The papacy is one of those institutions that is endlessly fascinating. Thus The Vatican Cookbook, which has the compelling subtitle of “500 Years of Classic Recipes, Papal Tributes and Exclusive Images of Life and Art at the Vatican.” There are more than 80 recipes, including favorites of the current pope and his two predecessors, thus featuring Argentina (Pope Francis), Bavaria (Pope Benedict XVI) and Poland (Pope John Paul II).

So: pierogi and dulce de leche, homey recipes for Christmas cookies and minestrone, and bistro favorites such as a Parisian beefsteak and chocolate amaretto cake. Threaded through are glossy photographs of patron saints, the Pieta, the pasta stations, and sections devoted to the recent popes and the Pontifical Swiss Guard.

The book was written not by the nuns who do the majority of cooking at the Vatican, but by former chef David Geisser, Erwin Niederberger and Daniel Anrig, all current or former members of the guard. A section devoted to “basic recipes” includes pasta dough, pizza dough, polenta — and truffle risotto. Because, in Vatican City, truffle risotto is a basic recipe.

— Amy Scattergood

Los Angeles Times