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The Silver Spoon: Pasta – Book review

19 November 2009
The Silver Spoon: Pasta – Book review

The Silver Spoon: Pasta
Phaidon
ISBN: 978-0-71485-716-9

Off the back of the success of Phaidon's 2005 translation of the iconic The Silver Spoon (Italy's best selling cookbook for more than 50 years) comes The Silver Spoon: Pasta book. Given the almost-biblical status of the Silver Spoon, this encyclopaedic extension of the pasta section in the original book looks set to become a companion for chefs and home cooks alike.

The introductory section explores the rich and complex history of the dish. It also reveals that, despite its status as the national dish of Italy, the foundations for pasta's rich future were laid in 11th century Sicily, which became the first production capital for dried pasta before it travelled over the Mediterranean sea and landed in Amalfi and Genoa.

The book is packed with little-known facts about pasta, like the revelation that it was paired with sweet, spicy sauces for the first few centuries of its existence (though Parmesan cheese was always an element). It was not until the 18th century that pairing pasta with savoury sauces became the norm, and not until 1839 that the famous marriage with tomato began.

The book is split into sections that deal with everything from the making of basic pasta dough to matching shapes to sauces; and features every sort of pasta under the sun - from dried, to cut, to fresh and filled pasta.

Regionality is a central theme that underpins the book and its 360 authentic recipes, which are accompanied by explanations of the different shapes, sauces and doughs that comprise the dish.

Suggestions take in basic combinations like tagliatelle with lemon to more complex, luxurious recipes like green taglierini with prawns and brandy; regional specialities like Genoan pansotti, and more obscure varieties like fagottini and gomiti.

Ingredients are what you might expect from an Italian pasta book, with truffles, cuttlefish, sea urchins, artichokes and saffron featuring alongside staples of Italian meats and cheeses.

Illustrated throughout with bold drawings and full-page photographs that get the saliva glands going, it's a hefty, but simply laid-out book packed with extensive details of how to make and serve authentic regional pasta.

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