A Short History of Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce by Massimo Montanari

4 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

We have perfected the tomato sauce that we make for all sorts of pasta dishes over the years. It is made by frying onions and garlic, adding oregano, then tomato puree and then passata and leaving it to cook down and reduce for around an hour. Finally, add basil and then it is ready to be married to the pasta of our choice.

Pasta without tomato sauce doesn’t feel right in some ways. But how the Italians ended up using tomatoes is a story worth telling. In this book, Massimo Montanari is delving through the history of the Italian kitchens with the intention of separating fact from myth.

Before the tomato, there was pasta. This iconic Italian food originated from the breadbasket of the middle east and was originally unleavened and rolled bread, however finding when it went from rehydrating a dried food to a cooking process in boiling water requires a little more uncovering.

Back then the fashion was to make sure that the pasta was really well cooked. And I mean really well, none of the modern fashion of having pasta al dente. Having cooked the pasta the chose accompaniment was cheese, lots of cheese and much deliberation was given to the correct one to use. Then in the mid-1500s, the tomato arrived in Italy, the Spanish having bought it back from South America. They were originally considered to be ‘harmful and obnoxious’. It would be a while before they made their entrance into Italian cooking and become the staple that they are today

I thought that this was a fascinating little book on a food that has become as much as a staple in our kitchen as it is all across Italy. Montanari’s prose is entertaining and informative in equal measure, and he shows just how a national dish can trace its roots back across many cultures. If you like your pasta, this is a great little read

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  1. Liz Dexter

    This does sound good – the second review of it I’ve read and at least this time I didn’t think it was a metaphorical title!

    • Paul

      I liked that he didn’t try to expand the book to an unwieldy length too. I have read too many books where they waffle on unnecessarily

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