From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Pasta's very simplicity can sometimes trip up cookbook authors. After all, how many recipes for spaghetti with tomato sauce does one need? Mother and daughter Wanda and Giovanna Tornabene easily skirt this issue with inventive dishes such as Tagliolini with Green Apple Pesto and Speck, and Ditaloni with Eggplant Balls, Potato, and Pancetta. To coauthor Carreño's credit, the voices of these two women, who run a restaurant in a 13th-century Sicilian abbey, remain genuine and convincing throughout. They demonstrate that cuisine can be inventive without involving backbreaking labor: in a recipe for Bucatini with Dried Figs, for example, they explain that they purchase dried figs rather than drying their own, "a boring and tedious task." In a charming sidebar, they describe the pasta they prepare for their dogs and cats twice a day. There's a distinct Sicilian flavor throughout, which means less of an emphasis on handmade egg pasta (Papa's Ricotta Ravioli with Simple Butter Sauce is one exception) and an homage to the classic Lampedusa novel The Leopard in the form of a timballo that mimics one served in a prince's home in the novel, as well as a version of Sicily's Famous Spaghetti with Eggplant and Ricotta Salata. Recipes are clearly written and divided into types, such as rich pasta, one-dish pasta, soup with pasta, etc. The Tornabenes'La Cucina Siciliana di Gangivecchio (Knopf, 1996) and Sicilian Home Cooking (Knopf, 2001) were James Beard Award winners; this new addition looks like another potential champion. (Sept.)
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Now that the low-carb diet craze is winding down, pasta's perennial popularity places it back on both home and restaurant tables. Part of pasta's charm is its utter adaptability. It can be eaten hot, cold, baked, in soup, or simply sauced. The great diversity of pasta shapes adds visual variety to these diverse cooking methods. The hundred variations given here by celebrated Sicilian cooks seem barely to touch the surface. The Tornabenes focus on both traditional and contemporary Sicilian ways of dealing with pasta. They serve spaghetti with eggplant chunks and ricotta salata in imitation of Mount Etna's snowy volcanic peaks. They top tagliolini with intriguing green apple pesto. Another variation uses five different nut meats to create a pesto ideal for short pasta. Even potatoes figure in these pastas, one dish combining them with sausage, another using them in ravioli stuffing. A regal dish combines lobster with sparkling Italian wine to sauce orecchiette. Cooks everywhere will find inspiring ideas here to feed both families and guests. Mark Knoblauch
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