• Nicole Leonetti

Cookbook Gift Guide

Updated: Jan 4, 2020

It’s the holiday season, so if you have any last-minute gifts to buy, I want to give you a few suggestions. These suggestions would also make good gifts at any time so keep them in mind when you get to birthdays or other gift-giving holidays throughout the year (I’ve always wanted to start exchanging presents on the 4th of July!!). I think my favorite gift to receive is a cookbook! I love to cook, and a cookbook is the gift that keeps on giving since you can use them for years. Also – I just love flipping through cookbooks and reading the anecdotes and looking at photos. They are my version of a comic book! I believe a good cookbook should never be taken for granted since it is very possible to have a not so great one. Now, my suggestions are not a list of the newest, hottest cookbooks – some of them I’ve had for quite some time. I’m just letting you know a few of my favorites that I have come to depend on that never disappoint. These would be great to share with the food-lover in your life. Also – if you have someone that doesn’t like or know how to cook – maybe getting them a cookbook will inspire them – or maybe they’ll just be annoyed – either way there is a cookbook involved!



Laura in the Kitchen (Favorite Italian-American Recipes Made Easy): Anyone who knows me knows my love of Laura Vitale. I started watching her YouTube videos in 2012 and haven’t stopped since. She just seems like a real person that loves food. Her YouTube videos make everything seem so simple and she makes such a diverse mix of recipes – love it! Of course, I was very excited when her cookbook came out in 2015 and it was everything I hoped for. I feel like I’ve made almost every recipe in this cookbook and each one is better than the last. She has a good combination of Italian food with a few non-Italian recipes mixed in. Also – the book has a breakfast section! Now, I’m not a huge breakfast fan but every breakfast recipe from this book has been a home-run! There are so many recipes from this book, but I think my favorites would have to be the Pasta with Braised Short Ribs; Cannellini Beans with Pancetta and Spinach; and the Italian Eggs Benedict. Now, I’m just waiting for her second cookbook which I’m hoping she will create soon!


Cooking for Jeffrey (a Barefoot Contessa Cookbook): Ok – I love Ina Garten! However, even more than Ina – I love her husband, Jeffrey! He just seems like the sweetest man! I always wait for the end of her show because I know that Jeffrey will pop in with bread or wine – he’s the best! I actually never want to meet him on the off-chance that my perfect vision of him is ruined. So, a book where the Barefoot Contessa highlights all of the food she makes for Jeffrey and interlaces the book with stories about their relationship and the most amazing photos of them is my dream. The photo from their wedding day is my favorite! Also, I have to credit this book with the BEST Brisket recipe! It was my first time making a brisket and I was nervous for the outcome, but this was so delicious I never want to use a different brisket recipe ever. Also, the Kale Salad with Pancetta and Pecorino is fantastic!


It’s All Easy (Delicious Weekday Recipes for the Super-Busy Home Cook): Do I eat and drink to excess - yes I do. Do I also get the Goop newsletter and listen to the Goop podcast every week? Yep – I do that too. It’s all about balance. I first bought this Gwyneth Paltrow cookbook because I was a fan of Goop and what it’s all about. Honestly, I didn’t expect to make many recipes from the book but it says right in the title that the recipes are easy so what did I have to lose? I have to say that I have been super surprised by this cookbook. Everything I’ve made has been delicious and fairly easy. I’m also surprised that not everything in the book is super Goop-y! I wasn’t expecting there to be cheese and gluten and all of my favorite things, but this book has an excellent balance of Vegan/Gluten Free items – alongside a few recipes that include my beloved cheese. I have a lot of favorite recipes from this book – the Tikka Masala Roast Chicken; Shishito Peppers; Crispy Potatoes with Lemon and Parsley; and Scrambled Eggs with Parmesan and Arugula.


Extra Virgin (Recipe’s & Love from our Tuscan Kitchen): This cookbook is by Gabriele Corcos and Debi Mazar – I miss their Extra Virgin cooking show so much! It was my favorite! You had of course the amazing Debi Mazar with her cool, NY attitude and style alongside her Tuscan husband – Gabriele – making the most drool-inducing Italian recipes. The book feels like an extension of the show and you can make all of the delicious recipes in your own home. Every New Years Eve at midnight I make the Lentil Soup from this book. But my favorite recipe might be the Bucatini All’Amatriciana.




