This is one of my favorite cookbooks of 2014 that I wanted to share with you. If I were asked whether I would like jewelry or a cookbook as a gift, I’d choose the cookbook every time. My personal favorites are obviously Italian cookbooks, but I also collect healthy and vegetarian cookbooks since I started my second blog, Recipe Rebuild and started to focus more on a plant based diet. I preordered this book Flour + Water by Thomas McNaughton as soon as I saw it would be coming available as pasta is my all time favorite food. I love making homemade pasta, varying the ingredients and sauces to create unique, full flavored dishes and this cookbook is a one stop tutorial on making amazing pasta at home. Being very comfortable making my own pasta, I find that some pasta cookbooks are geared towards the complete novice, and I find them a little too simplistic. This book is for pasta makers at all levels.
Flour + Water is restaurant opened in 2009 by David White and David Steele in the Mission district of San Francisco. They wanted to create a restaurant with a focus on artisanal homemade pasta and hired talented chef Thomas McNaughton, who was trained to make pasta in Bologna, Italy. I just wish I had known of this restaurant on my last trip to San Francisco as I would have loved to dine there!
The book is arranged to lead you gently by the hand on your pasta making journey. There are forwards written by the restaurant’s owners and chef explaining how the restaurant was created and evolved, and then you move into the basics in the chapter How To Make Pasta Dough. This chapter is very detailed, with a discussion on using the best eggs, how thick you should roll your dough, the importance of letting dough rest, and most important, basic dough recipes.
Although the basic pasta making section is very thorough, the soul of this book is the actual pasta and sauce recipes that is broken down into seasons. Since Italian food focuses on using fresh, seasonal ingredients this was a very smart plan. Summer includes such mouth watering recipes as Bigoli with Fresh Shelling Beans, Tomato, and Pancetta or Burrata Triangoli with Preserved Lemon, Summer Squash, and Mint. Autumn has one recipe I am dying to make soon that is called Mortadella Fattisu with Pistachios. This is simply a mortadella and cabbage stuffed pasta shaped like a candy that is sauced with a meat reduction flavored with whole grain mustard and apple cider vinegar and served sprinkled with chopped pistachios. The Winter chapter contains traditional recipes such as Tagliatelle Bolognese, Pizzoccheri (buckwheat pasta) with Speck, Braised Cabbage, Potato, and Fontina, and Tortellini in Brodo. The recipes in this chapter tend to be heartier with sauces containing braised meats and greens. Spring contains recipes typical of the season that are light and fresh flavored. Some of my favorites are Lemon Farfalle with Spring Pea Ragu, Asparagus Caramelle with Brown Butter and Meyer Lemon, and of course Goat’s Milk Ricotta and Artichoke Triangoli.
Flour + Water is full of mouth watering recipe photographs along with very helpful step by step photos for some recipes. This is such a beautiful book in fact; it sat on my coffee table for weeks as I browsed through it on a daily basis. Although some of the recipes may contain ingredients that are not easily sourced for some, I feel these ingredients could easily be substituted with more readily available ones without changing the recipe too much. There is a source page at the back of the book for ordering both pasta equipment, as well as ingredients. I use my KitchenAid stand mixer with a pasta roller attachment as well as the extruder attachment for making pasta in my kitchen, and this method would work just fine for the recipes in this book. I recommend this book for anyone who wants to improve their pasta making skills and who enjoys spending time in the kitchen making amazing dishes. This is not a time-saving, quick and easy cookbook, but one that will teach you how to make delicious artisanal pasta at home.
Chef Thomas McNaughton
What Other Famous Chefs Say About Flour + Water Courtesy of Ten Speed Press
“Without a doubt, Thomas represents the new American chef who is bringing pasta to the forefront of American cuisine. His passion is on display daily at flour + water and this book allows you to immerse yourself in the world of a truly talented chef.”
—Michael Tusk, chef/owner of Quince and Cotogna
“Pasta is my life. And for me, it is always such a rare and beautiful thing when someone else shares your passion and dedication to such a simple thing as a noodle. Thomas not only writes about pasta, but you get the sense when reading flour + water that it is his life too.”
—Marc Vetri, chef and author of Rustic Italian Food
“You might think that a comprehensive tutorial in pasta making would be dry, but you’d be wrong. I read flour + water in one sitting, fascinated by the lively story of one of San Francisco’s great restaurants and the smartly written, easy to follow recipes. This is an enchanting, inspiring book.”
—Daniel Patterson, chef and author of Coi
“There is a romantic, rustic, mysterious consonance about both Thomas and flour + water. It’s easy to lose yourself in each recipe’s seeming simplicity before—WHOOSH!—you’re consumed with complexity, wisdom, expertise, and sincerity you might have never expected. This is my favorite part about great chefs and their food.”
—Christina Tosi, chef/owner Momofuku Milk Bar
“Flour + Water is nothing short of brilliant. For anyone who adores great pasta and wants to truly understand the craft behind it, this gorgeous cookbook is a must-have. Thomas is creative, passionate, and has amazing energy; he also has the hands of a nonna—a rare thing for sure. I’m going to go make pasta!”
—Barbara Lynch, chef and restaurateurhttp://www.flourandwater.com
Flour + Water
Ten Speed Press
Pages – 288
If you are interested in buying Flour + Water, you can find it at Amazon.com by clicking the book below.
(Photos courtesy of Ten Speen Press)