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Sauces & Shapes: Pasta the Italian Way

Sauces & Shapes: Pasta the Italian Way

by Oretta Zanini De Vita

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Winner of the 2014 International Association of Culinary Association (IACP) Award

The indispensable cookbook for genuine Italian sauces and the traditional pasta shapes that go with them.

Pasta is so universally popular in the United States that it can justifiably be called an American food. This book makes the case for keeping it Italian with


Winner of the 2014 International Association of Culinary Association (IACP) Award

The indispensable cookbook for genuine Italian sauces and the traditional pasta shapes that go with them.

Pasta is so universally popular in the United States that it can justifiably be called an American food. This book makes the case for keeping it Italian with recipes for sauces and soups as cooked in Italian homes today. There are authentic versions of such favorites as carbonara, bolognese, marinara, and Alfredo, as well as plenty of unusual but no less traditional sauces, based on roasts, ribs, rabbit, clams, eggplant, arugula, and mushrooms, to name but a few.

Anyone who cooks or eats pasta needs this book. The straightforward recipes are easy enough for the inexperienced, but even professional chefs will grasp the elegance of their simplicity.

Cooking pasta the Italian way means:

  • Keep your eye on the pot, not the clock.
  • Respect tradition, but don’t be a slave to it.
  • Choose a compatible pasta shape for your sauce or soup, but remember they aren’t matched by computer. (And that angel hair goes with broth, not sauce.)
  • Use the best ingredients you can find—and you can find plenty on the Internet.
  • Resist the urge to embellish, add, or substitute. But minor variations usually enhance a dish.
  • How much salt? Don’t ask, taste!

Serving and eating pasta the Italian way means:

  • Use a spoon for soup, not for twirling spaghetti.
  • Learn to twirl; never cut.
  • Never add too much cheese, and often add none at all.
  • Toss the cheese and pasta before adding the sauce.
  • Warm the dishes.Serve pasta alone. The salad comes after.
  • To be perfectly proper, use a plate, not a bowl.

The authors are reluctant to compromise because they know how good well-made pasta can be. But they keep their sense of humor and are sympathetic to all well-intentioned readers.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 06/17/2013
Picking up where the Encyclopedia of Pasta (2009) left off, this manifesto on Italian noodles is meant to provide recipes for home cooks preparing dishes in modern kitchens. While the previous work focused on cataloguing and describing Italian pasta, this book is meant to help those out outside of Italy cook like Italians. With sections on every step of making pasta dishes—e.g., the types of wheat employed, the various forms and how to create them, how to cook the noodles properly, when and how to add sauce, which ingredients to have in the pantry, and which equipment is necessary to get the best results—every aspect of making one of the world’s favorite comfort foods is covered. Of course, no noodle would be complete without the right condimento (anything that goes on a noodle), and this cookbook covers those in great detail as well. From “last-minute sauces,” made primarily with ingredients one has lying around, to fresh vegetable, herb, and mushroom sauces, selected based on which ingredients are in season; fish and seafood sauces; and meat sauces, you can go months without ever repeating a dish. The book also contains helpful hints, like which sauces taste better when prepared a day before serving and which wines pair well with each dish. (Oct.)
Mario Batali
“There are no better experts on the ideology of pasta—the union of a noodle and its proper condiment—than Oretta and Maureen. Sauces & Shapes contains a smart balance of history, tradition, and love. The recipes are easy enough to prepare at home but not yet ubiquitous in American kitchens. It’s a work I look forward to exploring.”
Lynne Rossetto Kasper
“Revelation lies between these covers. With everything we Americans have done with, and to, pasta and sauce, there’s a sublime goodness and rightness in the thousands of ways Italy has paired the two for a very long time. Each dish evolved from individual communities; each of those groups’ culinary instincts was shaped by different experiences. Oretta and Maureen capture that innate rightness and those sensibilities in every recipe. Taste these dishes and feel how they were meant to pair up. Their goodness is timeless. This book is as much a fascinating lesson in Italian character as it is generous with dishes rarely tasted beyond their home kitchens.”
Amanda Hesser
Sauces & Shapes is the perfect, curated Italian cookbook. You’ll learn a handful of delicious sauces made with canned tuna, a pork ragù with a sly and secret ingredient (horseradish), and the techniques for cutting and shaping dozens of pastas. If you like Italian cooking, Sauces & Shapes will become a timeless, cherished companion.”
Danny Meyer
Sauces & Shapes could well be the book that retires all other pasta books. So many of these soul-satisfying recipes are familiar from visits to Italy—and here they all are, in their most authentic, authoritative, and accessible form. The table of contents alone reads like the most tantalizing trattoria menu from which you just can’t decide which dish to order.”
Mark Ladner
“Once again I've been schooled by Oretta Zanini De Vita. And without the help of Maureen B. Fant this information would still be lost on me…Together they are the ultimate crusaders for Italian authenticity protection. You go girls!”
Mitchell Davis
“Zanini De Vita and Fant’s Sauces & Shapes accomplishes the impressive feat of presenting a thoroughly Italian perspective on pasta in a package that all American cooks can use and understand. Packed with information and advice, their recipes for classic dishes are definitive.”

Product Details

Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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Barnes & Noble
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Meet the Author

Oretta Zanini De Vita was born in Bologna, where she learned the art of pasta making as a child in a local convent school. A respected Italian culinary historian, she has written more than forty books on Italian food and its traditions, including the James Beard Award–winning Encyclopedia of Pasta (2010) and Popes, Peasants, and Shepherds: Recipes and Lore from Rome and Lazio (2013), both translated by Maureen B. Fant. She lives in Rome.
Maureen B. Fant, a native of New York, is a writer and translator who came to live in Rome in 1979 believing that her future lay in classical archaeology. She now writes mostly about Italian food. She is the coauthor of Women’s Life in Greece and Rome and Dictionary of Italian Cuisine, among others. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, Gourmet, and other periodicals, and she lectures on the food of Rome and ancient Rome.

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