by John Pecoraro, Assistant Director
Nothing says Italy like pasta. Some historians believe that Marco Polo introduced noodles to Italy after his journeys to China. There is evidence, however, that the Romans used durum wheat to make a pasta-like noodle called “lagane.” By the 1300’s, dried pasta had gained popularity for its nutrition and long shelf life, but it wasn’t until the nineteenth century that pasta met the tomato. The rest, as they say, is history.
October 25 was World Pasta Day, but it’s not too late to cook up a plate of this versatile food. Check out one of the many pasta cookbooks available at Manhattan Public Library.
The perfect shape plus the perfect sauce equals “The Geometry of Pasta,” by Caz Hildebrand and Jacob Kenedy. This book features 100 recipes arranged by the name and shape of the pasta, from agnolotti to ziti. In between, you’ll find recipes for cappelletti (little hats), orecchiette (little ears), torchio (torch-shaped), and many more.
In “Everyday Pasta,” bestselling author and cooking show host, Giada de Laurentiis, presents her favorite pasta recipes for every occasion. Giada makes the most of the many varieties of pasta with recipes for those looking for a lighter dish, as well as quick and easy fixes for the weeknight rush. She also features pastas for special occasions. Most of the pasta dishes included are all-in-one meals, but Giada also supplies recipes for her favorite appetizers, side dishes, and salads.
Want to cook pasta like they cook it in Italy? Look no further than “Sauces & Shapes: Pasta the Italian Way,” by Oretta Zanini de Vita and Maureen B. Fant. This book continues and complements Zanini de Vita’s “Encyclopedia of Pasta.” The authors first introduce readers to ingredients and equipment before delving into recipes for both novice and experienced cooks.
Rushed for time? Check out Giuliano Hazan’s “Thirty Minute Pasta,” for 100 quick and easy recipes. Aspiring cooks can make most of the recipes featured in under 30 minutes, with fewer than 10 ingredients. This book includes recipes for pasta soups, vegetarian dishes, as well as meat and seafood sauces. It also provides hints on stocking your pasta pantry, and the five simple rules for perfectly cooked pasta.
Supermarket shelves are stocked with a dizzying selection of pastas to choose from, but for some it’s not pasta unless it’s homemade. “Making Artisan Pasta,” by Aliza Green, introduces the adventurous cook to the world of handmade linguine, ravioli, lasagna, and other styles of pasta from Italy. Green also includes instructions on making dozens of other pastas from around the world.
If I had to choose one variety of pasta over all others, it would have to be lasagna. “The New Lasagna Cookbook,” by Maria Bruscino Sanchez offers a crowd-pleasing collection of lasagna dishes from around the world. Tips on ingredients and equipment, and easy-to-follow recipes make this book perfect for beginning lasagna cooks, while the wide variety of classic and new recipes will challenge the experienced.
What’s pasta without the sauce? To avoid the embarrassment of naked pasta, read Pamela Johns’s “50 Great Pasta Sauces.” The rich photographs of pasta smothered or gently caressed by beautiful sauces will make your mouth water. Johns divides her sauce recipes by vegetable (classic tomato), dairy (browned butter & sage), meat (Bolognese), and seafood (pepper & anchovy).
Macaroni and cheese is the most popular pasta dish in America. It would be a shame to only equate mac and cheese with the packaged varieties from the supermarket. In “Mac & Cheese,” Ellen Brown offers 80 classic and creative variations of the ultimate comfort food. Mascarpone lobster mac and cheese, anyone?
Finally, there are some among us who love the pasta, but don’t love the gluten. “Gluten-free Pasta,” by Robin Asbell presents more than 100 gluten-free and low and no-carb pasta recipes. The recipes fall into three categories: homemade pastas, store-bought brands, and veggie pastas. Store brands include white and brown rice, buckwheat, quinoa, potato, and corn pastas. Veggie alternatives include pastas made from spaghetti squash, sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots, zucchini, collards, and cabbage.
You can call it pasta, you can call it macaroni, or you can call it noodles, but whatever you call it, the result is usually delicious. Enjoy a dish today.