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Cookbooks

Cookbook Review: The Glorious Pasta of Italy, Including This Fettuccine Recipe

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Mon, Jun 20, 2011 at 7:30 AM

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Sure, we probably don't need another pasta cookbook. But The Glorious Pasta of Italy by Domenica Marchetti is pretty hard to pass up -- and we have a lot of Italian cookbooks in our library.

Marchetti grew up in New Jersey on handmade ravioli (her mother is from Abruzzo). And so she spends ample time telling us how to deal with everyday pasta dilemmas like making a basic egg dough. She recommends learning how to make it by hand to understand the process, then embracing the Cuisinart (our kind of woman).

Thus, the recipes for other dough variations here are told in Cuisinart-friendly lingo, though they hardly have that quick-fix boring taste. They include a pumpkin pasta dough, black pepper-parsley-Parmesan pasta, and one with saffron threads (dress simply with butter and Parmesan, or go all-out and serve it with lamb ragu). Turn the page.

What follows is a chapter on "Pasta in Soup" (fluffy semolina dumpling soup, pasta and chickpea soup with rosemary and red onions), one on stuffed pastas (carrot and ricotta gnocchi with herb butter, tortelli with chard and ricotta), a chapter on classic dishes, and one with what Marchetti calls "Showstoppers."

With so many recipes based on homemade pastas, we have a feeling Marchetti's solution to our endless orecchiette problem would be simple: Use handmade pasta for that orecchiette with creamy broccoli sauce (p.107). Actually, Marchetti says she uses store-bought pasta on weekdays, which is oddly comforting to hear. And there are plenty of store-bought pasta recipes here, too.

The Glorious Pastas of Italy isn't necessarily a book that is taking us to new Italian culinary realms on every page, as so many of the recipes are based on classics that have been slightly revised, like that "summer ravioli with arugula pesto" (p. 174). But there is something compelling about seeing that classic cacao e pepe (Parmesan cheese and pepper) pasta sauce on these pages. Perhaps more so because they are sandwiched between just enough duck egg fettuccine with pickled ramps, poached chicken thighs and pesto (p. 241) to make us appreciate a simple bowl of spaghetti and meatballs (p. 226) -- or with all the cool June weather, even this creamy fettuccine recipe -- all the more this weekend.

Fettuccine with Sausage, Mascarpone, and Sottocenere al Tartufo

From: The Glorious Pastas of Italy

Note: From Marchetti: "Who says you can't have luxury on a Monday night? Sottocenere al tartufo, a semisoft cow's milk cheese flecked with shavings of black truffle, dresses up a classic cream sauce, infusing it with truffle aroma and flavor. If you are unable to find sottocenere, substitute Fontina Val d'Aosta and, if you like, a drop or two of truffle oil."

Makes: 4 servings

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 sweet Italian sausages, 8 ounces or 225 grams total weight

1/4 cup or 60 ml. dry white wine

1/4 cup or 60 ml. heavy or double cream

8 ounces or 225 g mascarpone cheese, at room temperature

Kosher or fine sea salt (optional)

Freshly ground black pepper

1 pound or 455 grams dried fettuccine

3 ounces or 85 grams sottocenere al tartufo cheese

1/2 cup or 55 grams freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and salt generously.

2. While the water is heating, put the butter in a large frying pan placed over medium heat. Remove the sausages from their casings and pick them apart over the frying pan, allowing the chunks of sausage to drop directly into the pan. Sauté, using a wooden spoon or silicone spatula to break up the large pieces of sausage, for 5 to 7 minutes, or until no trace of pink remains and the meat is cooked through. The sausage should still be moist and only very lightly browned.

3. Raise the heat to medium-high and pour in the wine. Let it bubble for about a minute, or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the cream and then the mascarpone. Continue to stir until the mascarpone is melted. Taste the sauce and add a little salt if necessary. This will depend on how salty the sausages are. Add a generous grind of pepper. Cover and keep the sauce over very low heat while you cook the fettuccine.

4. Add the pasta to the boiling water, stir to separate the noodles, and cook according to the manufacturer's instructions until not quite al dente; it should be slightly underdone. Drain the pasta in a colander set in the sink, reserving about 1 cup/240 ml of the cooking water.

5. Pour a little of the cooking water into the cream sauce to thin it out a bit, and then add the cooked pasta to the frying pan over low heat. Gently toss the pasta and sauce to combine thoroughly. Sprinkle the sottocenere al tartufo and half of the Parmigiano over the sauced pasta and toss again, making sure the cheeses melt into the sauce and are well incorporated and the pasta is al dente. Add a splash more water if necessary to thin out the sauce. Transfer the dressed pasta to warmed shallow individual bowls and sprinkle the remaining Parmigiano over the top. Serve immediately.

-- Find more by Jenn Garbee at twitter.com/eathistory and on www.eathistory.com.

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