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Encyclopedia of Pasta (California Studies in Food and Culture) Hardcover – October 15, 2009


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Editorial Reviews

Review

“This wonderful resource is destined to become the definitive book on pasta. “ Starred Review
(Library Journal 2010-01-05)

“The world of pasta is bewilderingly huge, so we’re thrilled with this new, authoritative work, by one of Italy’s leading food scholars.”
(Saveur 2009-11-01)

“We needed this book. . . Answers all the questions about pasta. . . Ad many more you never thought to ask.”
(Gambero Rosso 2010-09-01)

From the Inside Flap

“This is an amazing and deeply valuable work of culinary scholarship—an anthropology of Italian pasta that is also a major contribution to Italian cultural history. Maureen Fant’s fine translation does complete justice to Oretta Zanini’s scrupulously detailed and lovingly presented compendium. I defy anyone to read this book and not want immediately to board a plane for Italy.”—Nancy Harmon Jenkins, author of Cucina del Sole and The Essential Mediterranean

"This handsome book will be the authority for settling bets about the history of pasta. Every ambitious cook will covet these authentic and exciting entries."—Paul Levy, co-author of The Official Foodie Handbook and Out to Lunch

“Zanini's singular achievement in this book has been to shine a light into every Italian kitchen where a different kind of pasta is made, entertaining us with pertinent historical anecdotes, instructing us with explicit details and techniques, and making us powerfully hungry."—Victor Hazan, author of Italian Wine
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Product Details

  • Series: California Studies in Food and Culture (Book 26)
  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (October 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520255224
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520255227
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #622,139 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Highly recommend this book if you love pasta and the history of it.
Scott Kenworthy
If you ever wanted to know the ingredients of different pastas, this is your book.
J. Vasilius
This is a fascinating book that must have taken years of research to produce.
Deborah V

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 40 people found the following review helpful By J. Vasilius on October 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover
During the year that Marta from Lombardy lived with me, I was mystified at her insistence that certain coffees could only be consumed at certain hours, and that Americans not only cooked pasta badly, but served the "wrong" sauce with every noodle. Who cares? I wish I had read this book before her visit. Marta was right! Pasta is both a science and an art! So much more than a cookbook, the Encyclopedia of Pasta, is a social history of Italy, Europe, class struggle, regional parochialism, agriculture, food, religion, trade routes, women, families, religion, the universe and everything. OK, I exaggerate, but only slightly. From well-known pastas such as macaroni, in many varieties, to the exotic pi fasacc, this is truly an encyclopedic work. Well written, with lively descriptions and a plethora of anecdotes, de Vita mixes scholarship with an intense love of her subject, be it people or pasta.

If you ever wanted to know the complex and rigid Italian rules for the mating or sauce and pasta,this is your book. If you wondered about the Arab contribution to noodle cuisine (ravioli, among others), this is your book. If you ever wanted to know the ingredients of different pastas, this is your book. If you are interested in unique and highly specific pasta making tools, this is your book. If you want to amaze your friends with your esoteric knowledge, this is your book. Or if you simply want to curl up with a fascinating compendium about your favorite food, this is your book. Reading it also made me feel very hungry.

And, in case you were wondering, the author reveals that there were records of pasta in Italy 500 years before Marco Polo returned from China.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Fenwick Farm on November 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is truly an Encylopedia of pasta. In that regard, it is well done and quite thorough. It is well researched and gives amazing history of each of the pastas. I use it as a history book. That said,it is lacking drawings for much of the pasta and that is unfortunate. The book would have been truly wonderful if it included photographs or drawings of each of the pastas. Without them, it makes some of the descriptions quite tedious, leaving too much to the imagination. Translations of more of the names of the pastas, would have also added much to the book since the names of the pastas, in Italian, are quite humerous: the mouse tails, the blind husband. It is not a cook book and that is a point that should be underscored: it is what it is, an Encyclopedia.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Deborah V VINE VOICE on October 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover
My son and daughter-in-law lived in Asia and they constantly amazed me with their dialogues on the various types of rice. A grain of rice isn't just a grain of rice! There are all sorts of variations in rice and in cooking rice.

Well, this book proves the same holds true for pasta. For the pasta lover, this book is an absolute delight. The role of pasta in social settings and in history is explored as well as explanations of hundreds of pastas and their origins.

Ms. Oretta Zanini De Vita not only explores over 300 pastas, but talks about how to make them, what sauce goes with what pasta and how to present the pastas. Entries are illustrated with ingredients and how the pasta is served along with a short history.

This is a fascinating book that must have taken years of research to produce. This is not a recipe book, but rather an exploration of pasta and a commentary on its history and how it fits into our current society.

If you like pasta, this is truly a fascinating look at how variations in the making of the dough produces sumptious dishes that have been the staple of cultures all over the world.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By lemonzest on December 12, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book after reading a review of it, and I'm so pleased - one of my hobbies is making pasta, and this book gives an incredibly detailed history of every kind of pasta imaginable. As someone of Italian heritage, I also found the book's cultural notes on when certain pastas were/are served in Italy, historical anecdotes and explanations, and other details to be fascinating. Overall, this is a very worthwhile addition to the library of anyone with an interest in Italy, food history, or pasta making in general.

The three very minor complaints I have are that the great illustrations of pasta shapes are not universal, which is a shame - it's hard to get a clear picture of what some styles look like from the description alone. Also, as someone with an interest in making pasta, for all of the homemade (as opposed to factory) styles, I would appreciate minor notations about recipe ratios so that I could try making some of them. I haven't read through the entire book yet, so perhaps I missed a note about this topic. Also, I agree with another reviewer who mentioned that it would be nice to get a translation of the pasta names for those of us who don't know Italian, as the few that I've managed to translate for myself tend to be entertainingly descriptive. These are so minor, however, that I wouldn't even consider them when recommending the book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a great book about the historical and culinary aspects of pasta. The names of different type of pasta are arranged in alphabetical order, from "abbotta pezziende" (not so common a pasta name/type) to "zumari". In between you will find information about rigatoni, fettuccine, farfalle, and many other. The different pasta shapes combined with the presence/absence of ridges on the outer surface allows each pasta to capture the right amount of sauce. Some names are related to the shapes of pasta (eg. farfalle = butterflies) while others derive from old fairy tails or popular stories. The book is very entertaining and instructive, well done! A good complement to the Encyclopedia is "Pasta, a story of a universal food" by Serventi and Sabban.
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