Zingerman's Guide to Good Eating: How to Choose the Best Bread, Cheeses, Olive Oil, Pasta…

Paperback | November 14, 2003

byAri Weinzweig

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Hailed by the New York Times, Esquire, and the Atlantic Monthly as one of the best delicatessens in the country, Zingerman's is a trusted source for superior ingredients - and an equally dependable supplier of reliable information about food. Now, Ari Weinzweig, the founder of Zingerman's, shares two decades of knowledge gained in his pursuit of the world's finest food products. In this fascinating resource guide, he tells you everything you need to know about how to choose top-quality basics that can transform every meal from ordinary to memorable: oils, vinegars, and olives; bread, pasta, and rice; cheeses and cured meats; seasonings like salt, pepper, and saffron; vanilla, chocolate, and tea. How do you tell the difference between a great aged balsamic vinegar and a caramel-flavored impostor? How do you select an extraordinary olive oil from the bewildering array of bottles on the grocery shelf? Which Italian rice makes the creamiest risotto (and what are the tricks to making a terrific one)? Is there a difference between traditionally made pastas and commercial brands? How do English and American Cheddars compare? How do you make sense of the thousands of teas in the world tofind one you love? What should you look for on the label of a good chocolate? In Zingerman's Guide to Good Eating, Ari Weinzweig provides the answers - and includes approximately 100 recipes, many collected from artisan food makers, from Miguel's Mother's Macaroni to 'LEO' (lox, eggs, and onions) to Funky, Chunky Dark Chocolate Cookies. This book is not only an indispensable guide to pantry essentials, it's an enthralling read. You'll visit artisan food producers, learn fascinating facts, find sources for the best brands and food suppliers, and get valuable advice that will change the way you cook forever.

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Hailed by the New York Times, Esquire, and the Atlantic Monthly as one of the best delicatessens in the country, Zingerman's is a trusted source for superior ingredients - and an equally dependable supplier of reliable information about food. Now, Ari Weinzweig, the founder of Zingerman's, shares two decades of knowledge gained in his ...

Ari Weinzweig is the founding partner of Zingerman's Community of Businesses, including Zingerman's Delicatessen, Zingerman's Creamery, and Zingerman's Bakehouse.

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Format:PaperbackPublished:November 14, 2003Publisher:Houghton Mifflin HarcourtLanguage:English

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ISBN - 10:0395926165

ISBN - 13:9780395926161

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Pasta"Nothing else, not opera or Renaissance art or Roman ruins or even pizza, so exemplifies Italy as pasta."Burton Anderson, Treasures of the Italian TableAmericans often approach pasta as little more than a convenient way to convey large quantities of sauce from plate to palate. But for serious Italian eaters, the point is the pasta as much as it is the sauce. Although few Americans know it, good pasta actually tastes good. Perhaps the reason most of us don't think much about its flavor is that our culture has relatively little experience with this food. At the beginning of the twentieth century, American pasta consumption was so small that, per capita, it barely registered at all. By 1930 it was up to nearly four pounds per person per year. In the early 1980s, the amount had risen to more than eleven pounds a year. Today the average American consumes about twenty pounds each year, but we still have a long way to go to keep up with our Italian counterpartswe eat barely a third of what they do. Italians divide pasta into two categories. One is pasta fresca, or "fresh pasta." Usually made at home or in the kitchens of quality-oriented restaurants, fresh pasta is made with flour and eggs. Many dishes rely on its softer texture and richer flavor. My focus is on what Italians call pasta secca, or "dried pasta": how to buy it, how to cook it, and best of all how to eat and enjoy it. Back in the 1980s, when fresh pasta was all the rage in America, most folks falsely assumed that fresh and dried pastas were simply two different versions of the same thing. They are not. They serve two different purposes in Italian cooking, and you can rarely substitute one for the other.Pastas Past: A Tangled but Tasty HistoryThough their prominence in North America is relatively recent, noodles are hardly a new form of nutrition. The ancient Hebrews ate them. The Chinese have been serving noodles since as early as the first century A.D.; by the tenth century, noodle shops were popular in much of the country. Nearly everyone knows the tale of Marco Polo, who supposedly brought pasta back to Italy from China at the end of the thirteenth century. The story has been largely discredited; in various forms, noodles seem to have shown up in Italy long before Mr. Polo's trip. It's likely that both Indians and Middle Easterners were also eating noodles extensively by the twelfth or thirteenth century. The inventory of a Genoese merchant made in 1279 shows stocks of macaroni. By the start of the fifteenth century, dried pasta, usually then referred to as "vermicelli," was commercially produced in Italy. Pasta's enormous popularity in Italy dates to the early eighteenth century, when new machines made even wider commercial production possible. Naples became the main source of pasta in the modern era. The all-important hard durum wheat was well suited to the soil, and daily cycles of hot mountain winds alternating with milder sea air created an ideal climate for drying the pasta. By the end of the century, the number of pasta-making shops in the town had grown nearly fivefold. Dried pasta was at that time eaten primarily by the Italian upper class. Much like coffee or chocolate, dried pasta was a manufactured item, which meant that it had to be paid for in cash and was hence too costly for everyday eating. For the most part, noodles were eaten for dessert. British travelers brought pasta back home from Naples, and from there it made its way to North America. Thomas Jefferson is said to have shipped Neapolitan pasta back to Virginia in 1789. A year earlier a Frenchman opened a pasta factory in Philadelphia. Although there were hardly any Italians in the United States at the beginning