Gennaro’s Pasta Perfecto! The Essential Collection of Fresh and Dried Pasta Dishes, written by Gennaro Contaldo, features a delicious assortment of pasta recipes for any occasion. Highlights include Baulettti di Broccoli e Salsiccia (Broccoli and Sausage Parcels in Tomato Sauce), Frittata di Pasta Avanzata (Leftover Pasta Frittata), Paccheri con Ragu di Carne (Paccheri with Meat Ragù), Mezzelune con Zucca e Taleggio (Mezzelune with Butternut Squash and Taleggio), and Peperoni Ripieni di Pasta (Pasta-Filled Peppers). I will also be sharing his recipe for Pappardelle con Ragu di Funghi Misti (Pappardelle with Mixed Mushroom Ragù) following the review.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Interlink Books in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Gennaro Contaldo is an acclaimed chef, food writer, restauranteur, and TV personality. He grew up in Minori on the Amalfi coast and started working in restaurants at the age of eight. He was the co-host of the series Two Greedy Italians with Antonio Carluccio, regularly appeared on Saturday Kitchen, and is also the author of many other books including Passione (find the review here), Pannetteria (find the review here), Gennaro’s Italian Year, Gennaro’s Slow Cook Italian, and Gennaro’s Fast Cook Italian (find the review here).
Gennaro’s Pasta Perfecto!
Chapters are divided by category of pasta: Dried Pasta, Fresh Pasta, Filled Pasta, Baked Pasta, and Sauces.
Gennaro begins with a short introduction to pasta and its importance in Italian cuisine. For those new to pasta-making, he explains the best types of flour, helpful equipment, tips for cooking dried and fresh pasta, and everything in-between from salting the water to how to match pasta shapes with sauces. The Fresh Pasta chapter has recipes for making an egg pasta dough, eggless pasta dough, and gluten-free versions of each.
The beautiful photography is provided by David Loftus. Many of the recipes are accompanied by a full-page photo, generally of the finished dish along with shots of Gennaro cooking. Titles are written in Italian and English. Each recipe includes a headnote with background information, personal stories, tips, serving size, menu ideas, and substitutions. Measurements are listed in US Customary and Metric.
This book is a great pick for those who love pasta. There is a nice balance of pasta recipes for weeknight meals along with more challenging ones, particularly the filled pastas. Gennaro also mentions that many of the recipes in the Fresh Pasta chapter can be prepared with dried pasta when you are short on time. Most of the ingredients are readily available in the average American grocery store. Having an Italian market nearby will be helpful in locating items such as speck, Italian “00” pasta flour, pancetta, taleggio cheese, fresh seafood, prosciutto, mozzarella di bufala, guanciale, a few specialty dried pasta shapes (substitutions are provided), saffron, burrata, buckwheat flour, and mortadella.
Pappardelle con Ragu di Funghi Misti (Pappardelle with Mixed Mushroom Ragù)
This Pappardelle con Ragu Di Funghi Misti (Pappardelle with Mixed Mushroom Ragù) is a wonderful pasta dish for autumn and the cooling temperatures. Packed with multiple types of mushrooms (as much or as little a variety as you desire), the sauce comes together in about an hour for a rich and comforting meal.
Pappardelle are wide, long noodles perfect for holding the hearty mushroom sauce. You can either toss the mushroom ragù with fresh pappardelle from your local market or make your own.
I used Gennaro’s egg pasta dough recipe by mixing together 1 1/2 cups (7 ounces/200 grams) “00” flour and 2 extra large eggs. The formed, smooth dough is wrapped in plastic and allowed to rest for at least 30 minutes before rolling through a pasta machine (or hand-rolling) and cutting into 3/4-1 inch wide strips. I actually found a wooden pappardelle roller in the clearance bin of my local Eataly to help make the job a bit easier (this was my first time using it so it took a couple of tries to figure out how much pressure to add to actually cut the pappardelle).
I also made the Rigatoni alla Zozzana (Rigatoni with Pancetta and Sausage), Mafaldine con Ricotta, Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe (Tonnarelli with Pecorino Romano and Black Pepper), and Conchiglioni al Forno Ripieni di Funghi e Prosciutto (Baked Pasta Shells Filled with Mushrooms and Ham).
The Rigatoni alla Zozzana (Rigatoni with Pancetta and Sausage) comes together in less than 30 minutes for an easy and comforting meal that is a bit of a cross between Cacio e Pepe and Carbonara. Chopped pancetta and Italian sausage are sautéed until golden, then tossed with rigatoni before coating in a rich and creamy egg pecorino sauce.
The Mafaldine con Ricotta is another easy recipe from the Dried Pasta chapter. Mafaldine is a long pasta with curled edges perfect for holding the ricotta sauce with sage and onions.
Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe takes fresh Tonnarelli (a thick strand of square-cut pasta also known as spaghetti alla chittara) and tosses the al dente noodles with a light black pepper and Pecorino Romano sauce. I actually have a Chittara to cut out the thick strands, but Gennaro also gives tips on how to make the shape by hand or pasta machine.
The Conchiglioni al Forno Ripieni di Funghi e Prosciutto (Baked Pasta Shells Filled with Mushrooms and Ham) take a little bit of time to put together, but aren’t overly difficult and the flavors are definitely worth it. Large pasta shells are filled with a seasoned prosciutto and mushroom filling, arranged in a baking dish over a creamy white sauce, then covered with more of the sauce and some grated Parmesan before baking until golden and bubbly. Vegetarians have the option to omit the ham and simply increase the amount of mushrooms.
Pappardelle con Ragu di Funghi Misti (Pappardelle with Mixed Mushroom Ragú) Recipe
Excerpt from Gennaro’s Pasta Perfecto!
Pappardelle con Ragu di Funghi Misti (Pappardelle with Mixed Mushroom Ragù)
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 1 celery stalk finely chopped
- 1 carrot finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove finely chopped
- 1/2 red chili pepper finely chopped
- 2 fresh thyme sprigs
- 3/4 ounce (20 grams) dried porcini reconstituted in a little warm water
- 1 pound 2 ounces (500 grams) mixed wild or cultivated mushrooms cleaned and coarsely chopped
- 3 tablespoons white wine
- 1 can (14 ounces, 400 grams) chopped plum tomatoes
- 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) hot vegetable stock
- 12 ounces fresh pappardelle pasta
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Grated Parmesan and fresh thyme leaves to serve
- Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, carrot, garlic, chili, and thyme, and sauté for about 5 minutes until softened. Squeeze out the soaked dried porcini (reserve the soaking water) and stir into the pan. Add the fresh mushrooms and sauté for 1 minute or so. Increase the heat, add the white wine, and allow to evaporate.
- Add the tomatoes, the reserved porcini soaking water, and the stock, and season with some salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat, partially cover with a lid, and cook gently for 45 minutes.
- Just before the mushroom ragù is ready, bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil and cook the pappardelle pasta until al dente, 2-3 minutes.
- Drain the pasta and combine well with the ragù. Serve immediately with a sprinkling of grated Parmesan and some fresh thyme.