I don’t believe I’ve ever met a pasta I didn’t like. There are, however, many pasta shapes I’ve not had the pleasure of meeting—yet. In An A–Z of Pasta, Rome-based author Rachel Roddy introduces readers to 50 of them, some of which, like brichetti, are not often found beyond specific Italian regions. (As if I needed another reason to visit Italy someday.)
This is no mere collection of dishes, however; it is a specific window into Italian history and geography, thick with sense of place. Take fregula, little balls similar to couscous. “A tiny shape . . . particularly stout and . . . nutty,” they are native to Sardinia, where women have traditionally been tasked with making them (not a small job, despite the small shape). Roddy is a knowledgeable storyteller and low-key witty. Of fusilli, she writes, “One day I will watch an extruder forming fusilli while smoking a joint and listening to the Incredible String Band. As with any invention that has become commonplace, we take a pasta machine that can extrude perfect spirals for granted.”
Roddy’s lamb ragu with lots of herbs, “a Friday night dish,” sounds amazing, as do numerous other recipes included here. This book is essential for anyone passionate about Italian cooking.