Customer Reviews: The Complete Book of Pasta and Noodles
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on October 20, 2011
Much like the other bad reviews of this book (I didn't read the reviews close enough BEFORE buying), this book has very little information on making pasta.

The book focuses on the Italian noodles and associated sauces. I bought the book thinking "The Complete Book of Pasta and Sauces" with chapter titles of "Couscous", "Chinese Wheat Noodles", "Japanese Wheat Noodles", "Rice Noodles", "Cellophane Noodles", and "Soba Noodles" would describe how to make them. It does not. It only tells you how to take store bought versions and combine with a sauce.

The book focuses on sauces, and pairing pasta with the sauces.
Here is the basic list of pasta in the book:
'Chapter 3: Fresh Egg Pasta (and variations):
Spinach Pasta, Fresh Herb Pasta, Buckwheat Pasta, Whole Wheat Pasta, Corn Pasta, Beet Pasta, Saffron Pasta, Tomato Pasta, Black Pepper Pasta
' Chapter 4: Fresh Pasta without Eggs:
Fresh Semolina Pasta, Fresh Whole Wheat Pasta
' Chapter 22 & 23 : Miscellaneous Baked Fresh Pasta Dishes:
Crespelle, Canneloni, Ravioli (i.e. fresh egg pasta wrapped around something)
' Chapter 24: Gnocchi
' Chapter 25: Spätzle

I have enjoyed many other Cooks Illustrated books, but the title and description for this particular book is incorrect. If you are looking for pasta sauces, this book may be OK. If you (like me) are looking to make pasta other than egg pasta, this book is horrible. Even on the back cover, it claims "Step-by-step, easy-to-follow instruction on making fresh pasta and noodles, including gnocchi and couscous". The only 'recipe' I could find in the book for making couscous was to buy a premade-box of couscous and put into boiling water. This is not 'making couscous'.
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`The Complete Book of Pasta and Noodles' by the Editors of `Cooks Illustrated' Magazine is one of those books whose outstanding value is obvious almost immediately upon opening to the Table of Contents. This was surprising to me, as this is not the case with most other `Cooks Illustrated' books. There is just something about the meeting of this subject with the classic `Cooks Illustrated' approach to things which comes up a winner.

The first positive impression is the excellent organization of the chapters into different types of pastas, noodles, and sauces for same. While there are many excellent books about on pasta dishes, most especially `The Top100 Best Pasta Sauces' by Diane Seed and just about any book by Marcella Hazan, Lidia Bastianich, or Ruth Rodgers and Rose Gray of London's River Café, this `Cooks Illustrated' volume organizes our thinking about the sauces to make us all much better at improvising our own pasta sauces. It divides pasta sauces into:

Olive Oil based sauces, both cooked and uncooked.

Pesto and other pureed sauces.

Butter and Cheese sauces, such as spaghetti alla Carbonara

Cream Sauces, such as Fettuccine Alfredo

Sauces with Bread Crumbs

Cooked Sauces with Fresh Tomatoes

Canned Tomato Sauces, such as Pasta Puttanesca and Vodka Cream sauce

Sauces with Vegetables, such as `cabbage and noodles' and `pasta Primavera'

Sauces with Beans and Lentils

Sauces with Meat, such as the classic Bolognese sauce

Sauces with Seafood, such as clam and other shellfish sauces.

Like Seed's book and virtually any other book on pasta and noodles, the subject really is pasta and noodle dishes, although this volume, true to its title, gives as much about actually making a wide variety of pastas. It also covers just about every conceivable form of noodle, including the German spatzle, the North African couscous, gnocchis (the bridge between the Italian and the German forms of dumpling), Japanese noodles (soba, somen, ramen, and udon) and Chinese noodles, especially rice and cellophane noodles.

The book can easily be forgiven for spending more time on the Italian noodle than on any other subject, as this is the primary interest of most English speaking readers. To this end, the book includes excellently detailed tutorials on making fresh pastas, with and without egg, with vegetable and herb additions, spatzle, and several varieties of gnocchi. It does not, however, teach us how to make couscous or any of the oriental noodle types, which is fine with me, as I believe they are techniques which require far more practice and patience than the classic Italian or German noodle.

I love a cookbook that sheds new light on a dish I've made a dozen times and consider `my own'. This is what happens here when I read the material on combining cabbage and noodles in a dish. It reminds me of how to best cut the cabbage, but it significantly adds to my knowledge of how to braise the cabbage and combine it with the noodles at just the right time.

`Cooks Illustrated' tends to squeeze a lot of the `joie de vivre' out of cooking in their articles by starting off with a clean slate, as if no one had ever made the dish they are discussing in an article. Cooking is one of those crafts where centuries of practice have pretty much arrived at the best way to do most things without loading us up with all the paraphernalia of experimental science. But, with this subject, proper respect is given to tradition, and to the recommendations of such culinary sages as Paula Wolfert on couscous and Marcella Hazan on pasta.

Their finest contributions are the sidebarred tutorials on everything from preparing artichokes to opening clams. This makes the book superb for the novices who happen to enjoy experimenting with their own variations of pasta dishes.

