You know how they say, you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover? Well, when it comes to cookbooks, I have a hard time following that adage. I just love pretty cookbooks, and, call me shallow, but I often buy them completely based on looks. There's obviously a reason for that saying, and, yes, I often end up with cookbooks that are pretty to look at, but don't deliver any substance. They sit on my shelf, trophies for people to admire. My one night stands that won't go away. But sometimes I find a cookbook that has it all. Domenica Marchetti's newest book, The Glorious Pasta of Italy, is such a cookbook: gorgeous on the inside and out, full of recipes that I've marked off to try, a companion I could spend a life time with.
You might be asking, do we really need another pasta book? Yes. I promise you, that Marchetti's take on pasta goes beyond Spaghetti and Meatballs or Pasta Carbonara. Think Orecchiette with Creamy Broccoli Sauce or Cannelloni al Radicchio.
After spending an afternoon laying in bed, flipping through the pages, my pregnant and super lazy self zeroed in on page 81, Minestra di Pasta e Piselli. The recipe called for ingredients that, with the exception of majarom, I had on hand, and it didn't call for any tedious tasks that would sap my fleeting motivation to cook.
I ended up adding more pasta, and just as the directions noted it was less soupy, which was exactly the consistency I was looking for. My husband, Marcus, asked for seconds, giving it a thumbs up. He's a tough critic, so there you go.
I can't wait to try Spaghetti al Farouk (shrimp, mussels, cream, saffron, and ginger!) (p.127) and Roasted Carrot and Ricotta Gnocchi with Herb Butter (p.182).
Minestra di Pasta e Piselli
From The Glorious Pasta of Italy by Dominica Marchetti
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup finely chopped white onion
2 ounces pancetta, cut into small dice
1/2 tsp minced fresh marjoram or thyme
Freshly ground black pepper
6 to 7 cups chicken broth
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups conchigliette (small shells) or other small pasta shape
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen peas
Kosher or fine sea salt (optional)
Warm the butter and olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. When the butter is melted, add the onion and pancetta, stirring to coat them thoroughly. Saute for five minutes, reducing the heat to medium-low if needed to prevent the onion from burning. Sprinkle in the marjoram and a generous grind of pepper and continue to saute for another five minutes, or until the onion is translucent and the pancetta has just begun to crisp but is still mostly tender.
Pour in six cups of the broth; raise the heat to medium-high to boil. Stir in the pasta and peas, using 1 1/2 cups for a soupier soup and 1 3/4 cups for a thicker soup. Cook until al dente (the cooking time will depend on the brand and shape). Add a splash of broth if the soup seems too thick.
Remove the soup from the heat and stir in 1/2 cup of the Parmigiano. Taste and add salt and additional pepper, if you like. Ladle into warmed shallow bowls and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Serve immediately.
(Note: I topped mine with a bit of arugula because everything tastes better with arugula!).