’s easy to shop for the ingredients because you know you’ll find them and they’ll be delicious and at their best. If you live outside of Italy, you may not be able to match the recipes exactly by month. But, this cook book will make you think about when certain ingredients are at their best in your area.
Kiros gives ideas for substitutions and she explains basic concepts of Tuscan meal preparation.
This is one of the best Tuscan cookbooks to give as a gift. It’s beautiful to look at and you’ll find yourself coming back to cook some of her recipes multiple times, even if you like to experiment with new recipes.
Secrets From My Tuscan Kitchen by Judy Witts Francini
Judy Witts Francini shares her love of cooking with visitors to Italy and you can feel the same love through her cookbook. A transplant from the United States, she learned the art of Tuscan cooking from her Tuscan mother-in-law.
She focuses on finding quality ingredients, which is the key to simple Tuscan cooking!
Her recipes are clear for someone who cooks already but isn’t necessarily well-versed in Italian cooking. The measurements are US measurements (which is helpful!), but they aren’t super specific – she might tell you to ‘add a pinch of something’ or ‘add some more if it looks too thick.’ While this may frustrate some cooks, it’s how it’s done in Tuscany!
This is one of the best Tuscan cookbooks for someone who is just getting started with Tuscan cooking or a more experienced cook who is searching for genuine Tuscan recipes to add to her/his collection.
Florentine: The True Cuisine of Florence by Emiko Davies
This cookbook by Emiko Davies is lovely to read even if you aren’t cooking. And I prefer it (with its Florentine marbled paper cover) on a coffee table to up high on a kitchen shelf. Her photos tell stories and you can feel her connection with Florence and its ingredients and recipes.
The recipes in this book are true Florentine recipes – the ones you’ll see at authentic Florentine restaurants or in cooked in the homes of Florentine families. They are not Florentine recipes altered with the chef’s ‘spin or inspiration.’
A common problem for chefs outside of Italy is replicating the recipes without the ingredients from Italy. To ‘solve’ this problem, Emiko had a global crew of recipe testers help her adapt the recipes to other regions. So, you don’t need to fret that your dish won’t turn out because you don’t have Florentine ricotta.
Some of the recipes are quite ‘adventurous,’ but they are true Florentine dishes. Example – lampredotto panino, which is a sandwich made using the fourth stomach of the cow. Still, there are plenty of recipes that are simple, delicious, and accessible to a ‘regular’ cook (like me!).
This would be a great gift for someone who already has some experience cooking and wants to dig deeper into Florentine dishes – not only how they are cooked, but how they came to be.
You can get an idea of her writing and photography style and passion for cooking by looking at her beautiful Instagram feed – @emikodavies.
Tip – Try to get your hands on the November 2020 edition. It includes her Florence restaurant guide.
I also recommend the following cookbooks that aren’t focused on Tuscany, but have excellent sections on Tuscan regional cooking and recipes:
Tasting Italy: A Culinary Journey by America’s Test Kitchen
If you’re familiar with America’s Test Kitchen (ATK), you know they test, test, test to find the best recipes. They share the resulting recipe and why it was chosen as ‘the best.’ ATK has partnered with National Geographic on this cookbook/travel book.
America’s Test Kitchen has done their extensive testing in this book divided into Italy’s regions, and you’ll find a section on Tuscany. There are only a handful of recipes for each region, but they define the cooking of the region. So, for example, you’ll find Tuscan bean soup, panzanella, ribollita, bistecca alla Fiorentina (and more).
The National Geographic photos are gorgeous and you’ll learn fun facts about each regions’ ingredients and cooking culture.
The recipes are detailed and step-by-step, so it’s a great cookbook for a beginner.
Based on the quality and accuracy of the Tuscan recipes, I find myself exploring the other regions’ recipes because I know they can be trusted to be authentic and turn out well.
This book is perfect for the coffee table or the kitchen shelf.
La Cucina: The Regional Cooking Of Italy by The Italian Academy of Cuisine
I first heard about this book because of how it came to be, not because of its recipes. The book is the culmination of a project by Italian volunteers from the Italian Academy of Cuisine to document Italy’s recipes in order not to lose them. They traveled throughout Italy, researching and collecting the authentic recipes from each of Italy’s regions. The result is this 900+ page book of recipes!
This Italian cookbook is best gifted to someone with at least some basic cooking experience who wants recipes and no ‘fluff.’ There aren’t beautiful color photos to look at or anecdotes to read. There are some interesting historical cooking facts scattered throughout the book.
The recipes use US measurements, but the instructions aren’t ‘hold-your-hand’ instructions, so some cooking experience is helpful.
The organization of the cookbook is by course or ingredient (soup, poultry, cheese, etc), so you’ll need to flip through to find Tuscan ingredients, or use the regional index in the back of the book.
I hope this list of the best Tuscan cookbooks has helped you find the perfect cookbook to give as a gift. Or maybe you’ve found one for yourself!
If you’re planning on gifting a Tuscan cookbook, a nice addition is a complementary tool or ingredient. For example, you could:
- wrap it in a beautiful tea towel
- tie it with twine and include an olive wood cooking spoon
- include a packet of basil seeds inside the front cover
- wrap it with a beautiful olive oil container or hand-painted platter