of the nineteenth century, by 1910 there were nearly 4 million. As their population grew, pasta making in America boomed. Italian- Americans still generally opted for the imported product because it was made from the harder, tastier durum wheat. Much American-made pasta started with inferior softer wheat, often deceptively colored yellow to give it the look of semolina.Less Sauce, More FlavorTo grasp why Italians put so much emphasis on the flavor and texture of the pasta they put on their plates, it's important to understand that in Italy the serving ratio of sauce to pasta is far lower than in most of North America. Italians generally offer smaller servings, lightly tossed with a sauce or simply served with a dollop atop the noodles. By Italian standards, the sauce should accent, never overwhelm; no upstanding Italian chef would ever drown a pasta dish in sauce. With this guideline in mind, it only makes sense that the pasta itself has to have a flavor and character of its own.Choosing Great Dried PastaThe basic process for producing dried pasta is fairly simple. Flour and water are mixed into a dough, the dough is extruded through metal dies to create a multitude of shapes and sizes, and the freshly pressed pasta is then dried to preserve it. Finally the pasta is packed and shipped for sale. But while the basic recipe is consistent, there are drastic differences in quality from one noodle to the next. How can you tell which ones are at the top of the market and which are only at entry level? There are three key indicators.1. Better Pasta Tastes BetterI'm not talking about the finished dish, just the noodles, au naturel, in the nude. A good pasta should be able to stand out with only a little olive oil or butter, and maybe a light sprinkling of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.2. The Importance of TextureTexture is another piece of the pasta puzzle; the integrity of the noodle after it's been cooked is critical. Poor-quality pastas can literally fall apart in the pot; turn your back and they turn soft and mushy in a matter of minutes. Well-made macaroni, on the other hand, is supposed to have texture; when you take a bite, you should know you're eating something significant. The difference is evident as soon as you open the box or bag and lay your hands on the raw pasta inside the package. Grab a fistful of commercial spaghetti. It's shiny, slick, and as straight as a set of plastic pick-up sticks. Or feel a bit of mass-produced elbow macaroni. It's lightweight, brittle. The stuff seems ready to shatter at the touch. Now heft a handful of top-grade pasta made by an artisan producer. It's solid. Heavier. More substantial. Its surface is rough, like a set of sun-washed and wind-worn seashells gathered on the beach.3. Better Pasta Smells BetterAroma is the third essential element in distinguishing excellent pasta from run-of-the-mill. And when you drop a handful of top-notch noodles into boiling water, they release an enticing whiff of wheat. No, it's not overpowering, but it's definitely there. In fact, if you go into a small pasta plant, the first thing you're likely to notice is the smell of the grain. It's a lot like the scent of a good bakery. The air is warm and humid, perfumed with the aroma of milled wheat.Grain, Not FlourYou may have noticed that in proper pasta parlance, Italians always refer to "grain," never to "flour." Don't dismiss this distinction as merely semantic Italian pasta makers are adamant about it. I once made the mistake of using the two terms interchangeably. Speaking to a third-generation maker of traditional pasta, I inquired about the source of the flour he was working with. He immediately gave me a look of deep disgust, as if I'd suggested we sit down to a bowl of SpaghettiOs. "It's not flour. It's grain!" he corrected me sternly. "Watch." He grabbed the arm of his unsuspecting salesperson and pulled him closer. Cutting open a paper sack of yellow semolina, the pasta maker pulled out a fistful and then proceeded to smear it all over the sleeve of the guy's powder blue suit. I stood there stunned, feeling guilty for ruining the poor fellow's outfit. Flourfar more finely milled would have quickly embedded itself in the cloth. But the pasta maker smiled and, holding firm to the man's arm, brushed it off easily. Since milled semolina is granular in structure, like sugar, only minimal markings were left as the grain fell to the floor. "See?" he said questioningly. "S," I replied with a smile. Lesson learned.Making a Better PastaSo how does a producer go about making a better grade of pasta?The GrainAll the best Italian dried pastas start with semola di grano duro (durum semolina), the coarsest grade of milled endosperm from hard wheat (Triticum durum). In fact, since 1967 Italian law has actually required it. (Up until recently, you couldn't sell soft wheat pasta in Italy, but European Union codes have forced the Italians to open their market to imports from other EU countries.) Unlike flour that is very finely milled to a powder, semolina is granular, almost like sugar or finely ground cornmeal. Durum semolina makes superior pasta primarily because of its high gluten contentwhen properly developed in the dough by the maker, these glutens trap the starch inside the pasta and keep it from flowing out into the cooking water. Additionally, the glutens help to ensure the firmness that is such an essential element in great pasta. Because of its harder nature, durum semolina requires longer kneading, adding time and cost but contributing mightily to the flavor and texture of the finished pasta. It also gives the glowing golden appearance that is typical of Italian pasta, as opposed to the whiter look of a low-end product. Unfortunately, only Italy imposes such a requirement for the use of semolina. In other countries it's perfectly permissible for a pasta maker to start with soft wheat (Triticum vulgarum), which is far less costly but produces an inferior product. You can usually spot soft wheat pastas as soon as you drop them into boiling water; the pasta breaks down and clouds the cooking liquid. Buying the best pasta isn't just a function of finding a label that lists "semolina" among its ingredients. Just as coffee roasters work with an array of green beans, the best pasta makers are masters at buying and blending durum semolina from various sources. Each producer has his own suppliers, his own mix; long before the grain ever gets into the pasta machines, the pasta maker adjusts his recipe annually to take into