"Life is a combination of Magic and Pasta" wrote Frederico Fellini. No words could be more true. The mysticism that surrounds pasta's origins adds to its appeal as much as the sauces that adorn it. Marco Polo has been linked to introducing the noodle bowl to Italy. Yet, Italy will tell you Palermo was its rightful birthplace. While arguing the origins of pasta is as meaningful as arguing the number of shapes of pasta, what is important is that it does bring a sprinkling of magic to the table with each and every dish.
Pamela Sheldon Johns returns to print in Pasta!, her latest confabulation on trekking through Italy with your mouth wide open. I spoke of her Parmigiano and Pizza Napoletana with a bit of "umph". I would like to continue my zeal for her prescriptions of Italian remedies for your pallet. Her minimalist approach to recipes speaks volumes. Clear, concise and not much hoopla make for a useful recipe collection. Her embellishments with history, travel and lure makes the book a tome well suited to be on your shelf. Pasta! is rich in the history that defines the wonderful food that is Italy.
Johns' history lesson is schooling not only on who did what, but on the art that is pasta making. The view of making orecchiette is but one of the many trips on which Johns' takes us along. The methodology of making the pasta would have been plenty, but she is sure to divulge all the little intricacies of Nataliza Rosato's specialty. So much so, you might ask yourself if Nataliza would be comfortable with us knowing so much about her time-tested technique.
Of course no respectable pasta collection would be complete without explaining the composition of pasta, homemade technique and those shapes! A lexicon of pasta shapes by region, no less, is up front. A frank explanation of why you should be making your fresh pasta at home instills guilt over buying grocery store stuff. And the chemistry of pasta flour is elucidated for the pasta connoisseur, a la David Rosengarten.
I like Pamela Sheldon Johns' works. I must, this is the third that I have told you to buy. Pasta! makes it easy to be adventurous with some boiling water and some flour. She weaves so many vignettes of times past, story-telling and style that you forget you are reading a cook book. More of a cooking book for cooks who love to cook. Did I mention the recipes?