Pasta is a food that is loved almost universally. It’s a neutral carrier of flavours and textures. It’s a comfort food that can be quickly prepared using commercial dry pasta, or it can be elevated to a memorable classic by investing the time and effort into making your own rich and delicious pasta.
Carla Bardi is the author of this colourful tome and she is well placed to do justice to the subject. She has penned 30 or so books on various aspects of Italian cooking, and now lives in Italy and owns a vineyard. She offers recipes here for making your own pasta using a pasta machine and also by hand-cutting. It is, however, perfectly acceptable to use a good brand of store-bought fresh pasta or even the dried varieties …just like most Italians do.
This book is as much about the sauce as the pasta. Even the best freshly-rolled spaghetti can be ruined by a lack-lustre sauce. Carla provides the reader with more than 140 recipes covering both classic favourites and contemporary and healthy dishes. Truly something for almost every taste, with some sauces that are appropriate for short pasta and others for long. Self-respecting Italians would rarely consider making a baked dish using linguine, for example.
There are some stunning dishes here that will be gracing your dinner table in less than a quarter of an hour. Spaghetti with Tuna and Capers: a simple preparation with few ingredients but plenty of punchy flavour from not only the tangy capers but some dried red pepper flakes. That’s an addition that will surprise many but it’s a common spice in Italy. Another recipe that will appeal to those with a taste for robust flavours will be Spaghetti with Garlic, Chilli and Olive Oil. Rustic, quick and sure to be a favourite.
The star of the dish
If a high-end but fast meal is what’s needed then consider Linguine with Crab and Lemon. Those chillies are present again along with some dry white wine. Don’t stint on the crab, though – this should be the star of the dish. For sheer luxury, Seafood Spaghetti en Papillote is high on the list for theatre. Not a cheap meal but memorable and ready in less than an hour.
My pick of the book is Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni with tomato sauce. It’s a baked dish that will be a family favourite. Easy to make, and again with few ingredients, ready in 40 minutes and it only needs a salad and a glass of red (only for the adults, and drink with moderation) to make a mid-week dinner that will be more economic and just as Italian as a take-away pizza.
Pasta by Carla Bardi is an attractive book with full-colour photographs for each recipe. It’s the style of food that can be adapted to present a posh meal for friends, but it also encompasses those dishes that will be loved by the younger members of the family. It’s a book that will be appreciated by the accomplished home cook as well as those who are taking their first steps towards the kitchen. Amazing value for money.
Cookbook review: Pasta
Author: Carla Bardi
Published by: Apple Press
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018