account alterations in crop yields and flavor. The variety of the wheat is important; as with other agricultural products, older varieties of wheat are often the most flavorful, but they also have lower yields and higher risk of disease, which keep more cost-conscious producers at arm's length. Some pasta makers prefer wheat from the various regions of Italy; others won't buy anything but Canadian durum. The point is merely that the best dried pasta should taste of the grain; if you already know a noodle with flavor and character, it's likely that the maker has managed to buy grain from better sources.The WaterAlthough few people think about it, the flavor of the water with which the grain is mixed is a matter of great concern to quality-oriented pasta makers. Since the water in any given area has its own chemical and mineral makeup, it will alter the flavor of any item it's blended with, as it would in brewing coffee or tea. The same grain mixed in California instead of Campania is likely to yield a different flavor in the finished pasta.The MixingAs with bread dough, excessive heat during mixing is the enemy of the quality-conscious producer. Slow, gentle, low-temperature mixing helps to preserve the natural character and flavor of the wheat. Gentler kneading also allows the pasta maker to mix for a longer period of time, enhancing the glutens that are so essential to creating a vital, vibrant texture. Finally, the traditional pasta maker must be ready and able to adjust his mixing to changes in weather and humidity, just as the artisan baker would do with bread.The ExtrusionOnce the dough has been mixed, it's then extruded through variously shaped dies. The early versions were developed at the end of the nineteenth century, allowing pasta makers to expand their offerings significantly. (Before that, noodles had to be hand-cut.) The dies are not unlike the cover plate on an old-fashioned meat grinder, but with a differently shaped die for each of the dozens of types of pasta being produced. Strands of spaghetti or other long pastas are pushed through small holes, then cut at the appropriate length by rotating blades. Short tubular pastas like penne start out by winding their way around a rod suspended from the top of the die, then exit through a smaller hole at the bottom. This narrowing forces the dough to come back to form the hollow tubes and twists we're all accustomed to. Notches in the holes can force the exiting dough to curve or curl, conjuring shapes like "elbow" macaroni. Most modern commercial operations now extrude pasta dough through smooth Teflon-coated dies. The Teflon lasts a long time and allows for more rapid (and hence cost-reducing) extrusion, but it yields a pasta so slick that it seems to shine. When you dress it, your sauce is certain to run right off, leaving a bunch of nearly naked noodles lying atop an unappealing pool of liquid. The best dried pastas are those that are extruded through old-style dies made of bronze, what Italians refer to as trafile di bronze. An essential component of artisan pasta making, the bronze dies are themselves an artisan product. Although the first phases of their production are now done by machine, the dies must be checked, adjusted, and finished by hand in order to produce near-perfect pasta. Bronze is a soft metal, meaning the life of the dies is shorter, the extrusion is slower, and replacement costs are higher compared with commercial equipment. But the beauty of these old-fashioned forms is that they produce pasta with a coarser, more porous surface the seemingly sea-washed roughness you feel when you hold it in your hand. Yet aesthetics is not the only issue. The little pits in the pasta embrace the sauce with open arms. Take note, too, that the speed of extrusion can also affect quality. In pasta making, as on the highway, speed kills; in this case, it can cause unwanted heat, and hence damage to both texture and flavor. Those who take the extrusion process at a more leisurely pace protect the natural glutens in the dough, which in turn ensures that the pasta's all-important texture is preserved during cooking.The DryingThe drying takes the moisture content of the fresh dough down to less than half of its original 25 percent, giving packaged pasta its long shelf life and arguably making it one of mankind's ultimate convenience foods. Up until the beginning of the twentieth century, all Italian pasta was dried in the sun, often for up to a week, to reach the desired level of desiccation. Pasta makers, it was said, had to be as good at reading the weather as are fishermen or farmers. Sadly, in these days of air pollution and depleted ozone layers, sun-drying noodles is no longer an option, but fortunately for food lovers, pasta-drying machines were invented around 1900. Faster-moving, more cost-conscious factories use high heat to dry the pasta in a mere matter of hours. The problem with this speed-dried stuff is that the excessive heat essentially bakes the pasta; the finished noodles are often brittle and easily broken, and many of the subtleties of the grain may be lost. Smaller, artisan pastaii work at much lower temperatures than their industrial counterparts, taking as long as twenty-four, thirty-six, forty-eight, even fifty-plus hours to dry their pasta. This type of drying takes place in very warm (but never hot), humid environments in which moisture can be reduced slowly, without damaging the texture of the finished product. This slow, gentle drying preserves the noodle's natural moisture, wrapping it inside its rough exterior surface. While the production of artisan dried pasta may seem straightforward in theory, it is difficult to do well. Machines may do the actual extrusion, but the human element remains essential. Each pasta maker has a "recipe" for drying, and each seems certain that his technique is the best. Watching the pasta production at Martelli, an artisan pasta producer in Tuscany, I noticed that every so often Dino Martelli would grab a piece and pop itrawinto his mouth. "Are you checking the pasta?" I inquired uncertainly. "Absolutely!" he answered adamantly, as if I should have known that. "We check the pasta by taste and by feel all the time." Like cheese-making or bread baking, traditional pasta production remains a craft, not a science.A Visit to the Mecca of Maccheroni, Martelli PastaWhile I have enormous respect and appreciation for all of the traditional pasta makers I list in this guide, the truth is that if I had only one pasta to put in my pot for life, I'd