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Pasta Improvvisata: How to Improvise in Classic Italian Style Hardcover – June 2, 1999

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (June 2, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 068482972X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684829722
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 7.8 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,642,191 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

You may find yourself dusting off your hand-cranked pasta machine after thumbing through Erica de Mane's Pasta Improvvisata. She has taken pasta in one hand, tradition in the other, and pulled together an inspired cookbook.

This book is about cooking. Sure, there are plenty of recipes, but each recipe is a point of departure that encourages inspired cooking. Pasta Improvvisata isn't about religiously following a recipe to arrive at the perfect re-creation of an established Italian dish--there's a lot to be said for that, to be sure. There's a lot to be said for a recipe so well written that the unwitting cook is assured of putting on the table the same dish, right down to texture and aroma, that an Italian cook might be putting on his or her table. Marcella Hazan is a master of just such a recipe.

Erica de Mane's departure is to start with the feel of a particular Italian dish--just the approach or style--and then improvise with the kinds of ingredients actually available in American supermarkets. She ends up with dishes that are in the Italian spirit, but that speak to a willingness to be experimental, a willingness to say "Hey, these are the ingredients I have on hand, and this is the pasta dish that comes as a logical conclusion."

Roasted Asparagus Lasagne with Fontina springs out of a dish that's traditionally just asparagus roasted with butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Why not make it as lasagne? In the author's notes at the end of this recipe are several variations on the theme. She constantly coaxes the cook to reach out and try new things. How about Saffron Tagliatelle with Lobster, Tomato, and Cognac? Or Roasted Zucchini, Fennel, and Gruyere Tossed with Penne (which springs from the author's mother's sauce of sliced zucchini sautéed in olive oil)?

Tie on an apron before opening this book. You may not have the chance once you dive in. --Schuyler Ingle

From Publishers Weekly

Encountering De Mane's book, the experienced cook will wonder if her imaginative advice is at all necessary. After all, the familiarity and simplicity of many pasta dishes inevitably invite chefs to toss in a bit of personal invention. Food writer De Mane is up to the challenge, however, and her book, divided into three parts (pasta with vegetables, with fish and with meat), will expand most cooks' thinking. Fresh ideas abound. She provides more than a dozen tomato sauces, from the usual to her Simmered Tomato-Fig Sauce and the free-spirited Tomato and Orange Sauce. With all recipes, De Mane offers substitutions to change basic results: for the Tomato and Orange Sauce, she suggests using mint instead of the specified basil or tossing the pasta with ricotta before adding the sauce. Rather than providing eye-opening revelations, De Mane reminds readers what can be done when combining or adapting Italian flavors. Classic linguine with white clam sauce becomes Linguine with Clams, Pancetta and Marjoram, which itself can be altered by using bacon rather than pancetta, by mixing the clams with parsley pesto or by adding fresh corn kernels. Other variations spring from Anchovy and Fennel Seed Sauce, Fusilli with Veal Capers and Lemon (a twist on veal piccata) or Baked Cavatappi with Chicken-Arugula Meatballs. Since improvising requires handy ingredients, an annotated Improviser's Pantry listing explains what to have at the ready. Good Cook Club and BOMC alternate selection. (June)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 11, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Here's what the New York Times said on June 6, 1999, in a round-up of the year's best cookbooks, by Corby Kummer: "Unlike most books on America's favorite home-cooked supper, 'Pasta Improvvisata' is a book you will use. Erica De Mane, a first-time author, has adapted pasta recipes from all over Italy to her fine Italian-American palate and her well-stocked but not recherche Italian-American pantry. De Mane is a bit talky and not yet a prose stylist, but she is an experienced, generous home cook who understands how both Italians and Americans like to eat, and she deftly manages to bridge the two cultures. I like her abundant good sense and outspoken opinions, probably because I agree with many of them. 'Dried pasta made by American companies is so inferior to the firm, nutty versions imported from southern Italy that it is not even worth considering' (although I would add that my own favorite, Martelli, is made in Tuscany). 'There is nothing wrong with eating a lightly sauced dried pasta dish as a main course, but a big dish of tortellini bolognese is too rich and filling to be eaten in any but small servings.' She borrows French techniques when they suit her and makes freer use of butter, goat cheese, cognac, French garlic sausage and even garlic itself than Italian cooks would. But that's her point. 'When transporting a recipe across country lines, you want to preserve the spirit, adapting it when necessary to the ingredients you have to work with.' This straightforward theory is surprisingly hard to practice. With apparently endless invention and love of actual cooking, De Mane succeeds."
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 12, 1999
Format: Hardcover
The approach of this wonderful book is truly innovative. Erica de Mane takes the lay cook in hand and shows how much fun it can be to improvise in the kitchen. I am not particularly courageous when it comes to this sort of cooking and appreciate the encouragement. Whatsmore one has the option of simply following the recipes and getting marvelous results. The array of recipes are mouthwatering and those I have tried have pleased my two daughters who are difficult to please.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 7, 1999
Format: Hardcover
cooking with erica demane's book is a blast. everything i have made has been delicious and new, and with each recipe i see how to use ingredients together that can be used in other ways as well. she makes it easy to learn how to improvise and it makes me feel like a real cook. a lot of her pasta sauces can also be a side dish or a stuffing for potatos or dressing for meats and fish. it is an enormously fun and seemingly effortless way to learn how to make really delicious, totally satisfying food.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By liebervati on August 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover
When I first saw Erica De Mane's 'Pasta Improvvisata' I was intrigued by the word improvisation.
I was looking for a wedding gift for a friend of mine, an Italian Restaurant owner that I have had the pleasure to work with for several years. Obviously I looked inside in order to make sure that it would be a relevant addition to this experienced cook's varied library. Minutes and hours went by as I was marveling at the genuine, practical style and the feminine touch of Ms.De Mane.

All I had ever thought of and learned about Italian cooking was expounded with amiable ease and spontaneity.
I think I fell in love with Erica by page 10.

As most Italian men I am skilled in carrying on late night conversations about technique, ingredients and legitimacy of classical and new recipes - in my case I am also a proficient, though not professional cook. In addition to that, like Erica, I come from a family that held cooking and its traditions in high esteem. My grandmother was Cordon Bleu de France and Sommelier and operated her own private cooking school for many years.
In addition to that I have been working as a musician and entertainer in many renowned restaurants in Italy and other European countries over the past 20 years and I have experienced and learned first hand to appreciate the individual artistry of the local chefs.

Erica put into beautiful words all I have ever thought about cooking and it's philosophy. She is never boring - on the contrary: on each page she manages to provide the aficionados with interesting, valuable essential tips and variations, with correct references to the many regional traditions and how to stretch and renew them without falling into the infamous trap of 'fusion'.
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