Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Pasta Grannies & American Sfoglino

Let’s tip our hats to 2019: I cannot remember when publishers released as many outstanding cookbooks in a calendar year. American Sfoglino by Evan Funke with Katie Parla (Chronicle Books) and Pasta Grannies by Vicky Bennison (Hardie Grant) stand out even in this year’s stellar crop of cookbooks.

Funke, who learned his pasta craft at La Vecchia Scuola Bolognese, presents the lessons of Alessandra Spisni’s Il Manuale Della Sfoglina to an English-language audience. The only thing American about American Sfoglino is Funke; his cookbook is 100% Emilian through and through. Using the thickness of Post-its to help visualize how thick to roll la sfoglina to make tagliatelle (4 Post-its), strozzapreti (7 Post-its) and lasagna (9 Post-its) is a great idea. Let’s face it: Trying to teach someone how to roll out a thin sheet of pasta with a mattarello is no simple task. But Eric Wolfinger’s photographs make the challenge much easier. So if you want to learn how to roll la sfoglina with a mattarello and then make a host of classic Bolognese pasta dishes, then buy American Sfoglino. What a beautiful book!

Pasta Grannies belongs on the bookshelf of everyone who loves to make and eat pasta. If you are not familiar with Vicky Bennison’s project, type “Pasta Grannies YouTube videos” into your web browser and check out the growing collection of instructional videos. Pasta Grannies documents these incredible Italian makers thus preserving regional pasta traditions that might otherwise fade away through the passage of time. What differentiates Bennison’s Pasta Grannies project from other efforts to memorialize la cucina della nonna (e.g., Carol Field’s 1997 In Nonna’s Kitchen: Recipes and Traditions from Italy’s Grandmothers) is that Bennison’s videos bring the unique talents and personalities of these amazing women to life. I admit that I wondered if Bennison’s cookbook would capture the on-screen charm of her Pasta Grannies. It does! I like that, with a modicum of effort, you can find Bennison’s video of a Grannie making a dish featured in the cookbook. O brave new world…