Sunday, May 19, 2013

Book Review: The Glorious Pasta of Italy

 

We have a tenant staying with us in our home this year. He knows I love to cook and so he procured a copy of Domenica Marchetti’s The Glorious Pasta of Italy for me as a Christmas present at the close of last year. I have very high standards when it comes to Italian cookbooks, having long ago fallen head over heels for the legendary work of Marcella Hazan and her Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking which sets the standard for Italian cookery. So while I accepted Marchetti’s book gracefully, I  remained skeptical.

Thumbing through the book it’s obvious that it’s well planned. The chapters are thoughtfully arranged, with the first devoted to the basics of pasta enjoyment – the necessary equipment, a encyclopedic listing of pasta types, common pasta dough recipes, and the most essential of sauces such as fresh tomato. Subsequent chapters address pasta soups, pasta with sauce, stuffed pastas, baked pastas, quick pasta entrees, classic pasta recipes, over the top pasta “showstoppers”, and pasta based desserts. Marchetti’s book doesn’t seek to replace Hazan’s masterpiece so much as to expand upon it, focusing exclusively on pasta and incorporating modern techniques and witty commentary.

For my first foray into cooking from The Glorious Pasta of Italy I set about making Fettuccine in Bianco with White Asparagus, Asiago, and Cream. I’m really quite adverse to Asiago cheese so I substituted a delicious Italian aged cheese I picked up at the San Francisco Farmer’s Market recently, and I had trouble getting my hands on white asparagus and so substituted green, but otherwise made the dish as the recipe dictated. It was heavenly! Just heavenly! My husband and our tenant (his rent covers room and board, lucky fellow) spent the entirety of dinner that evening clinking their forks happily against their pasta bowls as they fed themselves, letting their free flowing grunts, mmms, and other expressions of ecstasy speak to their appreciation.

Next up was a pasta incorporating black pepper, parsley, and Parmigiano tossed with a traditional fresh Roma tomato sauce (Laura’s Black Pepper and Parsley ’Trnselle with Fresh Tomato Sauce). The sauce was so easy, especially since I own a handy food mill. I started with fresh tomatoes that were warmed and then run through the food mill to shed their skin and seeds and then cooked the resultant juice down to a rich, thick, and flavorful sauce with just the additions of garlic, olive oil, a dash of salt and fresh basil. No oregano or bay leaves or sugar was needed here! The fresh tomatoes were the stars of the evening and it was delicious. While everyone enjoyed the pasta, this time it was me who keep making the happy pleasure sounds. At least twice I exclaimed, “I am a kitchen goddess!”, and my guests happily agreed.

There are dozens and dozens more recipes to explore in Marchetti’s book and I can’t wait to try them all. I’m planning to make the Orecchiette with Creamy Broccoli Sauce next. Woe to the low carb dieters out there- this cookbook is sure to make them regret their carb free lifestyle.

As is obvious from my glowing praise, I think this cookbook is a winner. The only improvement I might suggest for the next edition is even more photography- one picture for every recipe is always appreciated.

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