unhesitatingly opt for Martelli. To find the Martellis and see their pasta making in person, you have to travel to the classic hill town of Lari in eastern Tuscany, about fifteen miles inland from the city of Pisa. The Martellis live and make their marvelous maccheroni at 3 Via San Martino, which has been a pasta factory since the 1870s. The Martellis took over in 1926, when the father and uncle of Dino and Mario Martelli bought the place, after working there for years as hourly employees. The Martellis long ago outgrew the space, but, driven by their commitment to the town and to tradition, they figured out a way to make it function effectively. The actual pasta making and initial drying take place on the main floor. The mixing of the dough begins on a small landing, halfway up a narrow stairway, in a steel hopper into which golden semolina is fed. Head the rest of the way up the stairs, turn left, pass through a glass doorway, and you run into a wall of seemingly solid humidity. If you're wearing glasses, they'll fog up immediately. You're now in a cramped hallway, lined on either side with ancient-looking, wood-framed, glass doors. Behind each door are tin-lined drying rooms, each filled with racks of moist pieces of still fresh pasta. Go back down the stairs, then head outside and straight across the street into the Martelli annex, where the pasta is hand-packed into its bright, sunny yellow bags with the original hand-lettered spaghetti loops spelling out the family moniker. Every bag of pasta reads: prodotti dalla famiglia Martelli"products of the Martelli family." And that's exactly what they are. All the employees are Martellis: the two brothers, their respective wives, and their six collective children. The selection of Martelli pasta shapes and sizes is small. The family makes only the same four simple pasta shapes that their father and uncle started out with seventy-five years ago: thick spaghetti, thinner spaghettini, ridged maccheroni, and penne. The Martellis" story is a textbook case illustrating commitment to pasta quality. They use the hardest durum wheat flour; they call all the way to Canada to find the firmness they're looking for. The grain is brought intact to a local spot for milling in order to protect its fragile flavor. Mixing and extrusion are executed slowly and at low temperatures. Drying is slow, also at low temperatures the process takes place over fifty hours, at about 65 degrees Fahrenheit. In deference to the tricky nature of the drying, someone from the family goes upstairs to the drying rooms every five or six hours. "We have to check it even on Sundays and holidays. We really have to be weathermen," said Dino Martelli. "We have to watch the weather and adjust the drying according to its changes." Although machines are part of the process, Martelli remains essentially a hand-crafted pasta. While the modern world pushes toward increased efficiency, the Martellis steadfastly maintain their ties to tradition. Qualityof pasta and of life definitely takes precedence over expansion or growth. "What we make in one year, Barilla [Italy's biggest and best-known pasta producer] makes in one hour," the Martellis told me more than once, always with a smile. "With industrial machinery," Chiara Martelli, a member of the up-and-coming third generation, said, "one person alone can make ten thousand pounds of pasta in an hour. Here, with the whole family working together, we make two thousand pounds in a day." Instead of worrying about competitors, the Martellis focus on maintaining the integrity of their own product. On my most recent visit, we were watching the extrusion of quill-shaped penne, talking about how the machines cut it. When one "tube" became dislodged, the pasta started running too long. Valentina, another of the Martelli daughters, pointed out that they looked like . . . well, actually, she couldn't recall the name. "Dino," she yelled over to her father, her voice rising, "what's the name of those long tubes of pasta?" "Ziti?" he answered. "S, ziti," she said. Small town, small pastificio, small world. Only a Martelli family memberone who's eaten the same four Martelli shapes for most of her lifewould have a hard time remembering ziti, one of the most common pasta cuts in Italy. There are no ziti in Lari.Mangia MartelliThe whole Martelli enterprise could easily be written off by skeptics as an overly romantic relic of days gone by. Perhaps the best endorsement for Martelli came from its competitors. Granted, there are only a handful of small, artisan pasta makers still around. But when I asked those I've met, "Which pasta would you serve your family if you couldn't serve your own?" they all gave the same answer: "Martelli." To meI'm both a traditionalist and an optimist Martelli is a big part of the future of food, at least the one I'm working toward. A future that's respectful of tradition, but also open to new ideas and innovations. One in which people are committed both to hard work and to enjoying the little things in life, where serious attention is paid to the details that contribute to better quality and more flavor in our food. A bowlful of Martelli spaghetti on the table is my idea of value, a small price to pay for such enjoyable eating. You can keep the Rolls-Royce and the million-dollar condo. For me, eating Martelli is the good life.Other Good Brands of Dried PastaCAVALIERI Down in the town of Lecce, in the region of Puglia, the heel of the Italian boot, Benedetto Cavalieri continues to craft exceptional pasta as his family has done since early in the twentieth century. The Cavalieris use primarily old varieties of low-yielding, full-flavored hard durum wheat grown in the surrounding hills. On the package, Cavalieri appropriately shares credit for the quality of his pasta with "the farmer and the miller." Without great wheat, the pasta maker is helpless, and Cavalieri uses a different blend of grains and a different dough for each cut of pasta that he makes. The mixing is done in a six-foot square hopper mounted on a metal platform. A boundlessly energetic man whose enthusiasm remains undimmed even after thirty years of pasta making, Cavalieri insists on using room-temperature water, to protect the character of the wheat. As at the Martelli pasta factory, the mixing proceeds at a fairly leisurely pace, and the extrusion is done through old-fashioned bronze dies. The short shapes of newly made pasta are placed into eight-foot-high wooden drying cabinets built in the 1930s. The family has a different dryer for