“Mastering Pasta” by Chef Mark Vetri

A stunning, well thought out cookbook with over 100 pasta recipes.

Upon receiving this exciting new cookbook, I started to read it and was immediately captivated on page 1, where chef Mark Vetri states, “Sometimes I feel like my life is one long sheet of pasta. Every day takes on a different shape or filling.” This was the indicated that this is a well thought out, readable and usable cookbook. I then gave the book to Lowell, the pasta maker in our family, and said, “This cookbook has your name on it. Get your toque. It is your turn to cook. Pick a recipe and let me know what you think.”

MASTERING PASTA: THE ART AND PRACTICE OF HANDMADE PASTA, GNOCCHI AND RISOTTO

By Mark Vetri with David Joachim

The more than 100 recipes—ranging from simple to complex—are broken into chapters including: Fresh Pasta, Baked Sheet Pasta, Ravioli and Stuffed Pasta, Extruded and Dried Pasta, Flavored Pasta, Hand-formed Pasta, Gnocchi and Risotto. There are innovative recipes such as the open lasagna with scamorzza and asparagus, a dish that will make you drool, or branzino ravioli with tomato-butter sauce. Cheese with seafood? Yes, says chef Vetri and uses caciocavallo cheese with his stuffed paccheri with octopus ragu and caciocavallo fondue.

The chef is known for his restaurants: Osteria, Amis Trattoria, alla Spina, Pizzeria Vetri and Lo Spiedo, all in Philadelphia, and Osteria in Moorestown. Vetri was named one of Food & Wine magazine’s 1999 Best New Chefs and received the James Beard Award for “Best Chef Mid Atlantic” in 2005. He is also the author of two other cookbooks, Il Viaggio di Vetri and Rustic Italian Food.

Mario Batali wrote of this cookbook: “Mastering Pasta is nothing short of the single most important book on handmade pasta I have ever read, and I am maybe just a little jealous about it.”

What did Lowell think? As a scientist he was particularly impressed with the chapter that explained the science of wheat flour. The recipe for egg-yolk dough, which produces a pound of pasta, was easy to follow, the techniques well explained and he appreciated the step-by-step pictures. We have been enjoying the pasta with a variety of recipes. Here is one to try:

FETTUCCINE WITH CORN CREMA AND CHARRED GREEN ONIONS

MAKES 4 TO 6 SERVINGS

Every summer in July, this dish goes on the menu at Amis, and it stays on until we get the last of the sweet corn in the fall. Fresh corn with charred green onions is one of those combinations that should be up there with tomatoes and basil. The sweet freshness of the corn and slight bitterness of the green onions make an awesome contrast. The creamy corn puree and the delicate chew of the green onions are another delicious contrast. This dish has a great look, too, with bright green on bright yellow.

PASTA SWAP Any thick noodle works well here. Try pappardelle or corzetti.

1 pound (454 g) Egg Yolk Dough (page 26), rolled into sheets about 1⁄8 inch (3 mm) thick

2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil

2 tablespoons (21 g) finely chopped yellow onion

2 large ears corn, shucked and kernels cut from cobs

¼ cup (60 ml) water

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 small green onions, trimmed

1 chunk ricotta salata cheese, for grating (optional)

Lay a pasta sheet on a lightly floured work surface and trim the edges square. Cut the sheet into 9-inch (23-cm) lengths. Fit your stand mixer or pasta machine with the fettuccine cutter and set it to medium speed. Feed 1 length of dough at a time through the cutter, dusting the dough lightly with flour as it is cut into strands. Coil the fettuccine into nests and set them on a floured, rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining sheets. Use the fettuccine immediately or freeze in an airtight container for up to 1 month. Take the pasta right from the freezer to the boiling pasta water.

Heat 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of the oil in small saucepan over medium heat. Add the yellow onion and sweat it until it is soft but not browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Add all but ¼ cup (40 g) of the corn kernels and the water. Simmer the corn gently until it is heated through and almost tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Taste the mixture, adding salt and pepper until it tastes good to you. Transfer the mixture to a blender and puree until smooth.

Heat a cast-iron skillet over high heat until it is smoking hot. Add the green onions and cook, turning once, until charred on two sides, about 1 minute per side. Remove the skillet from the heat, transfer the onions to a cutting board, and chop finely. Heat a large, deep skillet over medium heat and pour in the remaining 1 tablespoon (15 ml) oil. When the oil is hot, add the reserved ¼ cup (40 g) corn kernels and the chopped green onions and cook, stirring, for 1 minute, then stir in the corn crema. Keep warm over very low heat.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drop in the fettuccine and cover the pot to quickly return the water to a boil. Cook the pasta until tender but still a little chewy, 4 to 5 minutes. Using a spider strainer or tongs, drain the pasta by transferring it to the pan of sauce. Reserve the pasta water.

Add about ½ cup (118 ml) of the pasta water and cook the mixture over medium-high heat, tossing and stirring vigorously until the sauce reduces slightly, becomes very creamy, and coats the pasta, about 2 minutes. Keep the pasta moving until pasta and sauce become one thing in the pan, adding a little more pasta water if necessary to create a creamy sauce. Taste it, adding salt and pepper until it tastes good to you.

Dish out the pasta onto warmed plates and grate the ricotta salata over the top.

Reprinted with permission from Mastering Pasta by Marc Vetri, copyright © 2015. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

Mastering Pasta cover

Photography credit: Ed Anderson © 2015

Available at Amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and other booksellers.

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