As a nation state, Italy has emerged only in 1871. Until then the country was politically divided into a large number of independant cities, provinces and islands. The currently available evidences point out to a dominant Etruscan, Greek and Roman cultural influence on today's Italians.
one of my best friends is from Marche (Osimo) and when I go there to visit her she prepares VINCISGRASSI which is very similar to Lasagne and it's a first dish too. It takes some time to prepare it but it's worth, in case you want to try, this is a recipe I found on line:
I got a book a while back and it's very good so far. It's called
Cucina of Le Marche by Fabio Trabocchi.
While the cooking in Le Marche is pretty regional, he does a pretty good job of telling you all about the recipe and how it changes by region. My family is from the Fano region, not the coast, but inland and I find that the recipes are pretty close to what I cook at home and although there are some omissions that are likely very locale specific, I find that he has captured the big characteristic dishes well. What is interesting is that he also includes dishes that he has created where he uses ingredients that a region is famous for (ie: wldspirit mentions Talamello...well he has a couple of recipes for dishes using Talalmello cheese) It is easy to follow and I would recommend it heartily....one note of caution, if you are giving this to an amateur cook who needs pictures in their cookbooks, the photos are sparse.
In general though....you will never go wrong with a copy of Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking....if I was to be asked which cook describes how to make pasta dough the best...I would say it was her.
PeterTimber.....whoops, realized after I posted that we recommended the same thing...great minds DO think alike....if I do say so myself!!
wldspirit, I live in Canada and I saw the book at one of the major retailers here in Toronto (Indigo) it was in-stock and on the shelves so I imagine that the same would hold true in the US.....failing that I have seen it on amazon.
I would recommend to anyone that if you looking for an Italian cookbook that is a 'must have' in your cucina....it would be a book called The Silver Spoon, it is published by Phaidon Press. It was originally published in 1950 as Il Cucchiaio d'argento, and has been updated and re-issued about 8 times. It is an expensive book, but a worthwhile book to have particularly if you do not have a lot of guidance around you about Italian cooking. Not sure how a native Italian would feel about this book today, but apart from my Noni's handwritten cookbook, this was the only one she would look at.