3 Fabulous Pasta Cookbooks for When You Need to Escape

Rows of raw tortelloni on a sheet pan in the sun

These books offer a sweet, sorrowful salve for wanderlust.

by Erin Henderson

I count my blessings that I generally manage to spend a number of weeks each a year in some far-flung destination. However, these annual trips are not nearly enough to sooth my restless soul. Demands of daily life keep me home-bound more than I would like, but at least there are people who demand my attention – better than no one caring whether I’m here or gone.

As a salve, I escape through books. Mostly cookbooks filled with glorious stories and photos of places I want to visit or yearn to return. The accompanying recipes, made in my quaint Toronto kitchen can almost – almost – make me feel like I’m there.

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I once made the foolhardy promise to myself I wouldn’t buy any more cookbooks. There’s enough free stuff online, I reasoned. But I am a weak woman. It’s simply impossible for me to resist indulging in more (and more and more) cookbooks, cocktail books, and wine books.
In my defence I take them out of the library first – I mean, I am the daughter of a German accountant, after all (and probably my mum’s biggest disappointment, but that’s a story for another glass of wine). If the books manage to engross me with their photos, stories, and of course, recipes, well, they’ve got a forever home with me.

I’m a big fan of what’s called head notes in cookbooks, the introduction to the start of the recipe. I understand some cooks like to get right to it with just the facts, m’am, but I like the seduction of understanding where and when and how the recipe came to be. The story is as much a part of it as is the food – perhaps even more.
With that in mind, these are the cookbooks that come to bed with me.

The beige cover of the Pasta book with ravioli photographed on it

Pasta: The Spirit and Craft of Italy’s Greatest Food by Missy Robbins
Just the stunning photos and the enchanting stories of Missy’s time spent cooking through Italy are enough to make me wistful for travel again. Not a hard endeavour, but still. And let’s discuss the recipes. The recipes! Clear and concise, including notes on the reasons for doing things a particular way, are straightforward and masterful. Novices may need a few at-bats before achieving success, but there’s joy to be found in the journey.

Green cover of Funke's cookbook

American Sfoglino: A Master Class on Handmade Pasta by Evan Funke with Katie Parla
This is not a book for a timid beginner; but it could be a text for an adventurous one. Tedious online reviews rebuke the chef-authors for not making the recipes more manageable, but not everything can be microwaved in three minutes. For experienced cooks and curious newcomers, there is much reward to be found in this excellent book.

cover of via carrota cookbook

Via Carota: A Celebration of Seasonal Cooking from the Beloved Greenwich Village Restaurant by Jody Williams and Rita Sodi
Another cookbook that nearly reads like a light memoir, I dare you not to yearn to open your own cozy café after reading through the seasonal stories and the recipes they inspired. With a strong and relentless focus on fresh and seasonal, simply prepared food, this makes me daydream of dinner parties yet to come.

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