How to EATALY (A Guide to Buying, Cooking and Eating Italian Food): I am such a fan of Eataly! I will always remember the first time I stepped into an Eataly (in Chicago) and I thought I was in heaven. People walking around drinking wine and eating gelato amongst all of the best Italian ingredients you could imagine. I am lucky to have an Eataly here in LA and I treasure my time there because of the opportunity to purchase items that you just can’t find in your local grocery store (sorry, Gelsons). When I need guanciale, fresh pasta, fresh ricotta, or when I need to walk around a store drinking wine – I go to Eataly. This cookbook is perfect for any fan of Eataly or lover of Italian food in general. Even if you do not have an Eataly in your city – you could most likely find these ingredients at a nearby Italian deli or at least a suitable substitute. The book is beautiful and educational as well with photos describing different ingredients and how to best use them in a recipe. The recipes I love from this book are the Saltimbocca Alla Romana and the Vesuvio al Ragu di Salsiccia.


Lidia’s Commonsense Italian Cooking (150 Delicious and Simple Recipes Anyone Can Master): While I was always an admirer of Lidia Bastianich, I didn’t own any of her cookbooks until I met her at an event around 2013 and got this one. She was so much fun to talk to and had such a passion for food and cooking. She gave us advice on traveling to Italy for the first time (which I still need to do) and she even gave us a second helping of one of the courses at the dinner – which is typically frowned upon at these types of fancy events. This book contains my go-to Fresh Pasta recipe. It comes out perfectly every time! Also – you can use the fresh pasta in the recipe the make the Mafalde with Ricotta and Meat Ragu.



Now – the cookbooks above are all ones that I personally own and cook from, but looking ahead I can tell you a few cookbooks that I am looking forward to adding to my collection in the future.


The Defined Dish (Healthy & Wholesome Weeknight Recipes): this cookbook doesn’t come out until after Christmas, but you can pre-order now. It’s from one of my favorite bloggers to follow – The Defined Dish (Alex Snodgrass). I feel like I manifested her cookbook since I was following her for a long time on the ‘gram and she would always make these easy to follow recipes that looked delicious and I would print them out and one day when I was printing one out I said – I wish she just had a book so I could have all of these recipes in one place!!! The next day she announced her cookbook was coming! So fortuitous!


The Fortnum’s Cookbook: Fortnum & Mason in London has got to be my favorite store! It is a food-lovers paradise in the most fabulous setting! Having been open since 1707 (WOW!) I feel like they would have some recipes that I need to get my hands on – so as soon as I heard about their cookbook, I was very excited!


Re-Nourish: A Simple Way to Eat Well: This cookbook is by one of my favorites - Rhiannon Lambert. Another person I found on Instagram – Rhiannon is a nutritionist on Harley Street in London. She has an amazing podcast and has written a few cookbooks as well. This one was her first and I’m hoping to get it since it’s not just a cookbook but also a guidebook for a healthier way of eating that isn’t restrictive. While I will never stop making some of my favorite “unhealthy” recipes (I’m looking at you – Easter Pie!) – I strive to find a balance that will be a good long-term lifestyle situation.


River Café London: Thirty Years of Recipes and the Story of a Much-Loved Restaurant: Unfortunately, I have never had the opportunity to dine at the River Café in London, but it is definitely on my list! This cookbook is by Ruth Rogers - the British Chef who owns and runs the River Café. Why do I want this cookbook? It has thirty years of Italian recipes from a Michelin starred restaurant……need I say more?


The Clean Plate: Naturally this is a Gwyneth Paltrow cookbook. It came out in early 2019 and has been on my list. As stated previously – I’m a fan of Goop even though I do not adhere to many of its principles. I just like to dip my toe in Goop waters from time to time. I’m interested in this book since the other Gwyneth Paltrow cookbook I have has been such a pleasant surprise and I like to sprinkle healthy recipes into the mix of all of the pasta and wine!


While this is by no means an exhaustive list of cookbooks – I wanted to let you know which cookbooks I have that currently bring me joy and which ones that I am looking forward to cooking from one day. I foresee a lot of cooking in 2020!! I’m hungry already!



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