Grub Street is a favourite cookbook publisher. They have kept the spirits of both Jane Grigson and Elisabeth David alive with new editions of their classic books. Yes, those are worthy tomes and any serious cookbook collector will both want and need them. But I have noticed that changes have been wrought at Grub Street. The classics are still there but in addition there are some stunning and contemporary books from authors beyond these shores. The Art of Pasta is one example!
The Art of Pasta is noteworthy. You might say it has shelf appeal but it equally has hand appeal. Its parchment-like dust jacket has that quality feel that is totally lacking in any eBook and rare in most regular paper-based books. The image of a pasta machine in watercolour is beautiful and inspired, and leads the reader to expect striking pages within that tactile cover.
Pasta is one of those pleasures that we can afford even when times are tough. It can be a comforting and rustic dish, hearty and sustaining or sophisticated. Even dinner-party fare does not have to cost a fortune. Consider pasta dressed with some chopped chilli and a drizzle of chilli oil. Very smart, contemporary, economic, prepared in minutes and good enough to impress friends.
Authors Lucio Galletto and David Dale give plenty of advice on making pasta from scratch. A machine is necessary for some forms but others can be made with just your hands and a wooden rolling pin. The advantage of making pasta yourself is that you can flavour the dough, and those flavours will likely add colour, too. If you want to make filled pasta then make your own. In short the real fresh dough is easy to prepare and will widen your repertoire, the ingredients are cheap and readily available, and your kids will be able to ‘help’.
OK, so pasta making from scratch is simple but labour intensive. One could always do what most Italians do …buy dry pasta. It comes in sheets, shapes and swirls designed to carry sauces. A unique dressing that I have not seen in any other book is that of Orange Pesto and Eggplant (aubergine). The pasta partnered here is linguine and that is a good standard shape that can be used when no pasta shape is mentioned in a recipe. Think flat spaghetti.
Lasagne is a substantial and delicious family meal but although rustic it can make a smart dish for a dinner party. Make this lasagne from either home-made pasta sheets (recipe supplied) or dried, following directions on the pack. It’s another one of those cost-effective family favourites that can be prepared in advance and constructed just before guests arrive.
Fresh home-made ravioli is a revelation. If you can make sheets of fresh pasta then you should try this recipe for Beef and Pork Ravioli. The filling is a mix of meats which gives a consistency and flavour of sausage. The suggestion is for minced beef with minced pork or veal but one can vary the ratios. There is also minced beef in the sauce, making this a very satisfying dish.
The Art of Pasta has charming sketches and typefaces for titles, and photography that is almost edible. It truly is gift quality but who would want to give it away? Not me. It’s on my list of best books of 2012.
The Art of Pasta
Authors: Lucio Galletto and David Dale
Published by: Grub Street
Price: £ 25.00
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018