There are cookbooks and then, there are COOK BOOKS. The books you actually cook from—daily, for special occasions and holidays. Meet my all-time favorite, BFF cookbooks that I turn to time and time again.
I grew up as a book nerd. More often than not, when I couldn’t be found (or was hiding from doing one chore or another), I would be sprawled on my bed, book in hand, lost in another world. Don’t get me wrong the world I lived in was pretty special, but the world of books was something else altogether.
My mom used to drop me off at the library and I’d stay there for hours. I’d bring a peanut butter sandwich and a Tab and hang there when I had nothing else to do. It’s become a joke in our family that I was left at the library. Trust me, there are a lot of worse places to be left. Hence, my love of books.
As I grew up, my passion for reading fiction became a passion for reading cookbooks. As a young married “DINK” (double income, no kids’ for the younger set), I read and studied cookbooks cover to cover. Parties, family dinners, holiday breakfasts were planned and imagined thanks to Ina, Martha, Susan, and Marcella.
So here, my friend, are five cookbooks that I love, own and use on a regular (sometimes daily!) basis. They’ve been splattered on, had their covers ripped and insides pulled away from the spine. Some are even known as the best cookbooks of all time. But to me, these books are as dear as any beloved fictional classic. I hope you find something you like here that’ll inspire you to gather your family and friends and COOK. If not, just get lost in the reading.
Family Style by Ina Garten aka The Barefoot Contessa -
One of my all-time favorites by one of my all-time favorites. Ina’s recipes are everything I aspire mine to be. Simple, yet elegant and always approachable. If you don’t feel good after reading or eating out of one of Ina’s cookbooks, I’m not sure we can be friends. This particular book is my most used. I love so many recipes out of here especially the lasagna (which I use as a base for mine), the Sun-dried Tomato Pasta Salad, and the Potato Basil Frittata. Classics all. Ina is a goddess.
Martha's Entertaining by Martha StewartI’m an avid Martha Stewart fan. If you need to know how to do something in the kitchen, the garden, around the house, Martha is your girl. And the photography in this book makes it one of my favorites to thumb through on a winter afternoon, cozy, preferably next to a fire with a blanket and a cup of coffee. You get the idea.
The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan
– and that it is. If you love Fettucine Alfredo, Marcella teaches you that it’s a finesse recipe with very little cheese. Her Tomato and Butter Sauce (what I call Tomato Sauce #1 because I make it so much) is magical and one of the best pasta sauces ever. Everything I didn’t learn from my mom or grandmas about Italian cooking, I learned from Marcella.
The Heart of the Home by Susan Branch
One of the first cookbooks I found and bought on my own. Back when I was a pharmaceutical sales rep, I would wander around on my “lunch hour” stopping at favorite home décor stores. I actually ended up moonlighting at the one that introduced me to Susan Branch and her amazing line of hand-illustrated cookbooks. The recipes are taught through stories, images, and drawings of Susan’s family life in Martha’s Vineyard and the whole book transports me from my daily grind. One of my favorites, Chocolate-Dipped Coconut Macaroons, came from Susan and is to me, the best Christmas cookies— hands-down, and if they weren’t on my holiday cookie tray, there might be a revolt. Be sure to check out all of her books — you’re in for such a treat. Best read on a lazy Saturday. And the recipes are amazing!
The New Basics by Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso
The New Basics was for me, and many in my generation, as important as The Joy of Cooking. In this book, you'll find my favorite chili recipe as well as a bible on every vegetable explaining in detail when, how to shop for it and cook it. The New Basics is part of The Silver Palate team of NYC that also brought the acclaimed Silver Palate Cookbook. With great stories and fun illustrations, The New Basics was designed to be your kitchen consultant when Mom can't be reached.