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By Domenica Marchetti and France Ruffenach. At my house, we never have just a dish of pasta. It is always a nice dish of pasta, as in, Who wants a nice dish of spaghetti and meatballs?
Or, I feel like a nice dish of linguine with clams tonight. I picked up this turn of phrase from my Italian mother, who no doubt translated it from the Italian expression un bel piatto di pasta.
The fact is pasta is nice, in more ways than I can count. Italian cooks have known this for centuries and have provided us with a wealth of recipes for making noodles and combining them with an unbelievable variety of sauces. Even as countless other culinary fads have come and gone, our love for pasta continues unabated.
For one thing, pasta is economical. An average package costs about the same as an espresso in an upscale coffee bar.
Even the most expensive artisanal brands are usually priced at less than a round of espresso for four, and although these are not what I turn to for a weeknight family dinner, they are an excellent option for entertaining within a budget. But pasta is about much more than practicality. Along the way, I have met some wonderful cooks who have shared their knowledge and their most prized recipes, so that I might share them with you. The result is a book filled with an delicious mix of traditional and regional specialties, family favorites, and contemporary creations.
Indeed, despite the attempts of the low-carb contingent to banish it from the table, pasta has way too much going for it to disappear.
If you use the seasons as your guide, you are always within reach of an inspired sauce, especially if you think broadly. For example, a sauce may not be saucy at all. In winter, I like to toss pasta with rich sauces based on braised meats or hearty greens. For the pasta lover, making fresh noodles has its own special rewards. I get an almost ridiculous feeling of accomplishment when I look at a batch of Tordelli Lucchesi—fat pillows of meat-stuffed pasta—that I have just finished shaping.
I can follow my mood, too: I can hew to tradition with the classic Lasagne Verde alla Bolognese, with its delicate emerald green noodles and rich meat sauce; or I can be whimsical and turn out giant, cheese-filled Ravioloni Valle Scannese, as big as the plates they are served on.
My pasta is never perfect; my half-moon ravioli are always a little off-kilter, my tagliolini never cut perfectly straight, but to me, that is the beauty of making your own pasta. In the tradition of the best Italian home cooks, the recipes in The Glorious Pasta of Italy range from simple but still sublime dishes made with dried pasta to spectacular but still approachable dishes fashioned with homemade fresh pasta. In Italy, pasta historically has been—and generally continues to be—served as a first course, presented in judicious portions and not heavily sauced.
Elsewhere, generous portions enjoyed as a main course are more common. The recipes in the following pages accommodate either preference, though for reasons of practicality, the yields in this book are for main-course portions unless otherwise noted. The book is organized simply and logically.
The first chapter, Pasta Essentials, covers equipment and ingredients for making and serving pasta; selecting, cooking, and saucing store-bought dried pasta; making homemade pasta without making yourself crazy; and basic recipes, including homemade pasta doughs, vegetable and meat sauces, and broths, that are the building blocks for recipes throughout the book. A final bonus chapter, Sweet Pasta, or Pasta Dolce, offers a recipe for sweet pasta dough and three unique desserts that use the dough.
These provide helpful information on ingredients and substitutions and guidance for minimizing stress—and maximizing fun—so be sure to read them. I made a deliberate decision not to separate the recipes that call for packaged pasta from those that call for making your own. For one thing, I most emphatically did not want to send the message that recipes using homemade pasta belong in their own special in other words, difficult category. Making noodles from scratch is, for the most part, simple, as you will soon discover.
Also, in many of the recipes, dried pasta can easily be substituted for fresh, and vice versa. Likewise, you are free to make your own pappardelle for Pot Roast Pappardelle, rather than use dried. The only exceptions to my no-separation rule are the seven show-stoppers in the Showstoppers chapter. These are true labors of love—extraordinary one-of-a-kind dishes that I felt deserved a place of honor. A traditional specialty in one valley in the province of Teramo, it requires a certain technique of hand rolling and stretching to create long, fat loops of noodles.
Even if you were never to make this pasta, it is such a glorious recipe, such an expression of a particular time and a particular place that I had to share it. I view such recipes the same way I look at those wonderful armchair-travel stories in newspapers and magazines: I may never visit the Aleutian Islands, but I love learning about them.
The world of pasta is broad. It is also long, short, flat, wide, round, fat, skinny, curly, rough, silky, fluted, and ruffled. Even though I grew up making and eating pasta, working on this book has given me a whole new form of creative expression in the kitchen. I hope that it will do the same for you. To borrow a phrase from the late child-care expert Dr. Benjamin Spock—albeit out of context—you know more than you think you know. Even if you have never rolled out a strip of pasta dough, you have almost certainly boiled noodles or enjoyed a dish of pasta at a favorite restaurant.
Chances are you know how a good dish of pasta should taste. This chapter will introduce you to the essentials of making pasta, whether you are mixing and rolling out fresh noodles or cooking and dressing dried store-bought pasta. You will find a list of necessary and useful equipment and ingredients, information and tips on choosing store-bought pasta and pairing various shapes with sauces, instructions for making and cooking fresh pasta, and basic recipes for a variety of pasta doughs, sauces, and broths that are the foundation for many of the recipes in the book.
Read through this chapter before you begin tackling the recipes, and you will go a long way toward making your venture into the pasta kitchen successful from the start. You do not need a lot of fancy equipment to make a great dish of pasta. Here are some tools—most of which you probably already own—that I find useful for making fresh pasta and for cooking and serving fresh and dried pasta.
I like to be able to bring baked pasta dishes straight from the oven to the table, so I have decorative ovenproof square, oval, and rectangular ceramic baking dishes in a variety of sizes.