each shape and size. The antique equipment lends a cultured, well-crafted air to the operation. But the effect is practical as well as pretty: good ventilation and very slow drying are essential, and the wood allows that. Cavalieri takes his time with the drying: thirty-six hours for the short cuts, and just under two very deliberate days for the longer shapes. The drying is done at about 100 degrees Fahrenheit, roughly half the temperature employed by speed-oriented industrial pasta makers. The key, Cavalieri explains, gesturing with his hands, is "not to shock the pasta," to protect the integrity of its nutrition, texture, and flavor. I love the label as much as I do the product. A bold blue background with white lettering, it's the same one that was first designed for the family in 1918. As with Martelli, when you drop this pasta into boiling water, you'll be struck by the wheaty aroma that rises from the pot.LATINI Latini is a very good brand of artisan pasta from the Marche region along Italy's east coast. It's not my top choice, but it's the favorite of many in the food world, including the Italian cooking expert Faith Willinger. Carlo and Carla Latini grow much of their own wheat and stick to slow, gentle kneading, extruding through bronze dies, and slow drying. The Latini farm has been in Carlo's family for four generations (since 1888), and he's passionate about growing the best possible durum wheat for pasta. Last I knew, Latini was growing nearly a hundred different types of wheat. Of particular note is the Latini Senatore Cappelli spaghetti, made from an antique variety of wheat that Carlo has helped to revive. It's a low-yielding, high-flavor varietal that has a fine fragrance when it hits the pot. The Latinis" long-term goal is to match each pasta shape to a variety of wheat. I'm also particularly fond of the Latini fusilli.RUSTICHELLA Rustichella, from Abruzzo, uses only bronze dies and allows nearly two days for drying. The essence of the craft comes through in the pastathe flavor and texture are superb. Of the dozens of unusual shapes and sizes, I've come to love the fettuccine, which is by far the best I've ever had. Rustichella linguine is a close second, but you won't go wrong with any of its pastas. Its egg pasta is especially good.Different Cuts for Different Cooks: A Guide to Pasta ShapesI once asked a pasta maker which cuts he would recommend for soup. His immediate answer: "Which kind of soup?" A recent survey of Italian pastas counted something like five hundred cuts. Italians take their shape selection pretty seriously. Here's a quick guide to matching cuts with appropriate sauces: - Generally, long, thick styles like spaghetti are associated with strong-flavored sauces: olive oil and garlic, tomato, cheese. Long, hollow noodles like bucatini or pici might be paired with spicy sauces. Long, thin pastas like linguine or even angel hair would marry well with more delicate sauces, often those made with seafood. - Short, hollow shapes like penne or macaroni are meant for meat or vegetable sauces; solid bits and pieces of the sauce will collect inside the tubes, integrating pasta and sauce. Very short pastas are a good match for sauces with dried peas, lentils, or beans. Flat pastas like farfalle (bow ties) are a good match for cream or cheese-based sauces. - Tiny, short shapes are ideal for soup. The general guideline: the lighter the soup, the smaller the pasta. For broth, go with shapes like anellini, stellini, acini, or orzo. Chunkier thick soups need bigger shapes, such as tubetti, ditalini, or maybe even macaroni. For all soups, add the pasta at the end so it won't overcook.ACINI DI PEPE "Peppercorn" pasta, well suited for broth.ANELLINI Tiny pasta rings for soup. Cannelloni Rectangles of pasta wrapped around assorted fillings and then baked.CAPELLINI Very thin angel hair. Lidia Bastianich, the superb chef-owner of Felidia in New York, gave me this tip: "Take them out when they're still almost stiff, drain them, add a bit of oil, toss, and then finish them for a minute in the sauce. Otherwise they turn into mush."CASARECCI A typical pasta of Puglia. The name, meaning "home style," refers to two-inch-long thin twists.CONCHIGLIE Pasta shells, well suited to sauces made with meat and/or cut vegetables.CORZETTI A specialty of Liguria, these pasta shapes look like stamped coins from ancient times.DITALINI Little thimbles, good for vegetable soups.FARFALLE Butterflies, or bow ties, very nice with cream sauces.FEDELINI Another long, thin shape. The name is from fedele, meaning "faithful," or filo, meaning "thread" or "wire."FETTUCCINE A fettuccia is a tape or a ribbon. Narrower than the northern tagliatelle.FREGOLA A unique Sardinian pasta made from a dough of coarsely ground semolina that is rubbed into small round balls (about the size of Israeli couscous). It's lightly toasted, so it has an interesting nutty flavor. In Sardinia, it's used in soups and stews (often with clams), as well as baked with tomato sauce.FUSILLI Although the name is common, the cut seems to be different in every area of Italy. Some are long, curly corkscrews; others are half-inch-long pig-tail twists. Good for cream sauces.LASAGNE Broad, flat rectangles.LASAGNOTTE Wide ribbons that are typical of Puglia. The Pugliese break them into two- to three-inch pieces for cooking, then serve them with a strong sauce, like rabbit sauce, or a vegetable sauce of onions, carrots, tomatoes, and fresh ricotta.LINGUINE Flat spaghetti. The name means "little tongues." A classic with clam sauce.LUMACHE "Snails," good for sauces with moderately sized pieces of meat or vegetables. The snail shape collects the sauce.MACCHERONI About two-inch-long hollow pastas. In the United States the name "macaroni" has come to mean all pasta. In seventeenth-century London, the term "macaroni" was used to refer to the avant garde, who regularly indulged in pasta as well as other imported luxury foods. Over time, the term came into use as slang for anything of exaggerated elegance, like the feather in Yankee Doodle's cap.MALLOREDDUS Half-inch-long ridged Sardinian pastas that look a bit like small worms. Also known on the island as "gnocchi," though they are nothing like actual gnocchi.ORECCHIETTE "Little ears," the most typical of all Pugliese pastas.ORECCHIETTE MARITATE "Married" orecchiette. A Pugliese blend of casarecci (long and thin) and orecchiette (round), which consummate their "marriage" in the pot when you cook them together.ORZO "Barley seeds," used for soups or pasta salads.PAGLIA E