by Francine Segan
Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 208 pp., $35
Just about everyone loves pasta. In my household, with two picky kids, pasta has become a default dish that I know everyone will eat. For this reason though, it no longer seems special, and I often feel challenged to come up with a pasta dish that feels original. Enter Francine Segan's Pasta Modern, and presto: Pasta has become exciting again.
Segan traveled throughout Italy in search of original, innovative, and sometimes classic dishes from chefs, food bloggers, and home cooks across that country. The result is a collection of recipes that bear an unmistakable Italian stamp, yet seem thoroughly fresh and modern. Preparation is simple, restrained, relying on high-quality ingredients rather than technical finesse. You don't have to spend hours rolling out homemade pasta. Instead, Segan recommends using high-quality dried pastas such as Felicetti, Garofalo, or Rustichella d'Abruzzo, to name a few.
Strozzapreti ("priest strangler" pasta) coated with lemon, almond, and fennel pesto can be prepared in under an hour and is delightfully zesty. Fregula (seed-shaped pasta not unlike Israeli couscous) simmered with white wine and clams makes a satisfying one-pot meal, while grated zucchini-glazed spaghetti tossed with shaved parmesan is so simple, yet so elegant, it seems too good to be real.
Ambitious chefs may want to take on the purple pasta cooked in red cabbage juice with Burrata cheese and smoked trout, or the cocoa-flavored garganelli with orange, basil, and Mascarpone sauce. Segan has pastas for dessert, as well as appetizers in this well-illustrated volume. Color photos and explanations of the lesser-known pasta shapes are invaluable. Stock up on fancy dried pasta and start planning something special for that end-of-year party. How about spaghetti nests filled with pesto and prosciutto or Christmas Eve almond-milk lasagnette?
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