Although an immersion blender is handy and means less cleanup work, a stand blender works fine for all of the recipes in this book. I use round cookie cutters in various sizes for cutting out pasta dough for ravioli and other stuffed shapes and for making Sweet Pasta Puffs.
Also known as a pastry scraper or bench scraper, this tool is handy for scraping up bits of pasta dough from the work surface. A food mill is the best way to remove seeds from and puree canned tomatoes simultaneously.
I find a food processor to be essential for numerous tasks, including mixing pasta dough, making filling for meat ravioli and stuffed shells, making various types of pesto, and making the honey-and-nut fillings for sweet dessert ravioli.
My processor has a standard-size bowl, so when I double a pasta dough recipe, I make each batch individually to avoid overfilling the work bowl. I use a large wooden or metal serving fork or a deep oval, pronged pasta fork for stirring, tossing, and serving long cuts of pasta. The large holes of a box grater are ideal for shredding hard cheeses, such as pecorino romano; grating tomatoes for pulp; and making pasta grattata. I use a Microplane grater-zester with fine rasps for finely grating hard cheeses, such as Parmigiano-Reggiano, and for zesting lemons and other citrus fruits.
I almost always use a hand-crank pasta machine for rolling out pasta dough. It makes quick and efficient work of the task. I prefer a manual machine, but electric versions are available. They have the advantage of leaving both hands free to handle the dough strips and the noodles as they are cut. Some brands of stand mixer, including KitchenAid and Cuisinart, sell a pasta attachment.
I have a two-wheel pastry cutter, with one straight-edged wheel and one fluted wheel for cutting and shaping strips of pasta dough. This rectangular aluminum tray allows you to make uniformly sized ravioli. Most of the time I cut my ravioli by hand, but I occasionally use the press.
I use it rarely, though, as I find the pasta machine does an excellent job without putting any stress on my already-stressed wrists. Also known as a spider, this broad, shallow wire-mesh scoop is handy for removing ravioli, gnocchi, and other delicate types of pasta from their cooking water.
A large slotted spoon can be used for the same purpose. A pair of stainless-steel tongs with concave pronged tips is ideal for turning pieces of meat as they brown. Following is an alphabetical list of special ingredients called for in the recipes in this book. If an ingredient is used in only one recipe, I have sometimes included information on it in that recipe, rather than here.
For recipes that call for anchovies, I use Rizzoli brand alici in salsa piccante see Sources. The small tins are packed with rolled anchovy fillets marinated in a mildly spicy olive oil sauce flavored with tuna. They are expensive but worth the occasional splurge. In their absence, use the best-quality imported Italian or Spanish anchovy fillets in olive oil you can find.
Many of the recipes in this book call for more than one type of cheese. A lot of the cheeses are readily available in well-stocked supermarkets or in cheese shops. Here are brief descriptions of the cheeses used in this book:.
Asiago fresco is a semihard cheese made from whole milk that is suitable for slicing and melting; aged Asiago, made from skimmed milk, has a more pronounced flavor and is a good grating or shredding cheese.
Be sure to look for Asiago DOP, which denotes that the cheese is produced in a specific area, using milk collected in that same area. The small wheels are bathed in sea salt and aged on wood for thirty days. Also known as caciotta, the cheese is considered a good everyday table cheese, but is also used frequently in cooking because it melts well.
Substitute Manchego if you are unable to find it. It is somewhat milder in flavor than Gorgonzola, which makes it the perfect cheese to dress delicate homemade pasta. If you are unable to find Cambozola, substitute Gorgonzola dolce. It has a somewhat sharp aroma and a nutty, slightly mushroomy flavor. Made in Italy and France, fontal, a less assertive cheese that melts beautifully, is a good alternative.
Gorgonzola dolce is creamy and soft. Gorgonzola naturale, also known as mountain Gorgonzola or Gorgonzola piccante, is aged longer and has a sharper flavor and a more crumbly texture.
The cheese can be made from the milk of cows or water buffalo. Fresh mozzarella is a good cheese for eating out of hand or for cutting into small dice to fill ravioli or scatter between lasagne layers.
Partially dried, aged mozzarella is known in Italy as scamorza and is sold both smoked and unsmoked. Good scamorza is hard to find outside of Italy.
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The Glorious Pasta of Italy
Jun 1, Giveaways 25 comments. I met Domenica Marchetti when I started writing about food. I think it was about six or so years ago and we were seated together at the Symposium of Food Writers at the Greenbrier. She was already a very accomplished journalist and I learned a lot by talking with her. Today, she has a proven track record and several award-winning and well-recognized books under her belt. And she continues her journey as a terrific writer with a weekly column for the Washington Post Food blog and another one for the newspaper.
The Glorious Pasta of Italy: Domenica Marchetti
By Domenica Marchetti and France Ruffenach. At my house, we never have just a dish of pasta. It is always a nice dish of pasta, as in, Who wants a nice dish of spaghetti and meatballs? Or, I feel like a nice dish of linguine with clams tonight. I picked up this turn of phrase from my Italian mother, who no doubt translated it from the Italian expression un bel piatto di pasta. The fact is pasta is nice, in more ways than I can count.
I collect cookbooks, and I have a lot of them. Most of my cookbooks are related to Italian cuisine, although I do include other topics from time to time. I read my cookbooks like other folks read fiction novels, and I am usually browsing through one cookbook or another every day looking for inspiration. Because my bookshelves are now getting rather full, I am trying to be much more selective when I purchase a new cookbook but when I saw a new cookbook called The Glorious Pasta of Italy written by Domenica Marchetti was being released, I just had to order it.