FIENO "Straw and hay," used to denote green (spinach) and yellow (egg) noodles mixed together. Good with cream or tomato sauces.PAPPARDELLE Broad egg noodles that are big with game meats, like hare or wild boar.PENNE Macaroni cut like quills, or pens. Good with meat, cream, and vegetable sauces.PEZZOCCHERI Buckwheat pasta from the Valtellina in the north of Lombardy. Traditionally a winter dish, served with cabbage, potatoes, and garlic, all mixed together and baked with cheese.QUADRUCCI Tiny pasta squares, used primarily for soups.SAGNE Long Pugliese pasta, shaped like ribbons wrapped around a rod or candle.SPAGHETTI The most famous pasta. The name comes from spago, meaning "string" or "cord"; spaghetti means "little strings." Good with tomato and olive oilbased sauces.SPAGHETTINI Thin spaghetti.SPAGHETTONI Very thick spaghetti that is made into two-foot-long strands that are usually broken up before cooking. Typically served in Puglia with olive oil and fresh garlic.STELLINI "Little stars," used in broth.TAGLIATELLE The name is from tagliare, meaning "to cut." The Bolognese serve it with prosciutto and other meat sauces.TROFIE Small twists of pasta, a bit like two-inch pieces of twine folded in half, then gently (never tightly) twisted. The preferred Ligurian pasta for pesto.VERMICELLI Literally "little worms," they are essentially like spaghetti or spaghettini.ZITI Neapolitan macaroni. Ziti means "groom," and this pasta is typically served in Naples as a first course at weddings.Egg PastaFor delicate dishes, dried pastas made with egg, not water, are generally used. And as with all pasta, making a good one is a craft, not a science, and relies on the skill of the pasta maker, the selection of flours, and the care exercised in the drying. I like egg pastas with simple sauces. Butter and cheese sauce is my favorite. Or butter and cheese with toasted nuts (see page 250). Browned butter and fried sage leaves with some freshly grated Parmigiano- Reggiano make a great sauce, as do fresh ricotta and a good dose of a delicate olive oil. So too does a simple sauce of saffron, sauted onion, a small amount of chicken broth, and maybe some little bits of leftover lamb or chicken.Al DenteAmerica's leading artisan egg pasta, Al Dente, has been made in the Ann Arbor area by Monique and Dennis Deschaine for over twenty years. Monique learned her technique from none other than Marcella Hazan, as good a teacher as one could ask for. Following Hazan's recommendations, Monique swears by a blend of semolina and extra-fancy durum flour that she mixes with fresh eggs. She prefers that her pasta not be exceptionally eggy, so it's less intense than comparable Italian offerings. She insists on "sheeting," or rolling out the pasta (the alternative is extrusion, or pressing out the dough, which works well for dried pasta but toughens the texture of tender egg noodles). Sheeting the dough makes the finished fettuccine as close to homemade as possible. As a result, Al Dente noodles are very light and delicate and cook up in a mere two to three minutes. Al Dente makes many fine flavored noodles wild mushroom and spicy sesame are my favoritesbut I'm still partial to the original recipe for the egg fettuccine. The spinach noodles are also noteworthy, made exclusively with fresh spinach.Maccheroncini di CampofiloneIf you like a lot of egg in your egg pasta, this is the way to go. A third-generation, family-owned producer of pasta since the 1930s, Maccheroncini di Campofilone is probably Italy's premier packaged egg pasta. The women of the town of Campofilone in the Marche region have long been known for their pasta-making skills. They too use only fresh eggs, but they're at the other end of the egg spectrum from Al Dentethe Campofilone pasta is very rich in eggs, very golden, almost orange in color.Simple Steps to Proper Pasta CookingProper cooking technique is as imperative as proper purchasing of the raw materials. To cook the best dried pastas:1. Bring lots of cold water to a boil. The emphasis is on lots. You want to have plenty of room for the pasta to move around in the pot, reducing the risk of sticking, and plenty of water for the dried noodles to absorb. Using enough water also ensures that the pasta won't cool off your cooking liquid. Start with at least a gallon, even for only a small portion of pasta. For a pound of dried pasta, give yourself a good 6 to 7 quarts of water.2. When the water has come to a rapid boil, add a tablespoon or two of sea salt, which unlocks the flavor of the grain.3. Add the pasta to the rapidly boiling salted water. When I was a kid, we always broke up long cuts of pasta into more manageable lengths, but Italians almost never do (though there are regional exceptions to this rule). Simply add the pasta as is, then stir well to make sure the strands don't stick to one another or to the bottom of the pot.4. If you've got a good amount of water and a high source of heat, your cooking water should come back to the boil quickly. Remember, the water should be actively boiling, not just simmering. To avoid sticking and to ensure even cooking, keep stirring every now and again.5. Test the pasta. The better the quality of the pasta, the more reason not to overcook it. Properly cooked pasta is done when it is al dente, tender on the outside, slightly firm on the inside. Generally, better-quality pastas are a bit more forgiving to the careless cook. Inferior products can go from raw to ridiculously overcooked in just a couple of minutes. My experience is that the top pastas are best when they're nicely firm (not raw, mind you) in the middle. Take note that in general, Italians prefer their pasta far firmer than we do in the United States. Pastas made from harder wheat will take longer to cook than soft-wheat pastas. Similarly, those that were dried slowly will usually require more cooking time than those dried quickly and at higher heat. Don't adhere blindly to cooking times on packages. Depending on the quantity of water, the particular batch of pasta, and the strength of the heat source, actual cooking times will vary. So keep taking out a piece or two of pasta and tasting to check for doneness.6. As soon as the pasta is done, get it out of the cooking water as quickly as possible. Don't dally. Most American cooks drain through a colander. Make sure your sink and drain are free of unwanted debris, and if your drain is slow, be ready to lift the colander out of the sink quickly. Alternatively, Italians use pasta tongs, which help keep long pastas from tangling. Pasta