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What is Italy without pasta? Come to think of it, where would the rest of us be without this staple of global cuisine? An acclaimed Italian food writer tells the colorful and often-surprising history of everyone’s favorite dish.
In this hugely charming and entertaining chronicle of everyone’s favorite dish, acclaimed Italian food writer and historian Luca Cesari draws on literature, history, and many classic recipes in order to enlighten pasta lovers everywhere, both the gourmet and the gluten free.
What is Italy without pasta? Come to think of it, where would the rest of us be without this staple of global cuisine? The wheat-based dough first appeared in the Mediterranean in ancient times. Yet despite these remote beginnings, pasta wasn’t wedded to sauce until the nineteenth century. Once a special treat, it has been served everywhere from peasant homes to rustic taverns to royal tables, and its surprising past holds a mirror up to the changing fortunes of its makers. Full of mouthwatering recipes and outlandish anecdotes—from (literal) off-the-wall 1880s cooking techniques to spaghetti conveyer belts in 1940 and the international amatriciana scandal in 2021—Luca Cesari embarks on a tantalizing and edifying journey through time to detangle the heritage of this culinary classic.
About the Author
Luca Cesari is a food historian based in Italy. He writes for various magazines, including Gambero Rosso, and writes the column "Indovina chi sviene a cent” in Il Sole 24 Ore. As an inappetent child in 1970s Bologna, he was lovingly fed with tagliatelle alla bolognese and tortellini by his grandmother. Perhaps for this reason, Cesari is interested in the history of gastronomy, in particular the birth of the most famous and representative dishes of the Italian tradition. This is his first book.
Johanna Bishop is an American translator of history, art criticism, fiction, and poetry. She has been living in Tuscany for over twenty years and translating professionally since 2004.
"The food historian and writer has chronicled how a wide array of pasta dishes made the Italian food staple so influential around the world.The Discovery of Pasta provides a how-to on the preparation of each dish along with spoonfuls of fun facts."
"In The Discovery of Pasta, Luca Cesari lets us in on secrets the Italians prefer not to publicize. It wasn’t until the end of the 18th century that Italians garnished pasta with anything more exciting than a little butter and cheese. Until 100 years ago, it was standard for pasta to be overcooked and served as a side to meat. So, the next time your Italian friend tries to pasta-shame you, you will be able to dish up a response—some delicious new recipes."
— Air Mail
"Bologna-based food historian Cesari delivers a thoroughly researched narrative crafted around the evolution of ten beloved staple dishes from the Boot, disabusing the world of the myths of famous pasta origin stories. An excellent read for those willing to set food-purist notions aside in order to see the bigger picture and enjoy what is nearly always the nuanced evolution of a recipe."
"If cooking pasta correctly is a religion, then Luca Cesari’s book is the Bible."
— Russell Norman, founder of Polpo and Brutto
“A fascinating history of one of the world's best loved foods, peppered with interesting facts like a well-seasoned cacio e pepe. Through in-depth research, Cesari proves that contrary to what many purists will claim, there are no hard and fast rules when making even the best loved pasta dishes. A compelling read giving a long overdue green light to putting garlic in your Amatriciana should you so wish!”
— Amber Guinness
“Luca Cesari serves up a delicious combination of recipes, both ancient and modern, entertaining anecdotes, and rare insights into the diverse histories and characters of Italy's different regions. A delicious treat for anyone who wants a deeper relationship with Italy and its food.”
— Helena Attlee, author of The Land Where Lemons Grow: The Story of Italy and Its Citrus Fruit
"A glorious book, carefully and precisely skewering all of the received ideas about 'authenticity.’ It made me giggle fiendishly and occasionally punch the air.”
— Annie Gray, author of At Christmas We Feast
“Pasta was not always served al dente. I discovered this fact, and about a thousand others, in Cesari's new book, which, attentive as it is to origin stories, and thus to basics, could not make for more suitable reading right now if it tried.”
— Rachel Cooke, The Observer (London)