“DON’T you just want to hug him?” asked the salesperson behind the counter at the bookstore where I picked up a copy of “Antonio Carluccio’s Pasta”.
If that was not enough, she continued in a rather dreamy tone: “He cooked up a storm while in Canberra, didn’t he?”
And that’s what 77-year-old Antonio did, with his cooking and by his very presence – his snow-white hair, the deep lines in his face reflecting years of good living, his broad smile and infectious personality.
Italians love food and they love Italian chefs – especially international celebrity chef Commendatore Antonio Carluccio who was here recently to celebrate the capital’s Truffle Festival.
Antonio wasn’t just celebrating his trip to Australia. He was celebrating the hot-off-the-press “Pasta”, a quintessential book for anyone who savours eating a sensational bowl of pasta. This is Antonio’s eighteenth book on Italian cooking.
Canberra has an amazing array of Italian restaurants, from the expensive to the cheap and cheerful. It’s challenging to track them, but my estimate is that there are well over 100 across the ACT, and that is not counting the pizza joints. As a collective, my gut tells me that these eateries cover the 20 regions of Italy, each of which fiercely protects its own style of cuisine.
But back to “Pasta”. The short history is fascinating and the chapter on types of pasta is, too. But it is the 100 or so recipes that are the most inspiring, designed for fresh and dried pasta.
I started by making a simple and traditional dish – classic spaghetti with garlic, olive oil and chilli. This is inexpensive Italian “fast food” at its best. For extra flavour, Antonio recommends tossing through anchovy fillets in oil, which I did, and it worked a treat.
I have also made the classic trofie with a herb and nut sauce. These little twists of pasta originated in the northern Liguria region, famous for its herbs, and the sauce is super easy to make with a pestle and mortar. In a flash you have dinner.
The next dish I will make is truly unusual. Antonio developed it as a tribute to Puglia’s conical-shaped stone buildings, built without cement so they could be taken apart, moved and re-created. The “Trullo di Zitoni” (meat and pasta pie) uses long tubular pasta, in honour of these ancient buildings, and you can create it with any of the 30 sauces featured in the recipe book, even the wild boar one.
The photos in “Pasta” are magnificent and each dish features a map of “The Boot” and marks the region the recipe comes from.
This is a great addition to a cookbook collection and a super gift if you know someone who adores Italian cuisine.