From Publishers Weekly
An award-winning food writer for the San Francisco Chronicle pairs pasta with seasonal vegetables in a succinct collection of recipes that should become a family standby. Focusing on fava beans in the spring, eggplant in the summer, mushrooms in the autumn and hearty greens in the winter, Fletcher (Pasta Harvest, etc.) combines time-saving techniques with solid advice about what makes good food good: fresh ingredients, prepared with care. The introduction quickly covers the basics of keeping a pantry stocked, then moves on to a comprehensive discussion of pasta itself. Inferior quality pasta is cut with Teflon dies rather than bronze ones, Fletcher explains; thats why sauce slides off cheap noodles. The best part of the book, however, is the range of its recipes. A few, like the autumn Pumpkin Ravioli with Fried Sage, take several hours to prepare and produce party-quality results. Others, like the spring Spaghetti with Asparagus, Fried Eggs, Black Pepper and Pecorino, can be made in about the time it takes to boil a pot of water. The winter Penne with Mustard Greens, Ricotta and Pecorino uses the same water to blanch the greens, boil the noodles and make a cream sauce: the results are homey and tasty. Some vegetables available in the United States have been substituted for Italian specialties: autumn Corkscrew Pasta with Brussels Sprouts, Sausage, Tomatoes and Cream is hardly traditional but fits the Italian philosophy of using fresh local ingredients. Victoria Pearsons photography rounds out the collection, focusing on the finished pasta in each photo, without extraneous garnishes. This is a cookbook that is truly helpful: simple fast recipes that expand a home cooks repertoire of consistently delicious meals.
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A year of pasta
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
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