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Lidia's Family Table Hardcover – 15 Oct 2008

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 420 pages
  • Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf (15 Oct. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400040353
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400040353
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 3 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,040,585 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
I'll start with a confession, which is that as a European I am not a fan of American cookbooks and recipes - all those measurements by volume! I cannot remember how I came to find out about this book, let alone order it, but I am glad I did. The recipes are interesting and slightly unusual, not the usual run of mill Italian food, but what I really enjoy are the technical tips and tricks that she explains, like toasting the tomato paste on the hot spot of the pan when making a pasta sauce. It's the kind of detail that I find a useful addition to my cooking skills. Oh and the recipes I have cooked have all been delicious. The book also includes a number of vegetable dishes both mains and side dishes, which are good as a way of including vegetables into your diet in a non boring way.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x8e0f36e4) out of 5 stars 94 reviews
196 of 205 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8e11a144) out of 5 stars Great Source for Norhtern Italian Home Cooking. Buy It. 22 Dec. 2004
By B. Marold - Published on
Format: Hardcover
`Lidia's Family Table' is Lidia Matticchio Bastianich' fourth book and probably the 826th book on Italian cuisine published in English in the last 50 years. The book fully comes up to expectations of quality, given the very experienced team of Bastianich, editor Judith Jones, and publisher Alfred A. Knopf. So, why do we want to add another book on Italian cuisine, this book, to our collection?

The first part of the answer is that the book follows in the footsteps of Jacques Pepin's latest book where a prominent culinary writer / educator is writing about what they cook at home. And, they write about it in a way that makes it exceptionally useful for the amateur home cook. This means the book may be more useful to us than the first, a study of the cooking heritage of northeastern Italy based in Bastianich' homeland of Istria, near Trieste and Venice. Or the second, which is Lidia's survey of Italian cooking in general, or her third, which is her survey of `Italian-American' cuisine. Since reviewing this third book, I have read and reviewed several other books on `Italian-American' cuisine and I find Bastianich' work to easily lead the pack in overall quality of recipes.

Our current subject does not bill itself as `easy' or `fast' cooking, only as 'everyday cooking at home'. This seems to be a much more satisfying and realistic target for an author of good recipes. Since the fast cooking cookbook field is so crowded and so well dominated by Rachael Ray, why not do what you know best rather than trying to buy into a trend. This book is also not billed as being authentic anything. While a really excellent implementation of Italian cooking principles, there is no claim that these recipes come from anywhere but Ms. Bastianich' own imagination. And, I have absolutely no problem with this. The quality of a recipe is not in its pedigree as it is in the quality of the preparation and in the presentation of the technique. While this is all `home cooking', I suspect from the description of the work which went into the creation of the book that many of the dishes were created for the book or were borrowings from traditional recipes. But, this also doesn't matter.

One background fact about the book that may matter is that Ms. Bastianich is very true to her roots in both her creations and in her borrowings. That means that most of the recipes in this book are closer to the northeastern Italian terroir than they are to Rome, Naples, Apulia, or Sicily, the fountainhead of most `Italian-American' cuisine. This immediately makes the book more interesting than other recent offerings from southern Italian scions, Frank Pellegrino and Rocco DeSpirito. This means that Lidia's recipes are very heavily into meals based on rice, corn and fresh pasta than on dry pasta and tomato sauces. The most striking evidence of the influence from central Europe and Vienna is the excellent section on strudel recipes. This is the real deal, as Ms. B. gives us an excellent recipe and photo demonstration on how to make homemade strudel dough. Before you gasp in dismay, let me say that strudel dough as she describes it has more in common with thin pizza dough than the daunting thought of phyllo dough, which is often used as a substitute for strudel dough. I have used phyllo to make strudel and I am not happy with the result. So, I am tickled to find an expert presentation of strudel making for amateurs. The recipes are not even limited to apple strudel. The book covers strudel made from squash and cranberries plus a strudel purse done with prune and ricotta filling.

The blurb under the title on the dust jacket makes a point of saying that a major feature of the book is in `ideas for variations and improvisations'. I am very happy to say that this book does an excellent job of providing these suggestions where they are appropriate without straining the style as may have been done in the generally very good book, `Nightly Specials' is written by Michael Lomonaco. The notion of variations takes several different shapes in Lidia's book. The simplest and most obvious is in the discussion of a sauce which follows up with a list of all the types of pasta or other applications to which the sauce can be applied. A second kind of variation is demonstrated in the very first series of recipes for mackerel cured in olive oil. The series begins with a simple recipe for the cured mackerel, followed by applications of cured mackerel in a red onion salad, a bruschetta of cured mackerel and beans, and a mackerel and tomato salad. Leftovers, anyone?

In addition to the tutorial on strudel, the book contains an excellent lesson on making fresh pasta, including a large number of variations on the shapes of the finished noodles. The lessons on the strudel and the fresh pasta alone are worth the price of the book. But, it also includes lots of great sidebars on techniques for cooking Italian standards such as risotto, Minestre, sugo, and polenta. It is entirely consistent with her Italian roots that the book has lots of recipes for vegetables and few recipes for meat. In fact, Ms. B. says that the one thing Italian-American cuisine is missing is a well-balanced use of vegetables, especially leafy vegetables.

