Book review: The Pasta Man: The Art of Making Spectacular Pasta, by Mateo Zielonka

17 June 2021 by
Book review: The Pasta Man: The Art of Making Spectacular Pasta, by Mateo Zielonka

There are many chefs who describe their dishes and process as making art, but the connection is particularly evident with Mateo Zielonka's cooking.

Having cut his teeth at London's Polpetto and Padella, Zielonka now heads up the kitchen at 180 the Strand for the Store X, a collaborative studio and arts space in London. The location is fitting for his colourful pasta dishes, for which Zielonka cites inspiration from "social media, sculptures at the Tate Modern, patterns in wood, the veg patch…".

While some chefs turn their noses up at the role Instagram plays in modern cuisine, Zielonka delights in sharing his dishes online, where he has gained a large following and earned himself the title of ‘the Pasta Man'. This interest in sharing is the driving force behind this, his first book, although the chef does encourage his readers to check out his videos on Instagram for the trickier techniques.

The book is divided into two main sections: ‘doughs' and ‘shapes & recipes'. The dough section features a classic variety as well as the colourful doughs for which Zielonka is known, created by adding spinach, beetroot or squid ink. There are vegan and gluten-free versions too, provided as Zielonka simply "can't imagine a life without pasta". Also outlined are the techniques required to create multicoloured pasta, from stripes to polka dot, as well as a plethora of shaping tips, from pappardelle to culurgiones. The book is aimed at the home cook, and a professional chef may wish to skip straight to the more complex techniques – although I would question how many of our readers possess a chitarra box.

A sense of fun pervades the book, and Zielonka swerves the prescriptivism sometimes associated with traditional Italian cuisine. A recipe for garganelli with miso, aubergine and herbs displays the chef's willingness to experiment, but is preceded by a traditional Sicilian garganelli alla norma, demonstrating a reverence for the cuisine he has adopted as his own.

The Pasta Man: The Art of Making Spectacular Pasta, With 40 Recipes by Mateo Zielonka (Quadrille, £15)

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