pots that come with colander inserts offer the best of both worlds, allowing you to remove the pasta all at once while avoiding tangling. If you're serving the pasta hot, never, never rinse it with water. Instead, moving as quickly as possible, transfer the pasta to pre-warmed plates or bowls, and dress with sauce. Serve ASAPthe sooner you get the plates to the table, the better.Note: Remember that portions in Italywhere pasta is often followed by a main course of meat or fishare smaller than those we've become accustomed to in the States. An Italian serving starts with about two ounces of dried pasta; an American main course would call for three to four ounces.Two Bonus Tips on Cooking Pasta, From a ProFaith Willinger, a woman who's done as much as anyone to advance the cause of great Italian food, shared these tips with me.1. Add a touch of the pasta cooking water to your sauce. The pasta water is filled with the natural starch from the pasta and will help to bind and thicken the sauce naturally.2. Finish your pasta in the sauce. Instead of waiting until the pasta is al dente, remove it from the cooking liquid a minute or two early. Toss the slightly underdone pasta with the simmering sauce, then cook for another minute or two, stirring regularly to avoid sticking. Since the pasta is still absorbing moisture, it will pull in the sauce (and hence its flavors). The result is a much better integration of pasta and sauce.Pugliese Orecchiette and Broccoli RabeOrecchiette is the prestigious pasta of Puglia, the heel of the Italian boot. The name means "little ears," and the indentations in the pasta catch the sauce. The rim of the orecchiette, a bit thicker than the depressed center, stays firm when you cook it, creating an interesting textural contrast as you eat. The traditional Pugliese way to eat orecchiette is with broccoli rabe, also known as rapini, in a simple sauce seasoned with hot peppers and anchovies. It has become one of my favorite meals.2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more to taste1 small onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)2 garlic cloves, minced1 serrano chile pepper, chopped, or hot red pepper flakes, preferably Marash (see page 58), to taste, plus more for serving3 anchovy filletsCoarse sea salt to taste1 pound orecchiette1 small bunch broccoli rabe or dandelion greens (4 ounces without tough stems), coarsely choppedFreshly grated Pecorino Romano cheeseFreshly ground black pepper to tasteFresh ricotta cheese, for servingBring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, in another large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and saut until soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the serrano pepper or pepper flakes and saut, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of hot water from the other pot and the anchovy fillets to the onion mixture. (They'll melt into the sauce, so there's no need to chop them.) When the water in the first pot boils, add 1 to 2 tablespoons salt and the orecchiette, stir well, and cook until the pasta is almost al dente. Meanwhile, add the broccoli rabe or dandelion greens to the onion mixture. Stir, add a pinch of salt and another 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water, cover, reduce the heat, and simmer until the pasta is done. Add more of the pasta cooking water, if necessary, to keep the greens "saucy." Drain the pasta and add it to the greens. Stir and simmer for 2 minutes, or until well combined. Add a little more olive oil, some grated Pecorino Romano cheese, and black pepper. Serve in warm bowls with a dollop of ricotta cheese and additional hot pepper flakes on the side. serves 4Pasta with Anchovies and CapersThis dish makes a great dinner if you like anchovies. The addition of dried currants adds a subtle sweetness. Because good spaghetti takes about 13 minutes to cook, you can probably finish the sauce while the pasta is cooking. Italians generally don't use cheese on pasta dishes that include fish, but if you're not holding an Italian passport, you can toss a little grated Parmigiano on top. Either way, it's excellent.1 tablespoon capers, preferably packed in salt12 tablespoons coarse sea salt to taste1/2 pound spaghetti1 tablespoon full-flavored extra virgin olive oil, plus more to taste1 small onion, coarsely chopped (about 3/4 cup)2 garlic cloves, finely chopped10 anchovy fillets1 tablespoon dried currants1 cup coarsely chopped dandelion greens, arugula, or Swiss chard1 2-inch square of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rind (optional)1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted (see page 31)1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes, preferably Marash (see page 58)Freshly ground black pepper to tasteFreshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (optional)If you're using salted capers, soak them in a bit of warm water for 20 to 30 minutes, changing the water halfway through. Drain the water, rinse the capers, and dry them on a paper towel. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the salt and the pasta; stir well. Cook until almost al dente. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saut until soft, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add 2 of the anchovy fillets and stir well. Add the currants and stir again. Add 3 tablespoons of the pasta cooking water, the greens, capers, and Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (if using) and stir well. Cook until the greens are slightly wilted. Add more pasta water if needed to keep the sauce properly soused. Drain the pasta, add it to the pot with the sauce, and stir well. Add the remaining 8 anchovies, the pine nuts, red pepper flakes, and a little more olive oil. Stir until the anchovies are heated through, being careful not to overcook and melt them. Fish out the rind and serve in warm bowls with a generous grinding of black pepper on top and a little grated Parmigiano, if you like. serves 2 as a main course or 4 as a side dishLinguine with Arugula, Olive Oil, and Hot PeppersThis is the kind of fast food I like to eat. You can make the entire recipe, start to finish, in 15 minutes and have time to make a salad while it's cooking. Use more or less olive oil, as you wish. The more and betterthe oil, the better the pasta will taste.Coarse sea salt to taste1 pound top-quality linguine1/4 cup full-flavored extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving4 garlic cloves, peeled and halved1 small onion, coarsely chopped (about 3/4 