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December 1998 Issue
Four Selections
by Ronda L. Halpin
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Pasta Classica

About the Author

    Julia Della Croce is a well-known cookbook author, journalist, lecturer, and teacher. Her knowledge of Italian cooking began at her mother's knee and continued throughout her numerous stays in Italy. She has appeared in television and radio programs and has written for many newspapers and magazines in addition to her several published cookbooks.

About the Cookbook

    Pasta Classica is one of those rare cookbooks that strives to do much more than offer its readers wonderful recipes. Of course, it does that too, but what sets this book apart is what else you take away from it. Imagine taking one of those wonderful Italian history books and a great Italian cookbook and combining them. The result would look very much like Pasta Classica. By the time you finish reading this cookbook (yes, a cookbook that you can actually read), you not only want to start making your own pasta and fresh sauces, you actually understand their origins and why Italians take their pasta so seriously. After all, in Italy, there are over three hundred names for one hundred pasta shapes. Now that's devotion!

    Pasta Classica offers 125 authentic Italian recipes for pasta and sauces. If you have the urge to brush up on your Italian, all of the recipe names are given in both Italian and English and many recipes present brief summaries of techniques, words, and ingredients that may seem unusual to the novice Italian cook. In addition to directions on how to make fresh pasta "from scratch", there are recipes that call for dried pasta and others that present sauces that can be mixed with either variety.

    The recipes serve between two and six people, with most recipes serving four. I found that most recipes are easily halved or doubled. While there are few suggested variations, most seasoned cooks will find that variations seem to suggest themselves as you explore the ingredient lists. However, I would suggest that you stick to the lists when making fresh pasta unless you are experienced with pasta-making.

    The recipes presented in the book are sure to please, but unless you are interested in discovering more about the art and history of Italian cooking, you might do better to find a different book. After all, the recipes first begin on page 63! Prior to that, the reader is taken on a culinary journey through time and space. Julia recalls fond memories of her mother's cozy Italian kitchen and the lessons she's carried with her from it. She also writes about the in's and out's of cooking pasta properly -- a technique that any true Italian will tell you is almost important as breathing!

    To give you some ideas about the recipes included in Pasta Classica, here is a portion of the Table of Contents and some examples of the recipes you'll find in it:

    1. Pasta Basics (like How to Cook It Right)
    2. Making Fresh Pasta (like Chocolate Pasta)
    3. Basic Sauces (like "Long-simmered" Beef Sauce)
    4. Pasta Soups (like Pasta and Bean Soup)
    5. Gnocchi and Stuffed Pasta (like Tortellini)
    6. Fresh Noodles (like Spinach Trenette with Creamy Tomato-Sausage Sauce)
    7. Dried Pasta (like Spaghetti with Raw Tomatoes and Avocado)
    8. Festive and Baked Specialties (like Timpano of Eggplant and Macaroni)
    9. Regional Specialties (like Ziti with Rapini)
    If the examples above have you wondering what else is offered, Pasta Classica will probably be a welcome addition to your cookbook collection. It is one of those rare jewels that will do more than sit next to your stove. You could actually curl up with it by the fire and learn something about pasta and the Italians. Happy reading!

Where to Buy

    If you are interested in purchasing Pasta Classica by Julia Della Croce, you are likely to find it among the international cookbooks at any large bookstore, such as Barnes and Nobel or Borders. You can also consult one of the online booksellers made available at the end of this article. The publisher's price of the cookbook is $19.95.
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