Encyclopedia of Pasta documents “the traditional shapes of Italian pasta—the long, the short, the layered, the rolled, the stretched, and the stuffed.” Zanini De Vita is thoughtful and thorough. Each pasta is categorized and examined: what are its ingredients; how is it made; what are its alternative names; how is it traditionally served; and where is it made. She concludes each entry with additional remarks about the shape.
The book presents 310 different shapes of pasta. Some of these are familiar: fettuccine, lasagna, ravioli and spaghetti. Many other are less common: agnolotti, corzetti, garganelli and tajarin. Most of the pastas are exotic: blutnudeln (a thin flat noodle made with rye flour, wheat flour, eggs and pig’s blood) and zizziridd’ (a small cubed pasta added to bean soup).
Although Zanini De Vita overviews each pasta’s ingredients, she does not give measured amounts. For example, we learn that Fregnacce, a lozenge shaped pasta found in Northern Lazio, Abruzzo and Le Marche, is made with “durum-wheat and eggs or water”. At first it might seem that this lack of detail is a shortcoming. Not so. Encyclopedia of Pasta does not pretend to be a “recipe book”—it is a reference book. (I only wish a photograph of each pasta accompanied each entry.) But happily you can use Zanini De Vita’s book as a guide and inspiration when making fresh pasta. With a handful of dough recipes and practice, many of the pastas in the book are easily achievable.