Now it has been translated into English, offering Britain's domestic gods and goddesses hundreds of classic recipes from Umbria to Sicily.

Giorgio Locatelli, an Italian chef who has appeared on numerous television shows as well as running the Locanda Locatelli restaurant, said: "Throughout the years, I have seen chefs in many different kitchens refer to all types of cookery books, but Il Cucchiaio d'Argento is the only book that made it to mum's kitchen. Most Italians consider this book their bible on home cookery."

The tome owes its origins to Domus, the design and architectural magazine set up by the architect Gio Ponti in 1928. In its earlier years the magazine had a wider household brief than it has today.

During its early decades the magazine commissioned a group of cooking experts to travel Italy collecting hundreds of traditional recipes. They updated ingredients, quantities and methods to suit the tastes and customs at the time, while preserving the national memory of traditional foods.

In 1950 the recipes were published altogether - 2,000 of them - as Il Cucchiaio d'Argento. It has since sold more than 2 million copies.

The idea for the English translation came when Richard Schlagman, a publisher, and Emilia Terragni, editorial director of the British art and design publishers Phaidon, was meeting Domus magazine staff.

Asking whether they had produced any books, the Italians said: "The only book that Domus has ever published is Il Cucciaio d'Argento." Ms Terragni said: "I was convinced straight away that Phaidon should publish The Silver Spoon for the international market, but to prove my enthusiasm was not driven only by a patriotic pride, we asked a number of cookery specialists for their expert opinion on the book."

Despite the plethora of Italian cookery publications on the market, their response, she said, was overwhelmingly positive. So the publishing house, best known for its architecture, art and design portfolio, embarked on its first cookery book, which will be published next month at £24.95. This first translation is being published simultaneously in the UK, Australia and America.

The 1,246 pages include everything from the simplest carbonara sauce to delicacies such as devilled pig, and numerous offal options.

The monumental volume also has a selection of menus by famous Italian and Italian-influenced cooks. They include Locatelli, Aldo Zilli, author of Foolproof Italian Cookery, Ruth Rogers, co-author of the River Café Cook Book, and Arrigo Cipriani, son of the man who founded the Harry's Bar in Venice.