cup)Hot red pepper flakes, preferably Marash (see page 58), to taste, plus more for serving1 pound fresh young arugula leaves, any large stems removed (if the leaves are large, tear them in half)1 tablespoon pine nuts, lightly toasted (see page 31)1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for servingFreshly ground black pepper to tasteBring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons salt and the pasta, stir well, and cook until the pasta is almost al dente. Meanwhile, make the sauce. In another large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and saut for 1 to 2 minutes, until softened. Add the onion and saut for 3 to 4 minutes, or until soft. Add the pepper flakes and saut for 1 to 2 minutes more. Discard the garlic. Drain the pasta when it is almost al dente. Add the arugula leaves and pine nuts to the onion mixture and toss quickly so that the arugula wilts slightly. Add the drained pasta to the arugula mixture, add the grated cheese, and toss well. Serve in warm bowls, finished with an additional ribbon of olive oil on top. Pass extra pepper flakes, grated Pecorino Romano, and salt and pepper at the table. serves 4Fettuccine with Fresh Tuna, Lemon, Capers, and OlivesRolando Beramendi of Manicaretti Imports inspired this recipe. It's as comforting as tuna-noodle casserole and incredibly delicious. Sauting the lemon slices with the skin on contributes to both the flavor and the texture of the dish. If you like, add an extra blessing of olive oil or limonato (lemon olive oilsee page 24) at the table.2 tablespoons capers, preferably packed in saltCoarse sea salt1 pound top-quality fettuccine, preferably Rustichella brand, or other pasta1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil2 garlic cloves, finely chopped24 black olives (not canned), pitted and coarsely chopped1 lemon, quartered and thinly sliced (if you can find a Meyer lemon, use it)2 anchovy fillets (optional)1 pound fresh tuna, cut into 1-inch cubes3 tablespoons coarsely chopped Italian parsley, rinsed and squeezed dryFreshly ground black pepper to tasteIf you're using salted capers, soak them in a bit of warm water for 20 to 30 minutes, changing the water halfway through. Drain the water, rinse the capers, and dry them on a paper towel. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt and the pasta, stir well, and cook until the pasta is al dente. Meanwhile, make the sauce. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and saut for 2 to 3 minutes, or until softened. Add the olives, lemon, capers, and anchovy fillets (if using), and saut for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the tuna and saut for 2 to 3 minutes more, until the fish is rare to medium-rare in the center; do not overcook. When the pasta is al dente, drain and add it to the sauce. Add the parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Serve in warm bowls. serves 4Homemade Tomato SauceAlthough bottled tomato sauces abound on store shelves, it's pretty easy to make one from scratch. The key is the quality of the tomatoes and the olive oil. If tomatoes are in season, fresh is the way to go. During the off-season, I use canned, preferably the San Marzano variety. (This sauce is versatile. You can use it on pasta or to cook Minchilli Meatballs on page 43.) For times when you're in a hurry or don't feel like cooking, there are some good bottled tomato sauces on the market. My favorites among the Italian imports include Il Mongetto, Rustichella, and Torre Saracena. Rao's and Dave's Gourmet are two American brands that I've found to be consistently good.1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil1 large onion, coarsely chopped (about 2 cups)1 large carrot or 2 small carrots, coarsely chopped (about 3/4 cup)3 garlic cloves, finely chopped5 large tomatoes, coarsely chopped (about 4 cups), or two 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes, drained, coarsely chopped2 tablespoons tomato pasteCoarse sea salt to tasteFreshly ground black pepper to tasteIn a large heavy skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Saut the onion and carrot for 2 to 3 minutes, reduce the heat to medium, cover and sweat the vegetables over medium heat for about 25 minutes, or until soft and golden. Add the garlic, stir well, cover, and sweat for 5 minutes more, until softened. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes to blend the flavors. Push the cooked sauce through a food mill or blend in a food processor and push through a sturdy small-holed strainer into a large bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. The sauce can be cooled and stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, or frozen for up to 3 months. makes 3 to 4 cups, enough to serve 6 to 8Variations - Add 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil at the very end of cooking. - Fry 6 to 8 fresh sage leaves in olive oil until golden brown. Gently crumble the sage over the pasta just before serving. - Add 6 ounces fresh goat cheese to the sauce. - Add additional olive oil at willthe more, the better, to my taste. - Add 2 ounces of good-quality balsamic vinegar.Copyright 2003 by Ari Weinzweig. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.

Table of Contents

Contents A Personal Preface Ix Introduction Xiii 1. Oils, Olives, and Vinegars Olive Oil 2 Olives 44 Nut Oils 59 Balsamic Vinegar and Wine Vinegars 66 2. Grains and Rices Bread 94 Pasta 123 Polenta 145 Italian Rices 158 Spanish Rices 175 REALLY WILD Wild Rice 187 3. Cheeses A Guide to Buying Cheeses 202 Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese 215 Cheddar Cheese 226 Mountain Cheeses 236 Blue Cheeses 252 Goat Cheeses 269 4. Meat and Fish Prosciutto 280 Serrano Ham 291 Salami 299 Smoked Salmon 308 5. Seasonings Pepper 322 Sea Salt 335 Saffron 349 6. Honey, Vanilla, Chocolate, and Tea Honey 364 Vanilla 383 Chocolate 399 Tea 421 Mail-Order Sources 446 For Further Reading 455 General Index 458 Recipe Index 475

Editorial Reviews

Great reading . . . it's full of useful information to help make choices when presented with the opportunity to spend money on the best basic ingredients." Cinncinati Inquirer"Not only an education in taste, it's as delicious and satisfying a read as the traditional foods it celebrates." The Detroit Free Press"Weinzweig's book pays homage to culinary artisans and traditions with a sensibility only a Russian historian-turned-foodie could wield." - Gourmet News"Weinzweig's paeans . . . do much to restore the romance of the table." Publishers Weekly "