I must also mention that as a trade paperback, this manual of riches lists for less than $20, about half the cost of a book of recipes from an A-List culinary writer.
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on August 5, 2001
I'm an avid cook and, while I no longer subscribe to "Cooks Illustrated" magazine, I respect editor Christopher Kimball and his expert "Cook's Illustrated" kitchen crew and have had good luck, more or less, with their recipes which, if followed exactly, are virtually foolproof. I also never fail to learn something from their informative kitchen commentary. All in all, Kimball's recipes and advice are beneficial to both novice and experienced cooks.
That having been I have to point out that taste is, of course, subjective. For instance, I've found, from trying a number of Kimball's recipes, that he is a salt-a-holic. I prefer to cook with little or no salt, as I find the taste harsh and unpleasant, and if I followed Kimbell's recipes exactly I'd be drowning in the stuff. I prefer pepper and tend to double or triple the often meager amounts Kimbell calls for in his recipes (usually he calls for four or fives times more salt than pepper, and I almost reverse that ratio). But, if your taste is the same as Kimball's when it comes to a particular food, his well-researched and thoroughly-tested recipes will be amazing!
I must also warn cooks that Kimball's cookbooks are books not necessarily made for cooking (odd, isn't it?). They are standard-bound hardcover editions that rarely lie flat (the latest, "The Best Recipe," is a little better than the others) and the index is dreadful--a fairly major gripe when you consider how important an index is to a cookbook when, say, you quickly want to find a recipe for "Chicken Soup" and you can't even decipher where the "Cs" start! There may be six or seven pages under the tiny heading "entrees," five of which may start with "chicken," leading you to believe you're in the "Cs" when you're actually in the "Es." It's very confusing. Many other people have recommended putting dictionary like letter headers (for example "CHI-CLA") at the top of each index page and, after trying it, I have to say I highly recommend this method.
All of Kimball's "Cook's Illustrated" cookbooks follow the same basic format: a long-winded, but often interesting, discourse on how Kimball views the "perfect" version of whatever it is he's showing you how to cook, including a lengthy explanation of variations he has tried, followed by his "Master Recipe" for the food, including common variations. In "The Complete Book of Pasta and Noodles," Kimball covers everything from homemade pasta (surprisingly, he doesn't stress it's necessity, saying dried pasta is almost as good and a whole lot easier) to every type of sauce and other topping--Italian, Chinese, Mediterranean, etc.--imaginable.
Usually my biggest problem with Kimball cookbooks is this: If you have one, you have them all. He lifts whole passages and recipes and uses them in multiple books. "The Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook," and the "Cook's Bible," for instance, have at least 50 identical recipes, not to mention verbatim introductions to each section and cookware recommendations repeated word-for-word. "The Best Recipe" features ALL of the recipes (as far as I can tell) from the "Cook's Bible," with the same commentary, which is, in turn, lifted in whole chunks from past issues of "Cooks Illustrated." I'm sure this saves Mr. Kimball a great deal of time when compiling his cookbooks but it leaves little reason to own more than one edition of his work. The "Pasta and Noodle" cookbook though, is an exception to this rule. While it does contain exact repeats from other books, it also adds a wealth of new recipes and information, making it more than worth your while for anyone who cooks pasta regularly. There is literally a lifetime worth of pasta recipes in this small book!
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on February 17, 2011
This cookbook didn't have many recipes for actually making fresh pasta at home. It gives recipes for store bought pastas. I dont think this book should be "suggested" when you purchase a pasta maker/machine
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VINE VOICEon August 31, 2000
How can we say it, other than they did it again. This is the most comprehensive book on pasta that I have seen yet to date. The folks at Cooking Illustrated are known for their tedious testing of recipes, ingredients, and everything else imaginable. This book follows their long line of other fantastic cookbooks put out by the people at Cooking Illustrated. The book goes into great dept about making of pasta, ingredients to use, how to best prepare the pasta, and then has more recipes than one could ever imagine exsisted on using of the pastas. This book is rich in detail and scope of the subject of pasta. If you are a pasta lover, you will treasure this book.
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on May 14, 2004
Do you love all kinds of pasta: Italian, Asian, spatzle, salads, soups, gnocchi and more? Do you find yourself in a rut? Do you want some truly wonderful dishes?
This is the cookbook for you! Everything I've tried- from the pumpkin ravioli, lasagne, home-made (food processor pasta), to the asian peanut noodles - has been excellent. The sauces are wide ranging and also excellent: tomato, vegetables, bean/lentil, poultry, seafood, pesto, and much more provide you
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on January 12, 2006
This book is so comprehensive and yet so simple. I recommend this book for every cook no matter what financial stage you're in. If I had this book during my college/ art student days I would have churned out an elegant, simple meal for friends for under $10. But honestly, with the Kitchenaid mixer/ pasta attachments I got for Christmas and this book I will be elbow deep in fresh pasta making heaven. BTW: Vegans, there are eggless, dairy free recipes to be found.
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on March 6, 2010
I purchased this book to learn how to make pasta and noodles, but the only thing in this book is basicly food recipes that use a pasta, doesnt tell you how to make the different pastas. so the title is misleading.
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on February 5, 2011
My husband had just gotten a pasta machine that he was anxious to start using. I picked out this pasta cookbook for him. I was expecting lots of pasta recipes, not lots of pasta SAUCE recipes. I took a quick glance at the beginning of the book. It looked like it was what I was wanting to get for him. But I should have looked throgh the entire book more diligently. So, for what we were looking for, this book was a disappointment. We have not used it a single time.
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on January 30, 2012
The book isn't what I thought it was going to be. I was hoping it would be more recipies on how to make the noodles and pasta from scratch instead of the numerous recipies for already made pasta. not very happy but am keeping the book.
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