If I were to endorse this book for any one reason, it would be in Ms. Bastianich' excellent use of very large saute pans which are ideal not only for finishing pasta in pan, but also for incrementally sautéing various ingredients in the bare middle of the pan, while already sautéed ingredients are shepherded to the margins.

Many cookbooks have a limited audience. This book is an excellent resource for everyone. Very highly recommended.
116 of 123 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8e11a198) out of 5 stars A Tie or a Close Second to Marcella Hazan 5 Aug. 2005
By Krandall Kraus - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Lidia's book is a truly wonderful cookbook. And, because she cleverly doesn't give you any amounts for ingredients on her PBS cooking show, Lidia's Family Table, you practically need this book to make any of those recipes. The photos are also a tremendous help. How wonderful to actually see pasta being made or a lasgne taking shape step by step. This book is worth every cent. Another reviewer says it is a book of true northern or northeastern Italian cooking. I would have to disagree only slightly. There are some strong central and southern influences here, especially in recipes like the pasta and the risotta, where she adds olive oil rather than only butter. It's a minor thing, but for those of us who come from northern Italia we notice the flavor immediately in such a dish. Risotta with olive oile is a totally different experience than risotta with butter.

For a book that is still the "bible" of Italian cooking, I would refer you to Marcella Hazan's "Essentials of Italian Cooking", a combination of two earlier books (The Classic Italian Cook Book and More Classic Itallian Cooking)where she gives you details and insights that Lidia often leaves out. This comes from her Old-World style cooking, which she employed for decades in her intimate master classes taught in her own kitchen in Venice and New York City.

For example, Marcella never adds olive oil to her pasta; eggs and flour only. She would never place fried eggplant directly on paper towels; fried things must be drained on a rack. And when making bechamel sauce, or salsa balsamella, Marcella tells you to add the flour to the butter off heat to avoid lumping and to add the hot milk no more than 2 tablespoons at a time until it is smooth. Little things like that. Every time I prepare one of Lidia's wonderful recipes I first go to Marcella and read about it and I always learn something that I don't get from Lidia. Also "Marcella says..." is Hazan's newest book and it is filled with wonderful stories about cooking and pictures from the Master Classes she gave in New York and Venice right in her own home. Check it out by all means.

Lidia's book is a wonderful book and if you want a complete Italian cooking library you only need her two books (this one and Lidia's Italian American Table) and The two books of Marcella Hazan, which are captivating reading all by themselves. If you like to bake Italian breads then Carol Field's "The Italian Baker" will send you into ecstasy and make a master baker out of you in no time. Buon appetito!
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8e11a5d0) out of 5 stars Down Home Cooking 21 Dec. 2004
By Rica Fiesolana - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I am thrilled with Lidia's latest book which talks even more about her family. The pictures of the kids just have to make you smile. I have tried several of the family style dishes baked in the oven, such as the pasticciata, and my family just can not get enough. The do ahead tips make my life as a busy mom so much easier while still cooking real food for my family. I just can not get enough of this book.
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8e11a99c) out of 5 stars Pleasantly Surprised, on how good this book is! 1 Feb. 2006
By The Italian Tailor - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I first discovered Lidia on public television, flipping through channels. I was impressed with the show and decided to give the book a try, even though I usually find cookbooks a waste! Usually I might find one or two recipes and that it's! But that is not the case at all! I use this cook book constantly and it's recipes are user and ingredient friendly! And there are some great quick tips and quick basic recipes, like the 5 minutes sauce recipes, there are several. Great for after work!

I am Italian, and grew up in an Italian home. But unfortunately my mom died fairly young from cancer ( as did my aunts as well) so many family recipes were lost. But I find when I make many of these recipes the flavors, textures and ingredients are all very similar to what I remember. So this cookbook has been a blessing, to try and retrieve a little piece of my sweet mom and the beautiful culture she gave us!

If you get anything from this review! No matter how young you or your mom/or even grandma (nonna) WRITE DOWN THE FAMILY RECIPES NOW! Even the ones you think you don't like now. You will later, I promise! They will be a treasure to you and your children some day!
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8e11aa80) out of 5 stars What can I say, I'm Italian! 11 Jan. 2007
By G. Roberti - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When you see Lidia's shows on Public Television, if you're like me, I drool over most of the dishes and run to the food store to buy the ingredients to prepare it that night. Yes, I'm a guy and I love to cook....and my family and friends love the fact that I cook, based on their waist lines and the numbers that show up at our dinner table! I have all of Lidia's books because she is straight forward in her approach to creating a meal using similar technics from dish to dish. The way the recipe is presented helps in your preparations...a list of ingredients, the order in which to cook the different components, and the final prep to get it to the table hot and fresh, even a recommendation of an appropriate wine. But one of the biggest factors in me liking her books is that she doesn't include weird ingredients that you just can't find in a food store, everything is accessible locally. Then, once you get comfortable with her style, you mix different parts of different recipes to create you own unique meal for the table, which is very gratifying when your guests love them. Being Italian, we always had our own taste based on how our grandmothers and mothers cooked for us over the years, but Lidia really expanded my tastes to include dishes that when I serve them to my 91yo mother, she says she hadn't had that since she was a child in Italy! Warm family style dishes that will leave a lasting memory. The 3 F's....Food, Family, and Friends! Lidia will bring that all together for you to experience.....highly recommended for the beginner, experienced and professional chef.
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