Despite the fact that the low-carb craze has knocked pasta off its throne as the automatic go-to meal, with the right sauces and add-ons even the carbohydrate-phobic can incorporate it into their meals. Not to mention that it can be delicious.
That is, if it's prepared skillfully, and that's where veteran chef/food writer (and Chronicle staff writer) Janet Fletcher comes in.
Her latest book, "Four Seasons Pasta: a Year of Inspired Recipes in the Italian Tradition" (Chronicle Books, 132 pages, soft-cover, $19.95) is like a crash course in pasta cooking. Fletcher begins with how to choose dry pasta and goes on to cooking, saucing, serving and how to estimate portion size. She explains which shapes work best with which sauce; how to make your own pasta; what equipment is essential or convenient in the kitchen; and how to select auxiliary ingredients, from anchovies to tomatoes and breadcrumbs (which thrifty Italian cooks use instead of more costly cheese in some dishes).
That's all before you delve into the more than 50 southern Italian recipes, many gleaned from chefs and home cooks during frequent trips to Italy.
This is not a vegetarian book, with pancetta or sausages of various kinds used extensively. But meats play second fiddle to vegetables, some as familiar as peas, pumpkin and zucchini, others tempting you to try spring's crop of fava beans and asparagus or wintry kale or borlotti beans.
A few of the recipes such as a Sicilian pasta with cauliflower, pine nuts, currants and saffron are more labor intensive than your standard spaghetti with marinara sauce, but most don't take much time at all. They will definitely change pasta from a standby to a star in your kitchen. -San Francisco Chronicle