From The Little Bookroom
PastaRecipes from the Kitchen of the American Academy in Rome
By Christopher Boswell, with Elena Goldblatt, photography by Annie Schlechter
Pasta is a behind-the-scenes tutorial into the way that pastas and sauces are made in the renowned kitchen of the American Academy in Rome. As the author, Chef Christopher Boswell, explains:
In this book, recipes and sections function like building blocks. The fundamental techniques of one type of pasta or sauce will give you the tools to approach the next one…the book reflects the way we teach the interns. They start by making simple pasta dishes and progressively acquire the skills to make more complex ones.
Yet: Pasta is much, much more than “how to” book. The recipes, while remaining true to their authentic Italian roots, are unmistakably influenced by Chef Boswell’s time at Chez Panisse, and sparkle with a lightness and purity that one doesn’t normally expect from pasta.
In his meat cannelloni, for example, instead of layering the dish with béchamel sauce—the typical method—he adds only a small bit of besciamella to the meat to bind the mixture. In Tortiglioni alla Norma, a dish in which eggplant is traditionally fried, here it is baked to maintain the integrity of the eggplant flavor, while lightening up the dish.
The approach makes pasta suddenly make sense even in hot months. Consider Bavette with White Fish and Pesto, in which the “pesto” contains no cheese or garlic, so is subtle, clean, and perfect on a warm day; as are the “handkerchiefs” tossed with pistachio, basil, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a grating of orange zest. Even lasagne has been transformed into a light and summery dish, and made quick and easy by Boswell’s trick that cuts prep time dramatically.
With such elegance on the plate, it’s easy to forget that these are dishes designed to feed a large hungry group (the staff, scholars, and artists working at the American Academy in Rome) so the recipes are necessarily economical and practical: two virtues that any cook will cherish. There are dozens of vegetarian recipes, too.
There are many other delights in the book: the unexpected flavor pairings (asparagus and basil); the anecdotes that make Chef Boswell a fun presence in the kitchen; the basic recipes and techniques that any cook will find invaluable; the surprises (a white Puttanesca, dishes in which cheese and fish work together); easy variations that can transform a recipe as familiar as spaghetti and meatballs into something entirely different; and last but not least, the spirit of la dolce vita that infuses every page.
About the Authors
Christopher Boswell is the executive chef of the Rome Sustainable Food Project. He has been at the RSFP since the program was established in 2006, when he was chosen by Alice Waters to work with former RSFP executive chef, Mona Talbott. He started out as a dishwasher and a prep cook in the small gold-rush town of Jackson, California. After high school, he attended the California Culinary Academy where he received the distinguished Daniel Carlisle Walker Award for culinary excellence. He then went on to work at the restaurants Stars, Acquarello, and One Market before moving to Italy for a year to learn authentic Italian rustic cooking. Boswell then joined Chez Panisse, where he received five years of intensive training under Alice Waters and her brigade of distinguished chefs.
Elena Goldblatt has always had a passion for cooking. She moved to her mother’s native Rome when she was 12 years old, and has been drawn back ever since. She graduated from Yale University in 2010 and was an intern in the Rome Sustainable Food Project kitchen in 2011. She worked for author and journalist Mark Bittman at The New York Times before returning to Rome to work with Chef Christopher Boswell on the RSFP cookbooks Pasta .
About the Photographer
Annie Schlechter has been working as a photographer since 1998. Her clients include The World of Interiors, House Beautiful, The New York Times Magazine, Real Simple, W Magazine, Travel & Leisure , and many more.